This year we’ve hosted several career advice panels in Nairobi to introduce rising professionals to industry experts in their chosen fields.
We recently had the privilege of hosting Angeline Mutua, Chief Manager, Talent Management & Staff Development at Kenya Revenue Authority, Christopher Karani, Talent Manager at Unilever, and Christopher Mwirigi, Learning and Development Manager at I&M Bank to discuss key trends in HR, career advice for advancement, and wisdom on personal and professional growth.
Here are some of the insights they shared about professional growth and career advancement:
Advocate for your next opportunity
Learn how to sell yourself. Be bold and ask for what you want. Angeline shared that she was able to transition from a career in Communications to being an Executive Administrator and finally into HR by consistently seeking feedback and advocating for the next opportunity. She explained how early in her career, she would ask to take on new roles during meetings and presentations, building her skill set while showing her boss that she was capable of new responsibilities.
She shared that she was impressed with the initiative she’s seen from her younger colleagues: “This generation is not going to sit and wait for opportunities! They know they won’t just have a development plan handed to them.” Remember that if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?
Stay up to date with industry news and current events
Christopher Mwirigi offered the career advice that keeping up to date with industry and business news could help you have meaningful conversations with leaders within your company and position yourself for advancement. Subscribe to industry newsletters and read the paper — not only to impress your boss but also to enrich your own understanding of your company’s work. Ask yourself: If you were in an elevator with your CEO, what would you want to discuss with them?
Chris Karani reiterated the importance of reading and continuously learning. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, some of the skills you know today will be irrelevant in the next two years. This means you need to seek out ways in which you will remain relevant in your career and workplace in general.
“Understand your industry and organization inside out and the ways in which you add value. Keep in mind that organizations are less afraid of losing you but more afraid of retaining an individual who adds no value to them,” said Chris. In the recruitment process, take the time to understand the organization you want to work for, what they do, the impact they make and what value you can bring on board.
There is no conventional way of landing your dream job
Take on the journey of self-discovery, start from where you are to get to where you want to be. It doesn’t matter what you studied, or what you are currently doing, keep going and seek out ways to drive yourself towards where your goal.
Angeline started her career journey in communications for a number of years, tried out other roles, before getting into Human Resources. Christopher Karani studied Computer Science in campus and currently uses technology to improve Human Resources practices across his organization, while Christopher Mwirigi’s first passion was football, and now applies the same teamwork and confidence in his HR career, focusing on learning and development.
Find a mentor
Mentorship is key to career and personal development. You may be lucky enough to find a mentor in a current or former supervisor, but more often, you will need to be proactive in seeking a mentor.
Is there a leader you admire in your organization? Or perhaps you know someone outside of work who is great at a particular skill set that you’d like to work on. LinkedIn could also be a valuable tool for reaching out to a potential mentor. Chris Karani offered the career advice that he made a list of professionals on LinkedIn with HR positions he aspired to, and then reached out to each of them with a thoughtful list of questions. One of the professionals who responded has been his mentor ever since!
This example highlights an important bit of career advice — be sure to approach a potential mentor with a clear “ask” and discussion questions, so that they feel their time is being used productively. And remember — sometimes finding the right mentor can be challenging but don’t be discouraged, you will find someone who is a natural fit to guide you with their advice and feedback.
Your attitude is fundamental
While confidence, intellect, and knowledge are key when it comes to making it in any field, your attitude has the potential to open doors for you. This could be as simple as being proactive when it comes to learning; often times you don’t have to have all that’s listed in a job description but your willingness to learn and grow sets you apart.
Part of having a positive attitude is not being afraid to fail. It is often said that failure is the best teacher. You learn how not do certain things, how not to act and it shows you what doesn’t work. No matter where you are in your career at the moment, remember you can always begin again and do better. Always focus on the possibilities of success, not the potential for failure!
Thanks again to our incredible panelists for their wisdom and career advice. Want to make sure you’re on the invite list for our next Careers event in Nairobi? Sign up for our newsletter here.