What are your priorities? This is a seemingly simple question, but one which is often tricky to answer.
For most Kenyan millennials, career, financial freedom, family and relationships come before everything else. But even so, how these rank in the list of important things differs from person to person.
So, what are your priorities and what influences them? How much would you sacrifice for your priorities?
VALERIE MUMIA, 25
Valeria has been a student for six years now, having joined United States International University - Africa in 2014 to study journalism and public relations. For more than five years, she has juggled work with school, which explains why she is yet to graduate.
“My priority right now is to graduate and close this chapter. My former colleagues got their degrees and moved on with life. All that remains are three exams,” she says.
Valerie sees her relationship as mature enough to proceed to marriage.
“I wish to settle down soon. Getting married will obviously come with additional responsibilities and financial obligations. I wish to be able to provide for my children without struggling, that is why financial stability is a priority for me,” she adds.
Valerie is able to fend for herself, but she wants more. She says,
“Communication is a diverse career, and as a young professional, I hope to swing around and experiment with different areas in this field until I find my perfect fit and one that pays better.”
Away from money and career, emotional intelligence is a priority for her. “People have hurt me before because I gave them too much power over me, now I want to be in control of my emotional state.”
For the past three years, Valerie believes she has drifted away from her extended family, owing to her demanding job. She is determined to fix this, as a matter of urgency.
“As I grow older, I am beginning to appreciate the importance of spending time with family irrespective of time constraints. In less than two years, I have lost three relatives and a close friend. I now regret not having spent enough time with them,” she explains.
“These deaths reminded me that we do not have an eternity to live, if family is important for you, you can always create time for them in your busy schedule.”
Valerie also hopes to further her education to “open myself up, expand my thinking capacity and make me more tolerant to different people and their ideologies.
WANJIRU GICHEHA, 25
As a medical doctor currently interning at Isiolo County Referral Hospital, health is a top priority for Wanjiru.
“I studied medicine because I am passionate about healthcare. As a medic, I witness first-hand the agony of patients suffering from various illnesses. All successes in life are nothing if I am not healthy enough to enjoy them. I do not take my health for granted,” says Wanjiru, who graduated from the University of Nairobi last year.
The hospital Wanjiru works for is one of those selected to pilot the government’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme, she says.
“I am happy and proud to be involved in this important programme that will transform the country’s healthcare and ensure that households that could not access healthcare before are able to do so,” she notes.
For someone working in a volatile part of the country, her security is of paramount importance.
“I am very conscious of my surroundings, be it at work or at home. I am alive to the threat of terrorism and incidents of insecurity in the country,” Wanjiru says.
“Cases of violence against young women has also made me more vigilant as a young woman. I am careful not to be put myself in a situation that compromises my personal security,” she adds.
Relationships with her boyfriend, family and work colleagues are an important part of Wanjiru’s life.
“I am constantly building strong relationships with people that matter, though I prefer to keep my circle very small by building few quality friendships.”
For Wanjiru, service to humanity is a top priority. “I am lucky to intern as a medical officer. This allows me to serve people on a daily basis. I take great pride in being able to care for people during their most vulnerable state,” she says.
Her biggest influences in life? Family and her work environment, she says.
“I have my mother to thank for my moral compass. Sometimes we have had conversations deep into the night as she shares her wisdom with me,” she says. She goes on,
“Since I joined the hospital at the beginning of this year, I have gathered many gems from my colleagues. Their professionalism has helped to shape my priorities as I scale the ladder of my career.”
Her reputation is as important as it is a sensitive issue.
“In medical practice, and as someone handling people’s health and lives, you cannot afford to have ill repute. You must always uphold and demonstrate very high standards of ethics,” she observes.
Even as dedicated to her work as she is, Wanjiru has marked her work-life balance a priority area.
“Balancing work and my social life has not been possible so far. As an intern, I am technically at the bottom of the food chain, so I am always working, serving in both day and night shifts,” she says, and adds, “During my off-days, I read for personal development. I also swim or go for long drives across the county to rejuvenate myself,” she says.
