Youth Unemployment in Kenya, as with most African countries, remains the countries Achilles heel. Before we delve in any further, let’s have a brief overview of the situation.
The data extracted from research firm statistica.com shows Youth Unemployment has been hovering at 26% from the year 2010 to the end of 2017. Early this year, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics(KNBS) placed the figure at about 20%, while the number of unemployed Kenyans seriously looking for work stood at over 1.4 million and rising. This figure excludes over five and a half million people who have given up altogether. Overall, over 7 million Kenyans are unemployed.
The bottom line here is jobs are scarce and you cannot afford to be choosy, which is true. In other words, you might want to grab whatever comes along and hold tight till something better surfaces. Such grim statistics make this decision look like a brilliant idea, but is it?
As a specimen, I can authoritatively confirm that settling on any job is a terrible, myopic and often misguided idea. Your first job plays a critical role in your career progress since it provides you with a platform to fill up any gaps left out by theoretical studies. Which sometimes happen to be a lot. As a fresh graduate, you also get a chance to create networks (very important), interacting and learn from the best minds in your field. And even if the salary is barely enough to keep you together, the fact that you’re creating a footprint in the industry is a currency in itself.
Ultimately, you will rise to the rightful position or get a job elsewhere which recognizes your worth. Now let’s talk about this guy who wiles his time away in a crappy dead-end job. When an opportunity finally knocks, the candidate realizes that his know-how has been whittled away over time. You cannot write a code, program a computer anymore, you have no idea of the latest industry trends that has since been adopted. If the company gets some interest, then they’ll take you as an intern because technically, you have a mountain to climb. The outcome can be a little bit different if you’ve been away for a considerable amount of time. The gap has to be explained somehow. Recruiters wouldn’t be blamed for thinking time has reduced your alleged lethal bite to a toothless bite. Simply put, your skills will be in doubt and consequently, you’ll not be considered as a first choice.
Worse case scenario means you kiss your academic papers goodbye and chart an uncertain path in a new field. Sometimes this works, we have many people who can attest to that. Often times, it turns you into a frustrated career misfit doing a job you probably hate, in a stressful work environment, faced with an uncertain future.
While I acknowledge the turbulence in the labor market to be undeniably unsettling, I totally disagree that anything counts.
How to Spot a Dead-end job.
Poor salary/late pay
A job that takes any candidate is always bad news for the worker. The peanuts you’re entitled to as a salary is not even guaranteed at the end of every month. Salaries are paid on the mid of the second or held up for months. When you live in a city where everything is paid for, it’s certainly a tough position to be in.
No formal contract
A crappy job has no binding contract. Employers want to keep things neat and simple. That means there’s no job security for you; you can be on your way to "early retirement" any day or anytime. A job that keeps you an edge is can be a source of mental and emotional torture.
Undefinable scope of work
An employer can exploit the "other duties as assigned" clause to turn you into a jack-of-all-works and a master at none. You’re assigned duties that are not related to the job description or the position you’re holding. Today you’re the receptionist, next week the errand boy, the driver, the mascot, the receptionist, the salesman, etc, all in a short span of time. Run away from that miserable "job".
Long and irregular working hours
A job that takes all of your time effectively denies you the opportunity to scout around. What’s more, you might be required to work irregular hours without being fairly compensated for your efforts.
Bad for your self-esteem
Confidence is key to delivery. When you doubt your every move, you might find yourself falling short of previously attainable targets. The fact that you’re filling in for a subordinate position doesn’t make you a doormat or punch bag for senior employees. In a toxic work environment where no one seems to listen, you’re ignored and your role belittled you might soon be persuaded that you’re indeed a worthless fella.
Having said that, I must point out that there is usually something to learn at every job. Only that it can be pointless if you cannot build on it or apply it anywhere. Ideally, your first job ought to be a stepping stone to a better position in the future. That only works if the job is compatible with your career. An opening in the hospitality industry can hurt the prospects of say, a telecommunications graduate in the long run.
I am not advocating for people to sit on their butts, on the contrary, I would urge young graduands to take the less glittery path like volunteering or take one internship after another, while all the while building relationships and leaving an impressive record wherever you go. In an era of scarce job opportunities, the referrals/connections you make will come in handy in landing a permanent job. Explore other opportunities,eg online jobs where many people are making a decent living.
The situation in our country right now is sadly not so different from what Chinua Achebe once described in his book, A Man of the People "… it didn’t matter what you knew but who you knew." I’ve heard people say even a lion eats grass if it misses the meat. The likes of Strive Masiyiwa will tell you that a lion will never eat grass even if it misses the meat. Which crusade are listening to?