SUSAN DARYA: How to ensure career growth

Mdm. Susan Darya is an educationist and Founder of Ma’Taji Career Hub. We caught up with her for a conversation on careers.

What is a career?

I would describe a career as an occupational journey that one undertakes or experiences over a significant period of time, that gives him/her possible opportunity for growth and progress. A career is often composed of the jobs held, titles earned and work accomplished over a long period of time, rather than just referring to one position.

So, is there a difference between a career and a job?

A job is simply a task for money. Usually short term. It is motivated by the financial pay or need. A career, on the other hand, is long term. More of a series of jobs. It is usually motivated by purpose and can exist even without the motivation of money.

Also, with a job, one isn’t given much of a choice in delivery and more often than not, decisions are laid down for you. People seek your help out of procedure. With a career, you build it out of your skill sets. You have more choice in decision making. People seek you out, out of your authority in your field.

What’s your thought on KUCCPS choosing career professions to our students?

I have had the historical privilege to have experienced both JAB and KUCCPS. KUCCPS does not choose careers for students. It facilitates admission of students to post secondary institutions.

  • KUCCPS is not a mandatory route to access higher education. It is most sought after because it subsidizes the financial burden for students.
  • Programs/ Courses have limited spaces. It’s usually a matter of who performed better. The competition is abnormal.
  • Aside from government sponsored education (admission through KUCCPS) there’s the option of self sponsorship.
  • KUCCPS does not dictate the capacities available for admission in the different institutions. Capacities are submitted to KUCCPS way before KCSE is done. So for example, if UoN can admit only 100 students for medicine on government sponsorship, they take the first 100 applicants with reference to their weighted cluster points.

There is always a notion that some careers are more illustrious than others. Is this true?

Illustrious, as in more prestigious or outstanding ? I don’t agree with this. In my opinion, that is the same thought process that directs individuals to demand for careers that are away from their scope of capability.

Careers should be sought or chosen after individual analysis of various factors and not just the perceived fame or glory they carry. I have met straight A students who went into performing arts. Besides, we can’t all be doctors, engineers, lawyers and pilots. Somebody has to be the farmer, chef, plumber etc.

When subjects such as home science, agriculture, art and craft, business studies, music etc ceased to become examinable at KCPE level, it took away the opportunity to spark interest and curiosity in these subjects from students. So very few students take these subjects at high school because they did not see, neither were they taught about their intrinsic importance.

You will notice that these very subjects nurture commercial talent and we have people who have made it in life because of talent and not the cognitive capabilities in maths and science. This is why CBC is being rolled out, because the country is suffering with skills gaps.

All careers exist because there is sufficient market for them in the job space. One only needs to know where and how to look. For example, jobs such as nursing and teaching may not seem to be that financially lucrative here in Kenya but they are to die for out there.

We advise students to pursue their passion on the path of career choice. When you are working within the space of your interest and passion, you will flourish with ease. The opposite is also true. There are thousands of frustrated doctors and engineers out there and many fulfilled musicians, sportsmen and women. It is what you make out of the career path you choose that counts.

One should be able to balance between skill and passion; It’s possible to handle more than one career line if they can be synchronized.

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Are there any factors, if any, to be considered when choosing a career path to take?

Yes, there are. We usually advise students to find their sweet spot using an analysis of factors:

  • Their interest and passion
  • Their skills and talent
  • Their academic potential
  • The marketability of their choice of career (This differs in geographical region eg. Teaching and nursing is very lucrative abroad as opposed to our dear motherland)
  • Other factors that should not hold alot of weight are time and money, but unfortunately they dictate alot in career choices for our Kenyan child.

10 years into the comfort of a job, for example, how do I transition into a nourishing career?

In 10 years, there are alot of skills sets you must have acquired and developed.

  • You must have a plan: 2, 3, 5 yrs plan, its your choice, but you must have a plan. When you look at your plan, is it all encompassing? (time, money, energy, etc) What are you willing to forego in order to shift into a new career ? What skills might you be required to have in the new career? Do you have them? If not, what are you planning to do to acquire them? What will it cost you?
  • Do your homework. Network within the new career circles. Find a mentor; Find opportunities to grow your skill, for example in internships and voluntary work. Consider the possibility of a salary/ financial cut. Look at the skills set and you have acquired in the 10 years and align them to the desired career.
  • You will need to have a well customized CV to go with it. Your social media platforms should also market you in your career shift

How do we ensure growth in the careers we choose?

  • Master your work/role (be efficient to yourself). If you are employed, then all employers want efficiency. It makes you stand out.
  • Go that extra mile, there isn’t any traffic. It will give you an opportunity to stand out too and open channels for upward growth in the industry.
  • Place yourself out there; outserve, get noticed for your work ethic and your professionalism.
  • Check your social circles in the workplace. How do they grow you or make you a better employee? When you are in their company do you discuss strategic growth (whether business or personal growth) or do you petty – gossip?
  • What value are you bringing onto the table above your academic qualifications? Volunteering, side hustles should be aligned to your path
  • What places you a cut above all others? What is your X-factor? How does it align to the vison of the organization in which you work in? How are you making sure your X factor is noticed?
  • Keep reinventing yourself. Enrich your skills and knowledge base. Learn something new. Be an individual beyond the four corners of your office. Currently, we have so many free online courses been offered all over, during this pandemic. Invest in them.
  • Bring out your key strengths in your letters; align them to the company vision and the role for which you are applying for. Only about 2% of applicants make it to the interview.
  • Learn as much as you can in each role you are placed into even if it does not interest you. The experience always come in handy in future.
  • Get a career coach; A coach will help you mine out all your strengths and use them appropriately and in a timely way to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself.
  • Have an action plan; short term and long term.
  • Have a vision board to help you get through the plans you have laid down for yourself.
  • Work on your soft skills. Today’s employer has a keen eye on soft skills. For example, communication skills, negotiating skills, emotional intelligence, strategic leadership skills, digital marketing skills, project management skills, project monitoring and evaluation skills etc. Volunteer opportunities in campus and high school also count for entry level jobs.
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