Q: I am a fourth year communication student currently on internship at a private institution in Nairobi. The company's office assistant resigned a while back after getting another job elsewhere. My supervisor asked me to take over his role for three weeks as the company sought a replacement. I was hesitant, fearing that this might affect my learning, but he convinced me. It’s been four weeks, but the recruitment process is yet to be begin. I feel like I'm wasting my time here. Should I quit or stay put?
It’s a very arduous task to get internship, therefore count yourself among the lucky ones. That said, I am aware that during internship there are specific things that must be done since they determine whether one graduates or not. Therefore, it is well in order to stick to the internship program.
However, workplace circumstances like the one you are facing occur, and some of them could disrupt your plans. Such challenges test your patience, but you should take it positively. It could also be an opportunity to demonstrate what you have learnt.
To be asked to step in for a colleague is in itself an elaborate demonstration of faith by your supervisor. It means you have what it takes to hold forte as the organisation looks for a replacement.
I am not aware of the specific responsibilities of an office assistant in your organisation. However, I am aware that it is a role that requires a lot of planning and working with many individuals who may be running multiple tasks both within the organisation and outside. This is a great opportunity for you to understand how different departments work, since you will interact with most of them. It will also improve your planning and interaction skills.
Your communication skills will also come in handy in this new role, since you are already equipped with the requisite skills to handle different personalities.
Often, there are some roles that are viewed as unexciting. However, you will realise that many people have come a long way to get to where they are, and their performance in their first roles is what gave their organisations the confidence to trust them with more senior roles. Therefore, you have a golden opportunity in your hands. You should use it to your advantage.
I had a colleague who had the highest qualification in accounting, complete with a Bachelor of Economics degree. But he was transferred from the Finance department and re-assigned to supervise administrative staff. He executed the role so well that eventually he was promoted to supervise the entire finance department, including the supervisor who had transferred him. Initially, when he was plucked out of the Finance department, he was discouraged. But his positive attitude changed the tides and his career thrived.
Your supervisor could be testing your attitude. So I’d advise you to stay. However, negotiate for him to give you time to learn the communication element as per your attachment requirements.
Jane Muiruri - Senior HR Manager, Nation Media Group