University is an Education Factory, what makes you stand out in real life?

We have careers now.

How funny to think this to myself. To think this of myself and my classmates and my friends who are around my age. We have careers now! Who would have ever thought!

Yet it is the most natural next step to ‘adulting’, isn’t it?

1. Get a job

2. Build a career

It has only started to dawn on me that most of the individuals I look up to career-wise, probably took very deliberate steps to get where they are. I myself am starting to kind of identify these steps.

I was marveling at the amazingness of my friend Sadiq recently. Let me tell you about Sadiq. I met Sadiq via AIESEC in JKUAT. He was doing his masters in environmental and arid and semi-arid lands engineering at the time, in JKUAT. He finished his degree and went back home, to Nigeria, but we have kept in touch.

When I first went public with my blog, he reached out and we became blog-buddies. He had been writing and blogging but not as regularly as he had hoped. We made goals like resolving to post once or twice a week and we would keep each other accountable. He would read and share my stuff, I would do the same for him as well as general comments on how to make the blog better…add a subscriber widget, switch the ordering of some things, etc.

Now Sadiq’s blog has opened doors for him! Major doors! His blog is a personal blog, but green cities and environmental sustainability are things he is passionate and often blogs about. Via his blog and the showcase of his experience, interest and knowledge on the topic that the blog has afforded him, people have reached out to him and he has gotten jobs, got invited to conferences, got fully sponsored opportunities to travel and work with major organisations! I was always in awe whenever Sadiq would whatsapp me with the news that a Japanese contractor or German researcher had reached out to him and they first heard of him via his blog! As in…whatttt?

How come my blog isn’t getting me these connections?

*aside*

I am very happy and content with my blog, with its reception by my family, friends and general public. It has also brought some unlikely opportunities to my door…more on this coming soon but just keep in mind 2017 is going to involve a whole lot of stepping out of my comfort zone.
Thanks for reading guys!

*end of aside*

Before I get to what I think Sadiq has, whether knowingly or unknowingly, been doing to leverage social media in advancing his professional profile, another little story that builds on this…
I recently attended a networking event for Women in Data Science. I think I am getting good at this networking thing…and it is so inescapable to building the kind of career I envision. Guys, be deliberate networkers! Deliberate is the key word here…

So at this networking forum I met a high profile woman in data science, Viv, who I got to speaking with about life and work, her research and her career over the years. She mentioned that she does not necessarily think she is the best or brightest in the field but her professional profile has over the years gained quite a bit of attention, and still is. She attributes this to the fact that using her professional skills to make an impact and touch people’s lives has always been something she intentionally sought as she chose what projects to work on and what career opportunities to take over others. “When your work touches people’s lives, makes a positive impact in their lives, the world somehow seems to take notice.” This is what she attributes her career success to. People would hear about the little she has done and would offer her opportunities to do even more. Then of course true to her mantra, she always went for opportunities that afforded her the chance to make an impact, to touch lives.

Do you see what I am getting at yet? What Sadiq and Viv have in common, is that their work has been fused with a passion for a cause that is ultimately, in some way, making the world a better place. Sadiq the civil engineer with a passion for Green Building and Viv the Data Scientist with a passion for people.

Working towards something more than a paycheck, taking opportunities that allow us to make the world a better place ultimately does our careers some good, even if these options may not be the most lucrative ones. Money comes, money goes, impact lasts longer.

So the first part of this post, everything up till this point, I wrote at my graduation. Yes, a million years later, I finally graduated this past week guys! Happy dance!
Now while I was graduating and composing this post, a million other thoughts occurred to me, some related to this post.

Close to 5000 people graduated in that square along with me this past Friday. That is not all. On that same day, coincidentally, two other Kenyan Universities also held their graduations. Two that I know of anyway. But that is still not all. There are 22 public universities, 14 chartered private universities and 13 universities with Letter of Interim Authority (LIA) in Kenya. (I think this LIA gives new institutions the power to confer degrees…someone more knowledgeable, feel free to tell us more in the comments section.)

All these institutions award degrees annually. In some cases, for the major ones, graduation is held twice a year, so as to handle the sheer volume of individuals. JKUAT alone this year has graduated over 8000 individuals.

Just in case you thought/think a degree will be the answer to all your life’s dreams, think again! My parents commented that years ago when they were completing their undergrad, the University of Nairobi was the only institution of higher learning in Kenya and it graduated about 3000 individuals annually. Clearly that degree is not as special/exclusive/distinctive as it was in years gone by.

Just in case those numbers have not moved you, let me put this in context in a more human way. Do you know how on TV, in the movies, when there is a graduation ceremony, graduands are called by name, they get on the dais, they shake the hand of someone important and then are awarded their degree, after which they get to switch the side that the tassel on the graduation cap hangs on before proceeding off the stage, having ‘officially’ graduated…sounds familiar? I did not expect this to happen at my graduation, I knew we were too many, I am not sure how I expected it to be. Perhaps that they would at least call us each by our names, but then again, we were still too many for that to have taken a reasonable amount of time.

We were called out by our registration numbers, serial numbers. And not even in the way that you might imagine, that everyone perhaps heard their serial number uttered, fat chance! They were batched together. The lady calling out the degree allocations would say the name of the course and then proceed to call out a batch of registration numbers. 1100 to 1300, 2300 to 3000, such was the extent of our recognition. This made me a little sad.

It kinda felt like this was them telling us, you’re on your own guys. You wanted degrees, we gave you degrees. Off you go.

Everyone’s got one so what will make you different? I’m choosing to bet my skills on an impactful career over a lucrative one, so here begins my search for a cause to champion. Where are you placing your bet?

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  1. 1
    Sarah

    #SustainableImpact

    I on the other hand, have no clue what I want my career to be. Hopefully I figure it out over the next few months before it starts 😀

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