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Moving laterally to move upwards

1351 900 Brenda Akinyi

Are career paths ladders or lattices? When we think about promotions and progression in our careers, we often expect this to come in terms of vertical moves. However, before turning down an opportunity for moving laterally (meaning a move within your own company or to a new organization with similar pay and responsibility level) what do you need to consider?

We hosted Sales, Marketing and Advertising professionals for a networking event in Nairobi. We had several leaders in these fields  –Christopher Madison, CEO at Dentsu Aegis, Elizabeth Karani, Country Manager at Beauty Click and Charles Kariuki, Global Sales Manager at Ecozoom — shared some insights on how moving laterally across positions could eventually lead to one climbing up the ladder.

moving laterally
Our panelists (from right): Christopher Madison, Elizabeth Karani, Charles Kariuki and our East Africa MD Ariane Fisher moderating the session

They emphasised the need to consider what you stand to gain by making this horizontal move. Here are a few of their main tips:

Forget titles!

Chris reiterated that it is far more important to focus on who you will become rather than what your title will be. Will you get an opportunity to expand your skills? e.g. as a communicator, advertiser, analyst or recruiter?

Charles also brought up the compensation aspect . We sometimes focus on the fact that moving laterally will give us a similar level of earnings that we overlook other complimentary benefits. This might be in the form of more flexible hours; less travel required a more inspiring leadership team or a different team culture.

moving laterally
Brief networking session between Elizabeth and some of the attendees

What do you stand to learn?

According to Elizabeth, a horizontal move presents an opportunity to learn new skills. Stay curious and know what you like and want. Make your experiences count and be intentional about what you want to accomplish.

Learning new skills will help you stay fresh and current and helps you remain competitive. A lateral move will also give you the opportunity to understand a different facet of the organization and give you more visibility with new team members and managers. This could eventually lead to a promotion when opportunities arise.

Have an end goal in mind

Charles stressed the importance of having the end-result in mind while being flexible in your methods. “What counts is you’re making yourself better where you are,” he said. Seek out ways in which you will increase your achievements by broadening your knowledge base and trying out new things.

One practical way of doing this is educating yourself on where you need to be at the next level, in terms of skill and experience. Chris suggested that you can do this by looking at job descriptions of the positions you want. Compare with where you are at the moment and start filling in the gaps in skills that you may not currently possess.

“Linkedin is a great tool to learn about these gaps,” Elizabeth suggested.

Chris Madison interacting with some of the attendees after the panel discussion

“Keeping your financial and life goals in mind, helps you to start making better decisions on where you should be and how fast you want to get there,” said Chris. “You can then do the math and push yourself harder,” he added.

In conclusion, having your goals in mind, looking beyond the titles and the salary aspect of shifting positions will often make the path towards making that final decision a bit clearer.

Next steps:

Before making the move, ask yourself these questions to decide on your next course of action:

  • What are my career goals?
  • What are my personal and financial goals?
  • What do I stand to learn in this new position?
  • Besides a higher salary, what other benefits am I looking for?
  • Does this move offer the possibility of a vertical progression?

Have you made a lateral move that has propelled your career upwards? We’d love to hear from you, do let us know in the comment section what you learnt and how the experience shaped your career.

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Finance Leaders Share 3 Insider Tips to Succeed

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What we learned from local experts about their career paths, mentorship and how they got where they are today.

We recently held the first of our monthly series of networking events for young professionals in Nairobi. Shortlist’s “Top Finance Talent Meetup” brought together a select group of finance professionals to hear from three experts within the field of finance. Ariane Fisher, Shortlist East Africa’s Managing Director, was joined on the panel by Peace Osangir, COO of Kopo Kopo; Sharon Olende, Lendable’s Director of East Africa; and Job Muriuki, CEO of Momentum Credit. This highly informative discussion contained a wealth of insights on topics such as their career journeys, future trends in the field and the importance of cultivating mentorship. In addition, our guests shared their lessons on professional development and lifelong learning.


Here are “3 Tips to Succeed Professionally in Kenya” by our panel of finance experts

1. Education Doesn’t Always Equal Results

Peace Osangir shared that, in her experience, many young people are more focused on accumulating credentials and degrees than on how those experiences will enhance their learning. “Someone can have two Master’s, but the output doesn’t tally. How do you make sure that the type of information you’re getting is going to create a difference in terms of your output? Sometimes someone can come in without any background in finance and is able to excel. And that’s because the level of execution really differs. It’s not about how many credentials you accumulate but how your output changes as a result of your learning.”

