How to land a job in the (Kenyan) public sector

It's easy to get a job in the public sector, provided you're is confident, a go-getter and have experience Click To Tweet

When it comes to landing a job with the government, many people think it is a tall order that can’t be achieved by common citizens.

According to Aziza Said, a communication professional working under the presidency, it is easy to get a job in the public sector, provided one is confident, has a go-getter mentality and experience in a related field.

Here’s a summary of what the young Kenyan lady believes propelled her into getting a job in the public sector and keeping it so far.

Confidence and immeasurable experience

Working in the public sector is like working in any other job. As such, an interested candidate should have the common and necessary qualities such as relevant education and experience in the field. Above all, one needs confidence and a belief in self- qualities that push one to seek opportunities that will help them to grow in that field.

Prior to working with the government, Aziza was a radio program host for two local stations. Here, she had an opportunity to put into practice her acquired skills. She expanded on people skills, a quality that is crucial, especially, while working in a government office.

Excellent communication skills

It is Aziza’s duty to ensure that information from the government reaches the public. Information is important in improving the lives of the citizens.

“I am also keen on informing Kenyans about the country’s performance in the global market,” she adds.

Communication skills are vital when it comes to performing these duties, as well as interacting with the public. This does not apply to communication professionals alone. All public servants should be able to communicate and interact well with colleagues and the general public at large.

All public servants should be able to communicate and interact with their colleagues & the public Click To Tweet
Photo credit: Aziza

Know what the Constitution says about your duties as a public servant

The Constitution stipulates what public servants should and shouldn’t do. It is therefore important for government officers to know what the Constitution says about their field of work.

As a media practitioner, the constitution has separate clauses that inform us how information should be collected, reviewed and shared with the public. Articles 31, 33, 34, and 35 of the Kenyan Constitution give a guideline on how to handle and disseminate information.

The good thing about the government is that there are training opportunities for every employee Click To Tweet

Be on the lookout for opportunities to advance self

The good thing about the government is that there are training opportunities for each and every employee. It is the duty of the particular public servant to identify and attend such training opportunities to increase their knowledge on a specific area.

Public servants are also encouraged to go back to school for higher education. The good thing is when there are promotions; those with more experience and education are considered and rewarded.

Aziza believes she’s grown immensely in the past two years since joining the government. She advises citizens to be on the lookout for job adverts in the Kenya Gazette, local dailies, and relevant websites, as well as keep tabs with those working in such offices, also known as networking.

“Look at the requirements for every posting and avail all the necessary documents, as this is where the initial short-listing process starts,” Aziza advises.

How to land a legal job: The dream cover letter for the future attorney

Don’t expect anything if you don’t work for it Click To Tweet

It seems obvious but a lot of the time we wish for things and then wait around for them to happen to us. This as opposed to grabbing opportunities and making things happen for ourselves. Particularly when it comes to seeking employment in the legal profession, competition is unavoidable.

You need to differentiate yourself and be proactive in getting yourself that job of your dreams. Your first shot to get through those doors is just two pieces of paper, your CV, and your cover letter.

What is it for?

There is a common misconception that the cover letter is redundant and the magic is in the CV. However, if we analyse the objectives of these two documents, it becomes clear that the CV is a list of information. Important information, yes, but not necessarily relaying your personality and charisma.

The cover letter should be just that, your emotive selling point and the document that can push you over the edge when the employer is stuck with a pool full of like-minded CVs. It, therefore, has the power to be a critical document in your pursuit of employment. You can take your list of achievements and translate them into relevant skills that your prospective employer is looking for.

The CV has important information but not it doesn't relay your personality & charisma Click To Tweet

The law degree will see everyone in much of the same position in terms of subjects. So the extracurricular activities and interest areas will be what makes you stand out – it is important to highlight this and make it clear in your cover letter.

What should I include?

The contents of the cover letter are dependent on what you are applying for. So before you jump into writing, take a few steps back and spend some time engaging with the requirements of the position you are applying for.

Is it a position at a big corporate law firm? Then your cover letter should focus on your ability to work long hours and maintain attention to detail; your ability to translate constructive criticism to a change in your work product and motivated attitude (to name a few).

If it is a position at a human rights non-government organization, then the cover letter will be completely different to the aforementioned. Mention motivated attitude again but now link it to previous experience highlighting your passion for the cause; determination to work regardless of the barriers and interest in following court decisions in this area and the trends you have seen.

Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order. Take that vacation work experience and make it work for you! Highlight how you learnt the value of networking and even though it was a long work day, you are excited at the prospect of challenging yourself and learning more.

Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order Click To Tweet

Should someone else read through it?

It can be nerve-wracking once you have poured your heart into this document to then expose yourself to a third party prior to sending it on to your prospective employer. However, there is a lot of value in getting insight as to whether you have sufficiently sold yourself for the position you are applying for.

It is important for a third party to read your cover letter together with your CV to assess whether there are any achievements or skills that you have missed out on including or whether something else could be more relevant to include.