DAVID NGATHA, 23
David struggled financially while at university, where he studied industrial chemistry. To get by, he looked for odd jobs and did web content writing, jobs that often clashed with his studies. Now a graduate, he has made financial freedom his goal and top priority.
“I have never been in a space where money met all my requirements,” he says. He has his financial plan well laid out.
“I love to see things come together, having studied the process of manufacturing, I wish to get into agribusiness and apply this knowledge in my business,” he says.
This way, David believes he will be in control of his finances.
“As much as I would want to pursue my profession, being my own boss will give me more power over the flow of money, something I have always desired,” he says.
But David has a catch-22. For now, he has no choice but to get a job, work and save enough money to start a business.
“My mother, sister, aunt and I came together and started a joint monthly savings plan in 2018. By the end of the year, we had saved enough money to start a small groceries business. We may not have made much yet, but I believe I am on the path to financial freedom,” he notes.
Besides this joint venture, David has invested in M-Akiba bonds offered by the government, which generates additional income for him. His earlier attempt to invest in bonds flopped when he failed to raise the required money.
“I believe in the power of small money. It doesn’t matter how much you generate as long as the money is working for you. Being disciplined and consistently saving for an investment is how some investors were able to start their now thriving businesses,” he says.
Reading the Bible is also a priority for him, he believes that its teachings are a good foundation for a successful life.
“The essence of religious teachings is in their practicality. How I am able to apply the teachings in my daily life matters to me. Lack of an understanding on how and where to apply these teachings is why most young people do not consider religion important,” David argues.
He cites his age and current circumstances as a recent graduate as the two main influencers of his priorities.
“Having a successful career and attaining financial independence are what occupy my thoughts whenever I am awake. In six or seven years, my priorities might have shifted because I will probably have settled in my profession and started a business,” he projects.
VICTOR OCHIENG’, 25
A recent journalism graduate from USIU-Africa, Ochieng’ is determined to succeed in his career to prove to his family that their investment in him was worth it.
“I owe it to my family for where I am and who I have become. My family has consistently stood with me throughout my education, praying and encouraging me when things are tough,” he recounts.
From their close relationship, Ochieng’ says his mother is always on hand to supervise whatever he does.
“I respect the fact that my mother is able to spot pitfalls that I may not see and warn me beforehand. This way, I have been able to avoid costly mistakes, especially when I was a student.”
The only time Ochieng’ has disagreed with his mother was when she wanted him to become a priest, a path he was not keen on following.
“I was brought up in a strictly religious environment of Catholicism. From the onset, my mother wanted to introduce me into priesthood. I stuck to journalism though, which strained our relationship. Eventually she had to respect my position,” he recalls.
Having grown up in the low-scale neighbourhood of Baba Dogo in Nairobi, Ochieng’ points out that his background has significantly influenced his priorities.
“My peers in college were all about fun and spending money on extravagant things. I am more modest, having been brought up without many resources. For me, every penny matters and has to be put to the right use,” he says.
Ochieng’ is currently not dating. For him, a romantic relationship is not a priority at the moment.
“A relationship is about complementing and building one another. At the moment, I have my needs that I am unable to meet. I must build myself first to be able to accommodate and support another person,” he says.
NINA GIKUNDA, 23
MEDIA PERSONALITY AND MODEL
For Nina, creating meaningful and authentic networks is her main priority, as she hopes to establish her career in journalism. Nina started working when she was 18, and says a number of people have tried to exploit her, including sexually.
“When I was an active model, some in the sector would approach me with the promise to help me get into the next level of my modelling. Their true intentions would become clear after helping me for some time,” narrates Nina, who studied public relations at the University of Nairobi.
“A close friend had offered to hire me for a media gig on condition that I went on holiday with him to Mombasa, which I refused,” she adds.
These experiences made Nina more vigilant about who she allows into her space.
“I scrutinise people before engaging them. It is so hard nowadays to find people who genuinely want to help you without using you,” she says.
