Every time Washington Kamau lands a new job, he immediately starts preparing his growth strategy to a higher rank. And so, for the past six years, the 29-year-old has occupied four different job positions in different organisations. The accounting graduate first enrolled for CPA classes at Strathmore University before joining the University of Nairobi (UoN) where he obtained a degree in Economics in 2012. When he went for internship at Crown Solutions Limited where his stipend was Sh25,000, he outperformed his fellow interns and got his first job as an assistant accountant at the end of the three-month internship at the consultancy firm, which was then a start-up.
A year later, when Crown Solutions could not match up to his ambitions, he landed a job with Meghan Holdings as an accountant. And earlier this month, Crown Solutions, which has grown to own various subsidiaries countrywide, offered him a job as a financial accountant with a six-figure salary. He attributes his speedy rise to unrelenting professional development, proving his worth at the workplace and continuously looking for opportunities. “Whenever I take up any job, I always envision the next step I can take in my career progression and I start focusing my efforts on that position. I grab any opportunity that comes my way to improve my worth at the organisation. Most times, my zeal is appreciated,” says Kamau. Kamau, who pursued a Master’s in Science and Finance at UoN, advises early career millennials to prove their worth to their employers. “Don’t be too comfortable when you get your first job. You can easily climb the ladder wherever you are even as an intern. Recruiters are looking for someone who can add value to their organisations,” he says.
Hashtag spoke to HR experts who gave tips for those looking to blossom in their careers: Understand how the organisation operates Honeycare Africa HR manager, Zachary Gachuru, says not all organisations support ambition in early-career employees. It, therefore, helps that you understand the nature of the organisation you are working for before you invest in any efforts for growth. “Not all organisations provide avenues for career growth. I know of conservative managements that perceive overly-ambitious employees as threats. They look at you as someone who is out to take their jobs,” says Gachuru. It also helps to know whether or not the management can compensate your ambition before you present your request for promotion. If the management cannot, they could decide to let you go. Seek professional development and offer to train colleagues “Invest your time and resources in acquiring an extra skill that can improve efficiency at your workplace,” says Kamau. This, he says, can be acquired through on-the-job training or through the extra courses you enlist for outside the workplace. To those in the accounting field, for instance, Kamau proposes relentless professional development in and outside the workplace. “Take an extra course in financial modelling or even Access courses. You will realise that not many people at your workplace know the relevance of Access in accounting. Go on to offer workplace training after you acquire an extra skill that not everyone else has. All these efforts won’t go unnoticed,” says Kamau. Even then, Raphael Maithya, Amazon Fronts Limited business development manager, warns against focusing on too much paperwork at the expense of acquiring skills. “Don’t take an extra degree course expecting that you will get a promotion by presenting your papers to the management. Today, a diploma holder with six months of experience stands a better chance at a job interview than a Master’s graduate who has no experience. I usually tell undergraduates to only master what they know and not what they want to become,” says Maithya. Advice management What turned Maithya’s internship into a job at a recruitment firm was a small conversation he had with his boss. “I was just finishing my internship when I requested to meet my boss at the HR firm. I told him to think of introducing training at the company as part of the company’s advertising tool, an idea that pleased my boss,” says Maithya. He says what would have been his last week at the company saw him get his first job at the HR firm where he was put in charge of all the career mentorship and training. Two months later, his zeal earned him two external accounts and he was promoted to accounts manager. “Always talk to (the) management whenever you see a gap within the organisation. It could be your next big position,” says Maithya. Have a clear goal Patrick Mutisya, Eagle HR CEO, says that knowing what you are looking for in terms of career growth helps you direct your efforts and resources to your goal. “Having a clear goal helps you focus your growth as early as during an internship. Your early career choices should support your future career growth,” says Mutisya. He says having a clear vision also helps you choose the right mentors to shape your career path. “People who mentor you should be those within your field. An accountant has no business enlisting the services of a successful athlete,” says Mutisya. Mutisya says focused employees also surround themselves with equally dedicated people who are eager to grow. “Look at people who are dedicated to their jobs and are ambitious to grow. In public offices, don’t adopt the behaviour of employees who are looking to retire and report to work late and do so little,” he says. Make your worth visible Kamau advises people who seek professional development and go out of their way to gain an additional skill to ensure that their efforts get the attention of the management. “Some in the management may try to ignore your efforts out of fear. They dread the day you will go to them looking for a better deal in the form of a promotion or a better salary,” he says. “In such a case, make them know that you are working hard. Have a tactical way to report every additional task you perform outside your mandate and notify your immediate boss when you decide to take extra training,” says Kamau. Grow your networks After you have exhausted all efforts that warrant a promotion, a salary increment or some sort of career progression, some companies may try to curtail your growth. Kamau says this should be the time you open yourself up to opportunities outside the organisation. “If you give your all to an organisation and you are not appreciated, you can move to the next place that sees your worth. You should never be stagnant in your career growth,” he says. This, he says, calls for you to put your profile out there in case someone in your networks is headhunting for a role that suits you. Maithya says organisations are increasingly looking for new hires through networks. “Recruiters are no longer advertising for all the positions they intend to fill. Instead, they headhunt and reach out to potential employees,” says Maithya. Seek opportunities in startups Kathleen Lihanda, founder and CEO of My Career Identity, says early career employees have a better opportunity to grow in startups than in well-established organisations where roles are cut out. She says it is easy for an accountant in a startup to perform other roles such as those of a receptionist, HR and even the IT expert. The experience in turn equips the young employee with a variety of skills to help them fit in any work environment. This, however, is not the case in big organisations where there are usually enough people to perform any given task. The career coach, however, says that positions in startups are not always appealing to first-time job seekers who usually prefer opportunities in bigger organisations. “When I talk to job seekers, most of them say they desire to work for Safaricom, Equity Bank and such well-established and prestigious firms. But I also encourage them to accept jobs at startups because there, they will have an opportunity to learn as much as they can in any department,” says Lihanda. Kamau, who did his internship at a startup, says it is easier to grow and get a permanent job at these establishments since they nurture their own potential employees. “My first job as an accountant was at a place I went for internship. They have now taken me back into a senior role with a good salary. Startups give you the best exposure and training, hoping that you can one day work for them,” says Kamau. When ambition backfires It is possible for an ambitious employee with unrelenting efforts for growth to achieve their career goals in a short time. But being overly ambitious, career experts say, can sometimes backfire. “Employees who are too ambitious are always looking for opportunities to make the best for themselves out of their employers. Some even resort to shortcuts to accomplish their career goals,” says Patrick Mutisya, Eagle HR CEO. He says employees who opt for shortcuts include those that keep hopping from one employer to the other looking for greener pastures. These, he says, are the hardest to pass a job interview. “During the interview, they always find it hard to explain why they keep changing employers and why they can’t keep a job for a long time. Recruiters are always skeptical about people who can’t keep a job for a long time because such employees can decide to leave whenever other opportunities come their way,” says Mutisya. He says that the least amount of time that one ought to stay on a particular job position is one year, with the first six months go into familiarising oneself with the organisation. He says recruiters pay attention to the number of years spent in a given job position, especially when hiring CEOs and when filling top management positions. “Someone looking for the position of a CEO should have spent at least five years in one position to oversee the implementation of their company’s strategic plan. Anything less than that reduces one’s employability chances,” he says. Overly ambitious employees also risk losing their jobs in conservative setups, career experts say. Honeycare Africa HR manager, Zachary Gachuru, says such employees are seen as a threat, who are out to take other people’s jobs. RELATED TOPIC