Am I going to use this again?

I think it is helpful to start off with a generic cover letter that covers some of the transferable skills that will be relevant regardless of the position. Then working off this, tweak the original to suit the specific position.

Of course this means that your base cover letter needs to be cracker, and by cracker I mean a strong reflection of some of your core skills that differentiate you from the masses. Then for each new position you are applying for, go through the same process of analyzing the position and your suitability to it and amend your base cover letter accordingly.

Selling yourself is never a bad thing

You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that Click To Tweet

You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that. The benefit in taking the time to reflect on the position and your ability to fulfil the position can result in you realizing that perhaps you are not suited to being a corporate law associate because you don’t like working long hours and you have not really had an interest in corporate law given your previous experience.

Through spending more time and effort on the cover letter process, hopefully you manage to match yourself to position that will fulfil you and to which you are happily suited – it shouldn’t be a strain to sell yourself for a position.

How to land a job in a top bank: When the A’s are no longer enough

Those grades are great but they aren't enough to get you that job in a top investment bank Click To Tweet

Let me paint a picture for you.

GCSE 9A*’S. A-Level 4A*S. University 1st class in Business and Economics. Founder of a Banking society in university. An avid reader of FT, The Economist etc. Sounds like a good resume of a banking employee right? WRONG! Or shall I say not necessarily.

Sorry to burst your bubbles if you are reading this and this is you and you are thinking you have done enough. (Chances are you are, I mean all the Motherland Moguls are all geniuses who talk about Marxism and liberalism at their Saturday lunches.) The truth is those grades are great, but they are necessary ingredients, not sufficient ones.

So how can you stand out? Here’s what I have come to find from my experience in a top investment bank and by speaking to the people I work with.

Three tips that will help you…good luck!

1. Networking as cliché as it sounds is the quickest way to accelerate your application

People go and on about the power of networking. I go to many conferences and the section I dread the most is the 20 minutes they shove in at the end for ‘networking’. You may be reading this agreeing with me. Sister, I feel ya!

But let me share something with you. I have been in my industry for a couple of years now and I have never gotten an opportunity the conventional way. Everything has come as a result of a simple conversation with someone who I connected with.

Networking is not speed dating! You do not have to speak to everyone. Find one or two people to connect with in an authentic way and follow up!! This is where most people drop the ball. When I moved into the Securities division at my firm it was a shock to many.

How did you do it? Well an MD asked three of us to email him for coffee after a recruitment event. The next day I set it up. We spoke, we connected and after a few months, he hired me. What I later realised was I was the only one who followed up with him.

Nobody likes a jack-of-all-trades master of none, here's how to stand out Click To Tweet

2. Know your WHY and have a story

To a large extent, one of the reasons I wanted to go into the corporate world was so I could rock a Chanel suit and 6inch Loubs, sit in a glass office and tell people what to do. Jessica Pearson from Suits to be specific. (Don’t judge me! Everyone has their fantasies!)

However, when asked why you want to go into your chosen corporate field in an interview never ever give a cliché (or dumb) answer. For example: ‘With my combination of subjects I felt this will be a great industry for me’ Yawnnnn.

Or, ‘I have always been passionate about banking and how the industry works. I kept a piggy bank since I was young and care bout savings’.

Lol, sister please take several seats.

People like to work with interesting people. Think about the interviewer- poor guy. Seeing person after person is really boring! Bring some of your personality into the room and position the conversation in a way that gives you the control!

For example: ‘I never imagined I would work in banking, to be honest. I’m really interested in infrastructure –especially coming from a third world country- and how infrastructure can enhance development. What I realised though was that there were many great developers, but no one has any idea how to finance large projects.

Concepts like debt financing, credit and loans kept coming up and so it sparked my curiosity. I began to speak to people and it became clear that rather than join the queue of people waiting to get their projects financed, I could go to other side and start helping them figure out how they could do so through different financial instruments…’ blah blah blah

Do you see the difference? You’ve now given the interviewer something to ask you more about and you can control the conversation. Chances are he doesn’t know much about infrastructure in third world countries so the interview (usually 30 min) becomes an opportunity for you to teach him something new!

To convince someone to give you a cherished spot in their firm -you need to be an intentional person Click To Tweet

3. Do not be a jack-of-all-trades master of none

I have some sister reading this who has trekked up and down the Himalayas, organised a UN conference, run a small business on the side and volunteered in a home all in the summer before their application to banking.

Sorry, sister! Are you the only one??? Relax.

Nobody likes a jack-of-all-trades master of none. To convince someone to give you that cherished spot in their firm -you need to come across as an intentional person. Don’t just pile on achievement after achievement, be clear on the reasons why you do what you do and what part of you these activities are developing.

Are you adventurous and love a good challenge? Then let your activities show that. Do you love to spend time learning about the problems of the world? Then do things to show that. Don’t be a follow-follow.

