To succeed in your career you need communication skills
- The feeling among employers, particularly SMEs, is that most graduates lack the ability to utilise skills learnt at the university as soon as they graduate.
- Universities are not adequately moulding their students for life after school. This makes it harder for employers to hire recent graduates who are seen as entitled and lacking in proper work ethic.
- With nearly everyone with a degree, recruiters are keener on transferable skills such as customer service, negotiation skills and time management as opposed to certificates.
Perminus Wainaina started o his career in accounting and finance before switching to HR. He is a certified HR consultant with 15 years of experience.
What is Corporate Staffing?
We are a human resource consultancy firm. Our scope of functions spans recruitment, training, staff outsourcing and career advisory services for professionals.
We mainly consult for medium-sized and large organisations. We also support foreign companies looking to do business in Kenya. Besides these, we assist SMEs in setting up human resource structures.
Why is it necessary for graduates to undergo further training after leaving university?
The feeling among employers, particularly SMEs, is that most graduates lack the ability to utilise skills learnt at the university as soon as they graduate.
For lack of capacity and resources, universities only impart theoretical knowledge, forcing employers to incur extra costs in training fresh graduates to bring them up to speed.
Secondly, universities are not adequately moulding their students for life after school. This makes it harder for employers to hire recent graduates who are seen as entitled and lacking in proper work ethic.
Is it all lost?
Universities need to shift their focus from the number of students they enrol to the quality of training they offer. Their curriculum must also be influenced by market needs and trends to graduate job-ready professionals.
How different is the job market now from when you were a young professional?
When I was starting out in my career, I would have to travel to Nairobi’s CBD from the village in Kiambu County to send job applications, usually in bulky envelopes.
Today, most employers require job candidates to apply online. Fifteen years ago we had less than 25 universities but now we have about 70 such institutions.
More and more graduates are competing for fewer and fewer opportunities available. Today, not even a master in business administration (MBA) is a sure ticket to a job or a pro- motion.
What does this mean to you as a recruiter?
With nearly everyone with a degree, as a recruiter, I am keener on transferable skills such as customer service, negotiation skills and time management as opposed to certificates.
There is a lot of emphasis on online-based job selection today. Is this the future of recruitment?
Online-based recruitment saves time and money and is highly efficient.
An online system also makes it possible for the employer/ recruiter to give feedback to all candidates, which is not the case with a manual system. Many industries such as banking have adopted technology in the majority of their functions. HR professionals have no option but to embrace technology.
The government is keen on rolling out the competency-based curriculum. How will this change Kenya’s job market in future?
Students are now at liberty to pursue courses and other areas that they are passionate about.
In years to come, our learning institutions will produce graduates suitably equipped to meet the needs of the job market.
The labour market will also be able to absorb them as soon as they graduate, reducing the level of joblessness in the country.
You offer free training to graduates. What do you hope to achieve from this initiative? Who is eligible for this training?
We started this programme to bridge the practical skills gap that employers constantly complain about.
The five-day training covers practical skills in customer service and sales. It targets unemployed graduates with less than two years of experience.
Our goal is to equip them with the technical and soft skills required to excel in these areas. Upon graduation, we introduce them to our network of about 600 employers.
From the feedback we get from employers afterwards, graduates who have had additional training are more productive.
Why do some interviewers fail to give feedback to job candidates even after promising to do so?
This is an area where most HR practitioners fail. It is can only be negligence. Some professionals have gone ahead and landed jobs based on the feedback they got after failing an interview.
Investing in a system to give feedback to all job applicants, or at least those who are interviewed, is, therefore, very necessary. This will also help to cultivate a good reputation and build the trust of job seekers.
What areas of self-development do most young professionals tend to overlook?
There is little or no emphasis at all on communication skills. This is despite communication being a critical factor that directly influences your ability to articulate your thoughts, needs and give feedback to customers and colleagues.
Emotional intelligence is also key. This is best measured by how self-aware you are as a professional. We are living in an ever-changing world that requires critical thinking to innovate solutions for different problems.
How can Kenyan graduates who wish to work in the regional market position themselves?
Start out early and small. Do not dismiss entry level engagements because this is what ultimately builds a solid profile.
Target institutions that have a regional presence either by volunteering with them or by taking up part-time jobs. Seize every opportunity to demonstrate your abilities.
The visibility from such roles puts you in a pole position for consideration when an opportunity arises in any of the countries where such companies operate.
Have you ever learnt something from a job candidate that has made you a better professional?
I once interacted with a job candidate who at only 29, was the financial controller at a multinational, supervising a team of 16 professionals, most of whom were older then him.
He also did not have a ‘god father’, his success was based purely on hard work. I was greatly inspired by him. Possessing the right attitude, work ethic and dedication is the perfect tonic for a successful career.
Have you had any awkward interview moment?
A young professional I was interviewing for a job once showed up for the interview accompanied by his father.
The old man insisted on participating in the interview so that he could ‘clarify’ what his son could not articulate. He wanted the best for his son, but I had to teach them proper interview etiquette.
The man went on to land a supervisory job elsewhere. We became friends and laugh whenever we remember that hilarious incident
Perminus Wainaina is the Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services