Looking for a job is work. Hard work. And anyone who’s done it before will tell you that it can also be anxiety-inducing, frustrating, and sometimes just down-right depressing work.

But when you’re 18 – 25 and fresh out of campus with just a diploma / degree, no work experience, and a keen awareness of Kenya’s unemployment statistics, the job search can be especially daunting. Where exactly do you start? Search the newspaper? Search the web? Send your CV to all your ideal employers? Then what? What are employers looking for anyway? What can you say that will make you stand out from the sea of statistics that are sending their applications to exactly the same places as you?

Last week, Akili Dada held its second 3-day job-preparedness training connecting 22 young women aged 18 – 25 with professionals who could help them answer precisely these kinds of questions.

Girls asking questions

The workshop included sessions on CV and Cover Letter Writing, Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing, Mock Interviews, Key job competencies employers look for, Sexual harassment in the workplace, Effective Communication and Practical Tips From HR practitioners.

Curriculum Vitae

With all the templates and free CV writing advice available online, it’s easy to dismiss   this as the easiest part of the job-application process. What’s there to it? Well, you might be surprised and our participants certainly were. As one of them – engineer graduate Kanana Makathimu – said in reference to her recently embarked on job-search: “I thought I knew how to write a CV until I had to sit down and write one.” So the first course of action in our training was to learn about curriculum vitae writing. Perminus Wainaina – our excellent facilitator from Corporate Staffing Services – took the girls through all the essentials of what they needed to know about writing an effective Curriculum Vitae including:

  • What is a CV and how is it different from a Resume?
  • How should a CV be organized?
  • What information should be included in your CV? What should be left out?
  • What do employers look for in a CV?
  • What are the common mistakes most people make in their CV’s and how can they be avoided?

Mr. Wainaina also helped our participants understand cover letters: what they are, how to write them, and how to make them stand out as well as how to do a job application and how to tackle different kinds of application methods including email applications.  Rhoda Murigi, a recent graduate, testified that the session was illuminating: “I used to use templates…I found out what I was doing was all wrong,” she said. Similarly, when at the end of the 3 day training Stephanie Muya, when asked what she will do differently in her job search, promptly replied: “First, I’m going to edit my CV.”

Interviews

Interviewing can be unnerving even for the most seasoned worker, but pre-interview jitters can be eased up when we have a good idea what to expect and know how to prepare. The interview session aimed to help give the girls exactly that: a good idea and a greater chance at success. Among other things, the session highlighted:

  • Why companies conduct interviews
  • What types of interviews exist
  • How one can prepare for an interview
  • What common questions are asked in interviews
  • What common mistakes people make in interviews and how  they can be avoided

After learning the theory of interviews and interviewing, our participants got the chance to practice what they’d learned through mock interviews which they conducted amongst themselves. Surprised at the inclusion of mock interviews in the training, Njeri Macharia – an aspiring photographer, videographer and HR practitioner – noted: “I was coming to learn how to write my CV, I didn’t think we’d do the interviews.”Apparently, it was a pleasant surprise and she expressed gratitude for the process saying “I appreciate the feedback I got after the interview,” and highlighting that the process even helped her pay attention to minute but important details like her posture.

Key competencies employers look for.

A strong GPA and Microsoft Office proficiency are great, but employers also look for things beyond technical skills. In her session, Sylvia Firth helped the ladies understand what personality traits, and uncanny skills they should be focusing on developing and/or including in their CV. Psychology graduate Stephanie Muya got the message loud and clear noting that it helped her understand what employers are looking for and that beyond “technical skills, personal skills are also important.”

Sexual harassment at the workplace

This issue may or may not be experienced by women during the job-search and/or workplace context, but when it is experienced, it can be particularly traumatic and inexperienced young women are particularly vulnerable to being harassed. During the ‘sexual harassment at the workplace’ session, Wairu Kinyori helped equip our participants with the skills they will need to identify various types of sexual harassment. By taking the young women through the legal instruments that address sexual harassment and provide for legal recourse, she left the young ladies better empowered to understand and tackle various forms of sexual harassment if they were to arise.

Communication

Post workshop group photo

Personal branding, professional development, and networking: these are some of the themes which facilitator Arnolda Shiundu covered during her session on communication. Within these broad areas, the focus was on practical issues such as:

  • Dresscode
  • How to dress
  • Questions to ask in an interview and next steps to take after an interview.

The ladies also received guidance about how to navigate the internet and social media. Counsel included practical tips like “google yourself.”  The session also touched on networking – a topic which resounded with Kanana Makathimu who previously struggled with networking. “I wanted to be independent. I didn’t want to ask for help from relatives or friends (but) most speakers encouraged us to network,” Kanana said. Ms. Shiundu emphasized the importance of networking saying: “your network is your net worth.”

Practical Tips from HR practitioners

The training was rounded off with a final session in which the young women got the opportunity to hear from those directly responsible for recruiting – HR practitioners. Speaker Natalie Mathenge helped the young ladies see some of the issues that cause recruiters to reject an application or job candidate off the bat. Poor communication skills, shabby dressing, lack of punctuality, were among the culprits. Ms. Mathenge also encouraged the girls to think outside the box and see ways of gaining the work experience they need without necessarily getting a job. A plethora of practical tips were shared in this session as in others.

That was it for our job-preparedness workshop this month and we were so pleased at the caliber of young women who participated in the training. We’re so grateful for the facilitators who graciously took time out of their schedules to invest in all the young ladies who participated. Our hope remains that these capable young women will be able to find their way first into a job and then up to the top of their respective fields. We’re rooting for you ladies!

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