Sharon noted similar observations from her previous experience of two decades in the banking sector. She spoke about the value of having the right mindset in your professional life, adding that “it’s not about what you know, it’s about your attitude and what we can teach you. A lot of things can be taught to you. Accumulating degrees with no work experience doesn’t help you. We’re recruiting for people we think can learn. We just want to see your thought process, how you think about a problem. I can tell you that we have put out job adverts looking for someone with five years experience, but we hired someone with two.”

Job lamented the tendency for youth in the workforce to be close-minded when they view their career paths. “I believe to be successful you have to have fun. Too many young people decide to put themselves in a box. If you’re in your 20’s, you’re gonna work for another 40 years or so. So why put yourself in a box when life has so many experiences before you decide what you’re going to do? Think outside the box.” He went on to share that there are plenty of ways to continue your learning outside of the classroom: “The best education I have received in my life has been reading a lot of books. It’s good to enrich your mind with non-conventional thinking, push the envelope, read interesting things. Try not to conform to what people expect you to be.”

 

Engaged participants listening to our speakers reflect on their career journeys

2. Be reliable and always execute

Throughout the conversation between the panelists, the topic of execution came up frequently. The added benefits of being reliable in your professional life reach far beyond excelling in your current role. As Sharon remarked, “execution is the best thing ever. If you can execute, and people know they can rely on your work, you’ll go far. We’ve all sat in jobs we didn’t like, but you keep performing, because that will open your next opportunity for you.

It might appear easy for a panel of highly experienced and respected professionals to share this advice when they are at a point in their careers where they can be highly selective. However, as Peace shared, they got to this point through having a track record of excellence: “To have the luxury of selection, you have to have the execution and stand out from the crowd. Having that ability to select and question decisions comes from understanding your capability and ability to execute.”


3. Learn the tough lessons from early on in your career

Each of our panelists shared harsh truths they gained from past decisions they had made in their professional lives. Peace expressed the uneasiness she encountered when she switched from a role in finance to one in transfer pricing. Since she had no previous work in doing so, she had to apply herself to get up to speed with her colleagues. In turn, she acquired valuable life skills from that opportunity. “That was a moment of challenge. With time, I made sure I understood transfer pricing rules and guidelines. To make sure I could execute the cycle better than I could have. This took a bit of time, being able to start writing 200-page reports, but I needed to make sure I learned it so next time I could execute. My brand shouldn’t be impacted by the decisions I make. Despite setbacks, I make sure I know where my gaps are so everything is good the next time around.”

Sharon provided an anecdote about the importance of managing people, based on an unfortunate situation she found herself in at a previous position. She explained that it’s not just about managing those beneath you in the organizational structure, but “how you manage people above you is equally important.” She went on to say that “in large corporations, there’s a lot of politics. Unfortunately, to some extent, you have to learn some politicking. Particularly more senior people.”

Job shared a particularly difficult moment when he decided to make a decision without consulting with his supervisors. While the decision he made was the wrong one, he learned immensely from the experience. “Since that day it’s fundamentally changed the way I do everything. Even now as a CEO, I can make any decision I want, but I don’t. It’s not the right way to do things. It was a painful lesson to learn. That was a tough lesson for me because you can be really smart, but it’s important to work as a team.”

 

Attendees stayed afterwards to network among their peers and gain further insight from the panelists.

After the panel, participants had the opportunity to make peer connections as well as discuss finance and their career with our guests. It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many high-caliber professionals take ownership over their career and professional journey. We want to give out a special thanks to our panelists, and be on the lookout for future candidate events offered by Shortlist! And as always, if you’re looking for a new position, check out our open jobs!

 

Unlocking the Next Generation of African Talent

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My playlist has been dominated by Arcade Fire lately, for no reason in particular. I’m loving their newest album “Everything Now,” a collection of pieces suggesting that humanity is at an all-you-can-eat buffet and we’ve blown right past satiety to stomach rupture.

Amidst the angst over civilization’s internal combustion, there’s at least one line from the song “Creature Comfort” that I find myself turning over in my mind in the context of our current work at Shortlist:

“Born in a diamond mine / It’s all around you but you can’t see it / Born in a diamond mine / It’s all around you but you can’t touch it”

In Africa, there is a huge untapped talent mine hiding in plain sight (and that is absolutely not a reference to the troubling history of extractive industries in Africa). On the continent, we’re on the cusp of likely the greatest talent explosion in the history of humankind.

By 2030, the working age population across Africa is set to grow from 370 million to over 600 million, expanding the workforce by more than the rest of the world combined over that time period. Yes, combined.

For the continent to fully benefit from this incredible potential opportunity, it will require (1) a massive increase in the availability of good jobs, (2) an education and skilling infrastructure primed to prepare individuals for those jobs, and (3) a better way of matching talent and opportunity.

There is a gaping hole between the number of people seeking work, and the number of jobs actually available. And there’s a growing mismatch between the skills young people have today and the skills that employers are demanding. This is increasingly being identified by business leaders, politicians, policy wonks and philanthropists as *the* issue to solve in Africa.

