The COVID-19 pandemic has created a massive disruption in the labor markets in Kenya- particularly amongst youth. Working hours for employed youth fell by nearly a quarter and 42% reported a reduction in their income. Additionally, across all industries in Kenya, 81% of businesses report a decline. While the economic recovery will take significant time, there are some things you can be doing in the meantime to ensure that you’re prepared to re-enter the job market as the Kenyan economy rebounds.
Numerous job websites lay out key criteria to ensure that you are up-skilling during this time. While it is important to improve your hard skills, improving your soft skill is of equal importance. The State of Graduate Employability in Kenya report by CPS International shows that employers ranked basic skills –numeracy, writing, reading and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) - as the most important for graduates to get employed. Following this was team work, the right work-life attitude, communication, planning and organizational skills, decision making and the ability to adapt and act in new situations. This survey proves the importance of focusing on both of these areas for job seekers.
The suggestions below help to bridge the hard skills and soft skills that employers are looking for. In general, the more that you know and understand yourself, have confidence and hone your instincts, the more you’ll be able to contribute positively to a team. It is important to be able to develop an excel sheet- but it’s equally as important to be able to use that excel sheet with a team to reach the desired outcomes. During this economically insecure time, do not overlook the importance of supporting yourself and community to support a better future for everyone.
5 core activities to work on during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
1. Community Volunteering
In a time of crisis, it’s important that we all work together to ensure that our communities are healthy and safe. Volunteering is a practical way to learn new skills, work with other people to enhance your emotional intelligence and show future employees that in a down-time period, you were working. Corporate Staffing Services Talent Report noted that 61% of employers in Kenya say that volunteering experience is very highly considered when looking to hire graduates. It is also an activity that you can showcase on your resume to increase your work portfolio.
Learning is a life-long journey. Whatever your skill set is, there is always room for improvement. Ask yourself, where do you want to go? And, what skills do you need to get there? Online courses can often be a low-cost solution that enhances your skill set. As stated above, employers are looking for high quality ICT skills. Meaning, the ability to use technology for every day, regular tasks. Online courses can offer support in basic ICT skills that can increase your likeability to future employers. Another tip would be to find the company that you’re wanting to work for, see what skills the employees have, and see where you could improve. Jijali is an online platform that focuses on these skills in particular. If you want to learn more about what courses we offer, check out this site.
3. Maintaining mental health
These times are hugely stressful. It’s unclear what the future holds and how we can maintain the safety and wellbeing of our communities. First and foremost, you need to ensure you understand how best to take care of yourself. What do you need to live a healthy life? According to Kenya Mental Health Policy, mental health disorder cases in the country continue to rise. Not only is it beneficial for companies to have employees with strong mental health- but our mental health ripples into our families, communities and workspaces. Ensure to spend some time learning more about yourself and what you need to live a healthy life.
4. Problem solving/critical thinking
There is no one size fits all solution to problems. Solutions must be nuanced and specific. It is said that at the interview stage, employers will always look for candidates who show critical thinking and the ability to solve problems at the workplace. Solving problems is a skill set that must be practiced. During this time, work to enhance your own critical thinking skills by creating ideas for problems that you see all around you. Try and think of low-cost solutions that support your community to solve some challenges you or your community is facing. These skills will translate into the workplace as there are always unforeseen challenges and it’s important to be able to shift and be agile in your thinking.
5. Social Media- finding your voice
There is a lot of pressure these days to have an online presence. Though, it is hard to figure out what to say- and what your online ‘voice’ is. Use this time to read up on topics that you’re passionate about. Educate yourself and start to form your own opinions. Don’t just follow what other people say, but think critically about issues to find out what you really think and feel about things. Start using social accounts like Twitter as a way to exercise your voice and opinions. This directly translates to the job search as 92% of companies use social media for hiring- and it’s not just LinkedIn. Showing that you have something to say, are thinking critically and have a professional voice are all valuable to employers looking to hire new employees.
All of these actions can support your growth journey both personally and professionally. It seems now more than ever these are more closely linked. As a general rule of thumb, the more that you are yourself, and confident and comfortable in your own being, the more attractive you will seem to an employer.
This process is a journey that is not prescriptive. Each person has their own path to success. The challenge is to be honest and patient with yourself. The pandemic presents a number of challenges for every member of society. Try and use this time to support the people that are around you, while also focusing on the kind of skill sets that you think will help support your future career.
By Isabel Nuesse