A question you will definitely get asked is what you enjoy outside of work. Give a genuine answer! Imagine spending 12-hour days with a very serious person who cannot talk about anything other than work. Snooze fest! This is what the interviewer is thinking about! Would I want to pull an all-nighter with you?

So ladies in general, it’s pretty simple- be yourself and be unique. The good grades and achievements are great, but the ‘softer skills’ I always argue will trump those every single time.

So to land that job, It’s pretty simple- be yourself and be unique Click To Tweet

How to land the media job you want: Tips from Isis Nyong’o Madison

isis nyong'o madison media leader
Get inspired and land the media job you want with lessons straight from Isis Nyong'o Madison Click To Tweet

Isis Nyong’o Madison is a well-known media and technology leader in Africa. She has held leadership roles at Asphalt & Ink, InMobi, Google and MTV. Over the past decade, she has made her mark scaling media and digital businesses across the continent. Isis holds degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Business School and is the CEO and Co-founder of Mums Village  an online start-up dedicated to enriching the lives of current mothers and mums-to-be in urban Kenya.

Accolades awarded to her include being named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and one of Africa’s most Powerful Women by Forbes. Isis serves on the boards of two technology companies and it can’t hurt to add that her family boasts of greatness with Academy award winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o as her cousin.

As someone with great experience in media and technology – all the while ensuring career longevity, below are some takeaways we can learn from her as she tells us how she got to where she is now.

Network, network, network and be persistent

“I networked incredibly hard to get into MTV in 2005. They were just getting ready to launch in Africa right as I was graduating from Harvard Business School -I was very excited about media at the time and absolutely obsessed with working there. I didn’t know if they had any vacancies but I did everything I possibly could to find myself space there as it was logical to me that they would need to put a team together.

The person leading the MTV Africa venture was Nigerian so I reached into my network asking every single Nigerian I knew if they knew this guy. None of them did but with more digging I got the phone numbers I needed that finally connected me to him. This took about six months to get to him and get him to hire me as their first sales person.

Today, I wouldn’t recommend spamming a potential employer with too many emails and cold calling them but you should do your best to get noticed. For example, attend events that they host, engage with them online and meet employees to better understand what it’s like to work there. Never give up on something that you feel is right for you but also use your judgement on optimal approach.”

Some key points to help with landing the job you want:

1. Network

Again, this is very important and is a skill that young people should have. There are more forums to network nowadays and a lot of networking opportunities as well.

The reality, particularly here in Kenya, is that people feel like only certain people get jobs because they have access to certain networks. There is some truth to that but not to say that one cannot build their own networks no matter where you are starting from. Your networks don’t just happen to you, you build on your alumni institution, your church, and many other avenues. That’s something I became very good at over time and it’s something that is important not just for jobs but for business in general.

The importance of your network in landing the job you want in the media is very real Click To Tweet
2. Throw your hat in the ring

When applying for jobs in big companies, I think there’s a view that you can’t just apply on their website and expect your CV to be reviewed. I applied to Google at a time when they had 1,000 people at least applying per week and every single CV was screened.

Also, particularly for women, there’s a lot of research that shows that women will go through an entire list of requirements and if they do not have one of those things that the company is looking for, they won’t apply. Yet men tend to apply regardless of meeting all the requirements or not. I think that women definitely need to have a much more controlled view of this and apply for the job they want despite missing one or two requirements. The only way to ensure you don’t get a job is to not apply.

3. Preparation matters – a lot.

Ensure you have an engaging, updated LinkedIn profile as that is where your professional visibility matters and be mindful of everything you put online. Typos in CV’s and any other communications are inexcusable and reflect a cavalier attitude which makes it easy for employers to pass on.

When you reach the interview stage, do thorough research in preparation for it. You can never over prepare -you should definitely never walk into an interview unprepared as you’ll be wasting everyone’s time including your own. Understand what the role is, what you think they’re looking for, what questions they are likely to ask you, what questions you’ll ask them and find out what’s happening in that industry that you want to join. There’s no excuse not to be prepared.

How to ensure career longevity

“If one finds their life passion, it becomes much easier to have career longevity. Things fall into place when you find your passion. There’s always more you want to do and there’s more opportunities that find their way back to you.

If one finds their life passion, it becomes much easier to have career longevity Click To Tweet

For those who are unfortunately stuck in a career path that’s not for them, make it a mission to find a way to get out of that situation instead of trying to create a long-term career.”

Finally, what matters more between education and experience? It depends on the individual

“Education and experience are both very important and I do think that I vacillate myself on whether one matters more than the other. A good education gives you a foundation to build knowledge, working in teams, critical thinking skills and the discipline of simply showing up. There’s a lot of things that matter later in life that showing up at school, participating, learning, doing homework, doing all these again and again and again assists…all of this matters a lot during our career.

“I have interacted with ‘seasoned’ professionals who have 10 years of experience in a field but if you can’t problem solve and only do the things that you’ve been trained to do, then it’s hard to get to the next level. So you can see why it may just depend on the individual on which one is better but I’m an advocate for both of them.”