At Shortlist, I’m not sure we can do much about creating great new jobs at scale; that’s probably the domain of big business, government and policymakers. It’s a huge multi-headed problem with no easy answer, for sure. But I do believe we can use new approaches to education, skills development, and opportunity-matching to prepare the kind of ready-to-rock talent pools that can, over time, attract the kind of large scale job creation we need. In other words, maybe we can create pockets of reversed chicken-vs-egg causality, where creating talent pools of skilled and ready young professionals can attract more companies, bigger investment, and better jobs.

So what’s going to be key to unlocking this talent and laying bare the incredible talent bounty of the continent?

Improve learning

Gone are the days where we could rely on high school and university to prepare people for the modern workplace. As Ryan Craig writes in his new book, the future of higher education lies in faster, better, and/or cheaper alternatives to higher education. These alternatives need to be affordable; geared towards skills of the future (like tech and data); geared toward competencies and practice rather than theoretical subject matter. Technical programs like those offered by Moringa School or courses on soft skills (like communication, problem-solving and teamwork) like those now offered by Shortlist show new ways that practical learning can be fostered outside of traditional, long-term and expensive higher ed options.

Promote discovery

Part of the problem is that young professionals often don’t know yet what they’re passionate about, don’t yet know what they’re good at (or could be good at), and don’t know what the market wants/expects. Students are often slotted into courses of study very early and in a manner dictated more so by society and family (whose mom hasn’t wanted them to be a doctor at some point??) than informed personal decision-making. (And to be clear, this certainly isn’t only an issue in Africa…)

We can use tech and digital distribution to expose young people to the range of professional options out there and provide tools for self-discovery and opportunity discovery — and in so doing, also get to know job-seekers better. Think: the right podcasts/videos/posts targeted to the right people at the right time, with a feedback loop to gather data points on interests, engagement, motivation, and learning velocity. We can then start to engage and curate pools of talent based on genuine interest and ability rather than meaningless demographics, and we can tailor content and training opportunities to the particular passions and abilities of specific jobseekers.

Help companies see better

Back to the original conceit: “It’s all around you but you can’t see it.” Part of this issue is that talent is there, we just lack the tools to see it. If your criteria for “work-readiness” revolves around a prestigious tertiary degree, time served at a Big 3 consultancy or Big 4 accounting firm, and lots of acronyms — well, you may not find enough professionals to build your company. If, however, you are open to professionals who possess the skills and/or raw ability to succeed, the talent is often there, but the tools of finding and seeing it are lacking.

Our approach at Shortlist collects and analyzes data points on demonstrations of competency, skill and motivation, so that we can X-ray vision the CV and see who has the stuff of success regardless of credential. Of course this approach works better for some roles than others, but broadly we believe that employers in or coming to Sub-Saharan Africa will need to think differently about assessing talent, relying on underlying competencies and skills and not fancy gold stars, if they are going to find the folks they need to grow.

Needless to say, this will NOT be easy. It will take the efforts and energy of a diverse set of stakeholders, sometimes working together and sometimes in parallel, to realize this promise. Most importantly, it will be driven by and depend on the energy of this emerging workforce to go out and grab these opportunities and create even more opportunities themselves.

All things considered, though, we’re choosing to stay optimistic about the road ahead, despite the significant challenges — and no matter what Arcade Fire thinks.

 

Candidate Spotlight: Meet Samson, Credit Officer at Lendable

900 776 Olivia Wold

At Shortlist, we’re constantly amazed by the talented, passionate candidates that we meet through our platform.

Today we’re kicking off Candidate Spotlights, a Q&A series to learn a bit more about the professionals who’ve found jobs on Shortlist. Follow the series to learn new job search tips, advice on professional development, and all about the positions and companies we’re hiring for on Shortlist. First up is Samson Wawire, Credit Officer at Lendable, the first debt platform designed specifically for African alternative lenders.

What is your professional background, and what were you looking for when you started to apply for jobs on Shortlist?

I have worked as a financial analyst for four years now. My job is all about understanding a company through numbers — we typically do this to highlight key issues facing a potential investor or financier that would affect performance of their investment in the company.

I was looking for a financial analyst role at a challenging and dynamic company so I could continue my professional growth. Thanks to Shortlist, I was able to attain my current role at Lendable!

Lendable is the first debt platform designed specifically for African alternative lenders.

Tell us about your new job — what is your favorite part?

In my new job, I get to meet exciting alternative lenders that help uplift the lives of ordinary people. Most of the companies we engage with provide loans to people looking to start or grow their business so they can create and improve their livelihoods — from motorbike financing to dairy cows funding.

