I have just finished CPA, after years of struggle. If you know about CPA, you know it’s a struggle. And I’m not even a natural at Math. Anyway, now that CPA is over, jobs will me waiting. That’s what they all said, “Usicheze na hizo vitu zinaitwa CPA. Mtu akimaliza CPA uwa hatoshi. Employers look for you.” So, I am upbeat, I’m even wondering how it feels to be unemployed for years. I mean, why not just do CPA? Even the career officer at my college promises us jobs. All you need to do is write a CV and give it to him. He will place you, because our college is the best for Accountancy in Kenya. I do that, and wait.
Months later, I’m still spending my days in my Plot 10 remote control house lying on the bed, browsing for girls and sexting on 2Go. No jobs have come from the college. Isorait, I can apply for jobs online. So I update and fill my CV with all my achievements, real and imagined, and send to hundreds of companies. I don’t get interviews. No, I get an interview from GNLD which leaves me very bitter. Things are getting desperate now. I’m getting frustrated. But not yet out. Because I am making some kidogo money from my brokering computers and electronics huko River Road, and learning IT stuff from Alex at Kemnet, saving as much as I can, to help me print CVs at the cyber cafe. For the next step in my job hunt.
So, a group of us met at our Plot 10 Hq over a packet of ngumuu and black tea, to deliberate on our next steps. Marti had just finished his law degree, Mûsila had just finished his B Com, Kawaida and I had our CPAs. Kero was also there as a cheerleader – he had prominent relatives around who were guaranteeing him a job outside the country – story for another day. Our tools were the Nairobi Business Directories I had picked from Yellow Pages. So, we started mapping our plan. The first thing we realized was, tarmacking is hard, so you need a squad partner, like the cops and even robbers walk in twos. Marti and I would go together, while Mûsila and Kawaida would make the other team.
From our directories, we chose routes and the companies we would go to – alternatively so we don’t compete for the same job where interests clashed, like Mûsila and Kawaida were looking for the same type of jobs. Marti and I could choose the same companies where applicable – for instance banks would need an accountant and a lawyer, but he could apply for law firms as I applied for Audit firms. Tuko pamoja?
So, we would choose companies in one street and write down their details and then earnestly start writing application letters. We used our little money to print CVs, so application letters were handwritten. We had a whole ream of A4 foolscaps!
Applications for about a week written, that’s over 20 of them each, we started the real work of looking for work. Mûsila and Kawaida had chosen to start with Industrial Area because that’s where the real companies are. Marti and I were more slayey… We started in town and Upper Hill, planning to go to Westlands afterwards. Vumbi na Chemicals for who?
There was no fare, we just didn’t have money to waste on such things. We would walk up and down the streets in oversize suits, complete with borrowed ties, and chippy shoes that chipped even further.
There is no Job here!
The drill was, go into the establishment, ask if there is a vacancy:
“Excuse me sir. We just finished school and we’re looking for a job.”
” Unfortunately, there is no job at the moment.”
“Not even internship?”
” No. “
“Can we leave our applications?”
” Yes. When we get a job, we’ll call you. “
Or, “No, we don’t hire at the branch, take your papers to the head office.”
Some offered us hope and introduced us to managers who would tell us to leave our papers. Others would even show is how to rewrite our CVs and cover letters. Others would be very impressed with our credentials and wish they could hire us, but… “You see, the economy is very bad, unless you work for free until a paid vacancy happens .”
” Not even a little for transport? “
“No. Actually, you should be the one paying us for teaching you the job.”
That would not work, we were hungry. Both literally and figuratively. We would be so hungry fainting would always be very close. Whoever called Nairobi the City in the Sun must have been a job hunter. We felt the sun. Tarmacking is especially harder on an empty stomach. We would share a banana and a bottle of kanju water.
Kawaida and Mûsila were even worse. Industrial Area is a lot hotter and smellier when you are job hunting. And the Muhindis there are not always very friendly. They would be chased out, or offered factory jobs.
“Wewe natafuta kazi saa saba? Huku watu nafika asubuhi 5:00. Unasimama hapo nje nachaguliwa kama wengine.” Effectively, that’s how Industrial Area works. You arrive in the wee hours of the morning and create a queue at the factory gates. If they need 20 workers for the day and you are among the first in the queue, you get in. If not, you go home. It’s that simple.
Marti and I were having it easier, until this day:
We are walking into a small bank on Koinange Street when the guard stops us:
” Bank. “ We’re perplexed. Don’t we look like we’re bankable?
“Kufanya nini?” I almost retort kuimba, but Marti is humble, he tells him:
” Hiyo ni nini? “
“Barua za kutafuta kazi.”
“Aiyaiyaiya… Na nilijua! Niliwaona nikajua nyinyi ni watu wa kazi. Ebu tokeni “
… We are still standing there, wondering what we did to deserve all this bile.
“Tokeni ama niwarushe nje cha lazima.”
We go out, meekly, like bitter beggars. And go home. Our resolve is broken, we’re almost crying.
That’s how the job hunt ended, for Marti and I. We were too discouraged by that guard at Jamii Bora, Koinange Street. It’s a bank I promised myself to never go in, again. Ever.
So We Quit Tarmacking
I decided to go back to school, Marti decided to start a kiosk in town. Mûsila decided Finance was not his thing, so he started a cooking business, Kawaida eventually got a job, after several months.
But eventually, we did fine. Marti is a prominent lawyer now. Kawaida is a stalwart at Kenya Airports Authority, still in Accounts. Mûsila’s cooking career was halted by the Westgate attack, but he bounced back to become a politician briefly before becoming a senior Sacco executive in Maua. And you know me, I changed my career and I have since managed Digital Marketing in tens of countries.
We thank God.
Getting a job in Kenya can be difficult, and it’s become quite a national debate in the last few weeks. Kenyans are incredibly learned people, but that’s counting for little. If you are job hunting, hang in there…your day is coming, when you least expect it. Just keep in your passion.