“This, though, has not stopped me from looking for honest professionals,” she adds. For someone with a background in modelling, looking the part is a top priority for her.
“Impression is everything in the limelight. Investing in my image is a priority. I may not have much money now, but I spend the little I earn to by a good dress or nice shoes whenever I can.”
Most of Nina’s friends from university are now either married or already have children, and their priority has shifted from career to family, she says. She adds,
“I recently attended the wedding of a friend from high school. I was obviously happy for her, but I also felt she was too young to get married – she is only 22. Building my career first is more important now.”
Her priorities and those of her parents occasionally put them at cross-purposes, and this difference is the main cause of conflict in their household.
“My father is a bishop while my mother works at a church-based organisation. For them, religion is a priority - I would rather go to work than go to church, but I have to obey them because I still live with them,” Nina says.
To her, there is a clear distinction between what is important and what matters.
“My friends matter a lot. They are a vital part of my life, but at this stage, my career is important. Unless you are directly contributing to my career and personal growth, you are not a priority,” Nina emphasises, adding that relating with friends who are not on the same page with her is often difficult.
DENNIS MBORA, 28
As a young parent, Mbora has one main priority: to make his young family happy by adequately providing for them.
“Spending enough quality time with my wife and four-year-old daughter is very important to me, when I am not working, I spend time with them,” Mbora says.
Mbora does not regret starting a family soon after finishing his college studies.
“I knew it was a big responsibility, especially since I had no stable income then, but I felt I was up to the task. Seeing smiles on my wife and daughter gives me so much joy. It is my sole purpose and duty to work hard to give them a fulfilling life,” he notes.
“I aspire to give my daughter a good education, emotional support and to always be present in her life. I plan to start a business soon to guarantee them the financial security I envision,” says Mbora, adding that he would sacrifice his own happiness any day for the sake of his family.
“My own comfort makes no sense if my family is not happy. I would indulge some luxuries if I wanted to, but I deny myself these treats to save for my family’s financial future.”
Mbora assesses his priorities every year to track progress.
“Instead of changing my priorities, I review my strategy to make it easier to achieve them. If one method fails to work, I try out a different tactic,” he says.
How to make the workplace attractive for millennials
This week, Brighter Monday, an online job placement platform, released a study on how employers can engage millennials productively in the workplace.
According to the study, Millennials and the Digital Market Place, millennials, (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) evaluate three key areas when selecting the company to work for – good pay, job security and proximity to home.
The study, carried out in Kenya, surveyed more than 8,000 Kenyan millennials between 18 and 38 years. In addition to the survey, a case study was done of a Pan African company, Andela, which operates in East and West Africa - over 80 percent of its staff is made up of people under 30 years.
Besides attractive pay, millennials are looking for companies and organisations that offer them positive, employee-centered work cultures that will give them a sense of autonomy over their jobs.
This includes flexible work schedules that lets them work when and where it is convenient for them, as well as an environment that makes the office a fun place to be. This can be achieved by setting up a room for indoor games such as pool to enable them unwind.
Sense of Pride
Almost 40 percent of the interviewees said that an organisation’s mission and purpose were more important than pay. The findings show that a company that has priorities and values that resonate with this group will be more appealing.
Open communication channels are key, with 41 percent of the respondents saying that they preferred weekly performance reviews. Reward and recognition for work well done is a major motivator.
Diversity and inclusion
This includes addressing the gender issue, ensuring that women are not only hired, but get leadership roles too.
Millennials thrive more in collaborative, rather than competitive environments where they get to share ideas and brainstorm together, not try to outdo one another.
Training and Development
Young people want, and need, room for experimenting and deviating from the set old ways of an organisation. Young employees also want to learn how other departments in the organisation work, they seek interdepartmental exposure.
Pair them with mentors within the company, it costs less than paying for training.
Millennials work better when the technology that they use is up to date. Software and updated technology enables efficient communication and productivity.
They also value access to equipment that makes their work easier - mobile workplaces work better for them, so they would appreciate laptops more than they would a PC. - By Agewa Magut