My favourite part about the job is visiting the branches of these alternative lenders and going to the field where you really see the impact on customers. It’s one thing to read on a company page that they have a certain number of customers and they have provided a given number of loans; it’s another thing entirely when you meet these same people and see how they have benefitted from the work that the alternative lenders do and how their lives have been transformed.

How would you describe your team at Lendable in three words?

Creative, fun and easygoing!

What’s your professional superpower?

I’m amazing at crunching numbers! My job is all about finding the story behind the numbers so this is something I’m particularly good at!

What’s one professional development or networking tip that you’d like to share?

You should always look for traits that you admire in your colleagues and try to nurture this same attribute in yourself. Everyone is typically eager to give advice on how they excel at something, so you can get their own personal feedback on how they excel at that one thing you admire the most. This way, the whole team can be your mentors!

What advice would you give to current jobseekers?

Know your worth and what you’re bringing to the table. Once you’re able to communicate this clearly to your future employer, it becomes easier for them to say yes and hire you. In the words of John F. Kennedy, modified slightly, ask not what your organisation can do for you — ask what you can do for your organisation. This way, your employer will be glad to reciprocate after you demonstrate your value proposition to them.

What’s the most surprising or interesting question you’ve been asked in any job interview?

The most interesting question would have to be one that I was asked four years ago when interviewing for my first job: “What would you do if you were awarded 100 million shillings to spend?” That was an interesting question because it was fun to ponder and at the same time the interviewer got to understand my view on money and whether I would spend it responsibly.

Interestingly, my answer has evolved as I have grown as a professional and I think right now I would spend the money way better than I would have 4 years ago!

Thanks so much to Samson for sharing his insights and tips for our very first Shortlist Candidate Spotlight. Want to find a great job like Samson did? Visit our job seekers page to learn about open jobs at leading companies (like Lendable!).

Check back soon for new posts in the Shortlist Spotlight series!

How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 2: The Interview

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

In my role as Applicant Care Associate in our Nairobi office, I’m here for candidates from start to finish of their applications — answering questions over phone and e-mail, and always making process improvements to make sure the Shortlist platform is candidate-friendly.

Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for jobseekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed it, check out this post on how to prep for your interview. Up next in the series — what to do after your interview to seal the deal.

So you landed an interview, prepared thoroughly, and just walked in the door — what do you need to do next to make sure you leave a lasting impression?

  1. Make a good first impression

Greet the receptionist and warmly introduce yourself and explain your appointment. When you meet the interviewer(s) give them a firm handshake and thank them for seeing you for an interview.

There may be small talk, be sure to follow the employer’s lead and let them guide the conversation. They are busy and might want to get right to the interview questions!

2. Pay attention to your body language

We can communicate a lot without uttering a single word, even if it’s subconscious. The right body language can help you give the impression that you’re confident, personable, and extremely interested in the conversation you have with each interviewer. A few tips:

  • Sit up straight and display your neck and chest area to show that you are open.
  • When using hand gestures, keep your hands above the desk and below the collarbone — any higher can make you appear frantic.
  • Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, as doing so can make you appear defensive and guarded.
  • Try to avoid fidgeting, which can make you seem nervous.
  • Be sure to maintain regular but not overly persistent eye contact throughout the interview.
  • Most importantly — smile! It creates a positive environment for both you and the interviewer, and can actually make you feel better throughout the conversation.

3. Be concise, focused, and yourself!

When the interviewer asks a question, it’s perfectly fine to collect your thoughts for a few moments before you respond. Make sure to answer each question truthfully and completely, but without rambling on for too long. Keep your knowledge of the company and open position in the forefront of your mind as you answer, making connections between your background and skills and what they’re seeking in this role.

4. What to do with panel interviews

If you find yourself in a panel interview, make sure you briefly address each individual with your gaze and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.

5. Remember, you’re interviewing them too!

Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session. Don’t let this opportunity pass you up — not only does it give you the chance to learn more information, but it can show that you’re a critical thinker.

Some questions will flow naturally from the interview, but we recommend preparing a few in advance, too (see other ways to prepare in this blog post!). Some example questions include

  • I was excited to read that [element of their work culture] is a major part of your company culture. How have you experienced that during your time here?
  • How could I grow and evolve in this role in a way that would support the organization?
  • What is the biggest priority for your department/company right now? Any challenges?

6. Get to know the next steps

You can directly ask the interviewer what the next steps of the process will be. Avoid settling for the common “We’ll get in touch with you” response that places you in a passive position.

Should the interviewer give you such a response, you may politely ask them to give you a timeline within which you can expect feedback or to follow up with them.

We hope these tips will be helpful for you to keep in mind when you walk in for your next interview — you got this!!

We would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true interview tips in the comments, and please let us know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.