Ida Ng’ang’a is the founder of the Association of Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs and Network of Young Women Leaders. She is also the director of partnerships at Regional Consortium for Development Africa.
What is Regional Consortium for Development and what do you do?
RCD Africa focuses on sustainable development initiatives. We do this by bringing together development experts to Africa, to offer impactful and sustainable development solutions to young entrepreneurs.
We also bring together funders and organisations that are willing to aid the sustainable development process. Our focus is mainly on youth engagements and innovations, professional management and women.
What is your most memorable experience in the job market?
My transition from university to the job market was very turbulent. I studied political science (public policy and governance option) hoping to work with non-governmental organisations.
It did not occur to me that the job market may not absorb my skills despite my qualifications. The first reality check was joblessness after graduation.
I was, therefore, forced to take the first job that came my way, an internship at a tour company. I had to learn on the job and shape up seeing as I had no experience in tours. This included undergoing a training that would normally last two years in six months.
Why do you think young professionals find it difficult to adjust quickly in the job market?
Some organisations are yet to fully embrace the role of young people. There are also different personalities working within organisations, some who are hostile and unaccommodating to new ideas and perspectives.
The youth come with exciting innovations and ways of doing business which if given an opportunity, would transform and take the organisations forward. But there are people who are still not convinced that the youth have something of value to contribute to the business.
Young people need to be mentored for them to grow.
What motivated you to go into the mentorship space?
I had to learn most life lessons by myself. During our time, mistakes and poor decisions such as unplanned pregnancies are things that simply happened in life.
You just winged life skills. I understand the brutal reality where graduates have to shift their mind and outlook as they enter into a harsh corporate world and even empathise with their plight.
I felt that the transition from the university to the work environment was not conducive and engaging enough for the young people. These experiences played a big role in my decision to mentor.
But my defining moment in mentorship came when I enrolled for my MBA at The University of Nairobi, by interacting with my target group who would soon go out into the job market.
Basing on your own experiences, why do young people stay put in uninspiring jobs?
I have worked at an organisation whose culture was deeply ingrained, hostile to new ideas and openly critical of new ways of doing things.
Having come from a highly supportive work environment, I was suddenly in an unfamiliar territory. This experience dampened my spirit. I even lost my initial excitement for work and my ability to see things in a different lens. But I had to stay on because I had to make ends meet.
There are already many mentorship programmes being offered, including in schools. Why do the youth keep blundering in business?
There is a huge failure in separating the three concepts of coaching, mentorship and training. Coaching looks to find solutions to business challenges and can be conducted publicly.
Training seeks to impart skills. Mentorship on the other hand is a journey where you walk closely with someone, engage in personal conversations to understand their deepest needs and insecurities. This person must be willing to open up to you at an intimate level.
As a result of this confusion, our young people are not adequately prepared for business or to run social enterprises. Having a good business idea is not enough; one needs to be coached, mentored and suitably trained to successfully run a venture.
Is success always what we take it to mean?
There are young people who have truly prospered in their chosen vocation, but there are others who are living under the illusion of success.
Part of the reason could be because they have been featured in the media, recognised with awards and their peers talk about them.
The world, as a result, sees them as successful, and pressures them to live a life they cannot afford, when in reality, they may be dealing with deep personal matters. Such people do not get past this illusion because they cannot openly tell people that they have not actually prospered.
Can success be unmanageable for young people?
If the rise is too fast, it leaves no room for one to undergo necessary adjustments for a smooth transition. It becomes overwhelming for the person and sooner or later, they experience an emotional or psychological crash.
Sadly, most people never recover fully from that emotional tumble. Not having someone to open up to is a major cause of depression among successful people. Mentorship therefore, comes in handy.
What are some of the tips of dealing with the pressure to live large that comes with initial success?
Stay grounded. Remember your humble beginnings. If you could get by with little then, why should you spend beyond your means to impress people?
Search for the things that give you fulfilment and focus on them. Endeavour to hang out with people whose vision is similar to, or surpasses yours.
Most importantly, focus on your own self-improvement and grow by ridding your life of excesses.