A stay-home mum for more than 15 years, Ms Conslate Sijeyo, just turned 51. It is as if the milestone has given her a new lease of career life, for the mother of four has just made up her mind to take up studies that would make her get her dream job as a project manager.
“Bringing up my four children and taking them through college as a single mother has drained my pockets. This has inspired me more to climb up the ladder in my career,” she explains.
At 51, she is embarking on the path of acquiring a degree in project management and working through the job market to get employed as a manager.
Her previous life as a stay-home mum was out of a choice to watch over her little children then. Besides, she had no career. She didn’t have much training, and the job she had tried to do had earned her a plarty Sh2,700. Then her husband, Andrew Odamna, died in 1996.
As a mother of four young children who were well taken care of by the sole bread winner in the home, Odamna, Sijeyo was left distraught. She had to do something and do it fast to build a base for her children.
The challenge before her was that she had dropped out of Rangala Girls’ High School in 1981, owing to lack of fees. The best skill she had then was how to be a good mother. She had been a housewife since 1981 and she had loved it as it had given her the chance to bring up her four children.
“My mum had worked full-time, so it wasn’t from watching her. Maybe it was because I wished she had been at home with me,” Sijeyo says.
“I look at my children and I think that if I had neglected them, they would not be where they are today. They are big achievers.”
The death of her husband turned the clock round for her. In between 1981 and 1996, she had only worked for 18 months after a full secretarial course and stopped because of the poor pay.
She had to start a fresh and seek for a job following the loss of her husband, which had been abrupt. Odamna, an employee of Mumias Sugar Company, had not shown any sign of illness before he died, she says
“I left Mumias when my second born was in Class Eight. The third born was in Class Seven and last born in Class Three. My first born was in Form One at Ambira high school,” she recalls.
She had some Sh100,000 from her husband’s employer to start off with. It was tough for her, she says.
She had to try to maintain the lifestyle her children had lived. Changing schools would destroy their ambitions and spoil their base for the future.
Sijeyo says: “I put my children up with friends in Mumias as I tried to cope. I took my day schooling children to boarding. I shifted base to Siaya, where a church organisation hired me for a three-year contract.”
She then enrolled for a course as a counsellor in 2003 and as a trainer of trainers in 2004.
She has since completed her studies for a higher diploma in counselling and psychology at the Great Lakes University in Kisumu.
“I still want to study and get a job as a project manager. I am now working as a monitoring and evaluation officer with the Anglican Church of Kenya Development Services in Nyanza,” a determined Sijeyo says.
Based in Kisumu, she recognises the difficulty of her current situation and says: “A CV with a 15-year gap may pose a challenge to a job seeker. I however have hopes that once I have enrolled for the course of project management, coupled with my current job, the two will act as my strongest points in achieving my next job as project manager.”
She continues: “Though finances are pulling me back, I will save my way to my future career. I have already applied for admission into Great Lakes University for the course. Age is no limit when it comes to education and career,” she declares.
She confesses that the fact that she did not study earlier in her age is killing her. “I did not think it would be a big deal to just put my career aside and go full board as a homemaker.”
That is why her advice to others is to take up a professional study before being a stay-at-home mother.
“Being a housewife is not bad but get yourself a degree or a masters so that in case you decide to search for a job later, you will be well placed,” she says.
Mr Ryan Kanyandong’, a human resource consultant with Victoria Meld HR Consultancies in Kisumu, has some advice for Sijeyo and others who might fall in the same situation.
He says: “First, one has to know that a CV speaks a lot about an individual who is job seeking. One should therefore ensure that it is the best it can be and that it effectively showcases not only the transferable skills gained from homemaking but also the technical skills one is learning.”
Mr Kanyandong’ encourages Sijeyo to step up her networking skills by interacting with everyone across all job markets to uncover opportunities that are not quite often advertised.
“Aggressiveness in following up all job possibilities from online vacancies to newspaper job vacancies to sending of unsolicited applications should also come in handy,” he offers.