Career journeys are rarely linear, and career paths rarely pan out the way that we envision them because, well, they too have a mind of their own.
For some people, it can take just one bold move or a chance meeting to open up a bigger career world. It therefore pays to be alert when career-changing opportunities come your way.
One of the skills that you must have therefore is learn how to recognise and leverage the different significant moments that have the potential to substantially affect the trajectory of your careers.
This week, five youngsters share with us some of the significant moments, opportunities or events which drove them to where they currently are, in their careers.
This conversation is also an invitation to reflect and be aware of some of the seemingly ordinary events in your life that have the potential to affect your career in a remarkable way.
Brenda Liona, 28
Independent Insurance Agent
“I was employed by an insurance company in 2014. In 2017, I lost my dad to cancer. Before his demise, during the process of treatment, it was a very difficult time for me because I was his blood donor and sometimes I needed to be with him but also needed to be at work.
When he passed away, I took a step back.
I did not return to work after his burial. I started to note that people have this straight arrow idea of how life should flow - complete university and get a job for instance.
In an effort to conform to this, I had lost the person that I was originally.
My original plan was not to get employed, I had always wanted to be self-employed.
I had ended up in employment because that looked like the right process, what everyone else was doing.
After my father’s death, I was jolted back to my original plan because I realised just how short life can be, hence why I should not waste time doing things I did not truly want to do.
During that period when my father was ill, I fully grasped the ephemeral nature of life and I started working on what truly mattered to me right away – setting up my own business. My father’s death also banished away the fear that had always held me back, after all, what was the worst that could happen?
I overcame my fear of becoming an independent insurance agent and set up my company, Breli Insurance Agency in December 2017.
My friends and family say I am doing better than I was when I was employed. Fear feeds on your energy, ambition and weighs you down. So far so good.
I am able to provide for myself and even do a few extra things which I was not able to afford to do when I was employed because my income was lower.”
Brian Wawire, 29 is a Concept Developer at Entertainment Inc.
“When I was about to set up my company, I met comedian Jalang’o at the Kenya National Theatre.
He told me not to limit myself to staging just set books, and encouraged me to take full advantage of my creativity.
That is what I am doing today. We not only stage set book productions, we hold back-to-school literature sessions, public shows and hold oratory and fasihi production.
Along the way, I have met more people in this sector who I look up. They include Peter Tosh, (producer and director) who provoked me to start public shows.
I met him at an event he had produced, a theatre play dubbed PLAN B. I loved everything about the play from the script to directing, to acting to the set up.
After the show, I approached him. We exchanged contacts and ended up becoming good friends.
As a creative, I can tell you it is not easy. Art calls for a lot of commitment, sacrifice, discipline and focus. But things became better after that meeting with Jalang’o.
Before, I would go for shoots and end up with minor roles and get paid Sh500 after four or five months.
The change in my career has been influenced by networking, getting out and knocking on doors. I started as an actor but now I also direct and produce, thanks to networking.
I am also doing major roles in TV now.
Flavian Ivy, 22 Commercial model/Entrepreneur
“I have always wanted to be in marketing as well as be seen and noticed for the right reasons.
Last year, a chance opportunity that came after someone saw my Instagram page got me working with J&B (whisky) and this for me was a dream come true – I had wanted to be featured on a billboard but it always felt too far out of reach.
Working with J&B made me realise that the big dreams in my head were possible to achieve and that I did not have to wait to become a pro or a celeb to begin chasing the big dreams I had.
Thanks to that opportunity, I am no longer afraid of applying for what I previously considered big and out-of-reach opportunities.
I have since been involved in activations for Hennessy and marketing for SkyDive. Starting out required lots of hustling.
To succeed in social media marketing, you need followers and you need to be very active on social media and to be aware of prevailing trends to attract good deals.
It all started with me surrounding myself with productive people, things and anything that trailed my focus on the foundation I want to build my career on.
Networking also was at the centre of this big achievement. This experience gave me so much confidence in my abilities, confidence that I use to inspire others.
Also, because of that, I am bolder in my career pursuits and I am no longer afraid of approaching or working for big clients.”
Daisy Yator, 22
“Getting the opportunity to be mentored by Uduak Amimo was a big eye-opener for me. I connected with her through LinkedIn.
I sent her a message asking for career advice, though at the time, I did not even think she would reply to it.
I had watched her hosting Cheche (political show) on Citizen TV and admired her mastery of journalism.
Never did I imagine that I would meet her in person. Before, a mentor for me was simply someone who I followed online, but when I met Uduak, I realised that a mentor is a person who actually knows you.
Before, I did not have someone to advise me about my career, someone who had taken the time to understand me.
In the course of the mentorship, I was appointed club leader in my school, the Corporate Communications Club at Multimedia University.
The year-long mentorship programme drew my attention to how our values affect us. I also developed my leadership skills in the process. I internalised these lessons and shared them with fellow students when we went for the club meetings, a factor that introduced a lot of dynamism to the club. The mentorship programme made me understand that the role of a mentor is not just to connect you to their networks, the mentor also guides you, and helps you to understand yourself and how your values and aspirations merge with those of the people you seek to connect with.
I also got a confidence boost because I am professionally connected to a highly regarded person in the field. I recently applied for an internship and got it, but on getting there and observing the people I would be working with, the management and my would-be supervisor, I just felt that was not the place for me.
Due to the inner work that I had done during the mentorship, understanding myself, becoming self-aware and alert to my belief system, I was able to recognise an uncomfortable professional environment.
I turned down that opportunity and ended up at this other place with an environment that I feel comfortable working in.”
Onyango Otieno, 30 Mental Health Advocate
“After my third bout of depression which made me become suicidal, I decided to begin writing about mental health issues. My primary profession is writing: I write poetry, spoken word and performance.
I have an organisation that was initially founded to promote artistic expression.
Before I started writing about my own mental health experiences, I had looked for African experiences of mental health but realised that they were so few.
I started writing about my experiences with mental health and also started doing advocacy on social media. I shifted my organisation’s focus to art on mental health advocacy.
Because of my activity in the area of mental health, I got a chance to attend a fellowship in Canada.
During the fellowship, I met and interacted with people from other mental health organisations as well as social justice activists.
When I returned, I got a job with an organisation whose work focusses on trauma informed methods for social living.
This is where I currently work. I still run my organisation and do mental health advocacy through social media and mainstream media, on talk shows and newspapers.
Because of this visibility, many people that find themselves in the situation that I was in seek me for advice.
To help the growing number of people who approach me, I started a mental health support group.
Listening to the experiences of others means that I keep learning and understanding mental health more and use that to beat the stigma that surrounds it.
I have learned that vulnerability is out when it comes to mental health because the more people with mental health open up, the more sustainable and healthy communities we are able to build.
Also, due to how my career shifted, I have learned to be open to new possibilities. Do not hold on to old dreams.”