Getting a job and a stable source of income is perhaps the biggest step towards becoming an adult. Nothing puts you on the fast track to maturity like a demanding job that you love. With your first major job, you will have to get a place of your own sooner or later.
If you’re employed and have an overwhelming need to maintain the status quo, then you are experiencing comfortable misery.
Outside career life, comfortable misery happens when you are miserable but you are used to it. You know the limits and bounds of this misery.
You know that you can tolerate a bad situation because you do it every day. How do you break out of it?
This week, we bring you the stories of six young people: How satisfying it was for them to get a steady job, the lessons they learnt about having a regular income, how quickly they found out that this is not a free pass to happiness and contentment, and the adjustments and compromises they’ve had to make along the way.
Nelly Maina, 26 (Accountant)
I got my first stable job in January this year. I needed a job so that I could pay bills such as rent, electricity and salon costs.
Also, I am the first-born in my family, and I needed to get a job so that I could help my parents pay my siblings’ school fees.
I also wanted to invest. I love business. And I really longed to go back to school.
For about three months after I received my first salary, I forgot about my priorities. I became contented because I could pay my basic bills.
After some time, however, I started thinking about business again. Knowing that my field is very competitive, I resolved to go back to school.
Then came the first challenge. I did not have enough funds, so I needed an extra source of income. Also, I needed to reduce my expenses.
Eventually, I managed to support my siblings, but I had to tweak my priorities, and put my needs first. I also realised that my expenditure was unnecessarily high.
I began to visit prisons and children homes, paying my tithe regularly and engaging on other charity activities. Initially, I had not viewed these acts as priorities. Before I got a job I only worried about my immediate needs, yet deep down, I yearned to engage in charitable activities.
I had already started living on my own even before I got a stable job so I really struggled to pay rent and sustain myself. I lived with a friend with whom I could split the Sh6,000 rent money with. To raise my share, I did odd jobs, including working at salons.
Personal bills are a huge concern for most women. We need to afford the things we need.
To meet my needs even with limited income, I begin by sorting out my urgent bills. If my sister needs school fees, that is a priority, but if it is just clothes, I can choose to ignore.
According to me, I would rather live in a small house than pay rent for an expensive one. Now, I can comfortably pay for an expensive house, but I do not fancy renting. I would rather save that money and later buy my own house.
Robert Mwaniki, 26 (IT Consultant)
I was 22 years old when I got my first stable job.
Having a regular income was important for me because as a child, I wasn’t provided with all the basic needs.
As a man, I felt obliged to meet my own financial needs. Growing up was tough. Neither of my parents was close to me, so getting some basic needs was hard. I don’t want any other person in my family to struggle as much as I did.
Getting my own place was important and urgent for me. It feels bad to live with friends or parents, because you could get into conflict.
At some point, you will crave for some freedom. There is a particular way I like to arrange my furniture around the house, and certain rituals I like to observe. This most often than not gets me into loggerheads with anyone I share my space with.
Financial stability was also key for me because I never liked borrowing money from other people for basic things like airtime.
For me, it was about having the resources I need. If I had the resources, I would not need the money. I like to be able to provide for myself and those around me. I think my past has something to do with it because my father did not sufficiently provide for my needs. This has always motivated me to work hard and be in a position to provide.
I can now say I am financially stable. I am not idle. Before I got a employed I took up odd jobs, took care of pigs in a farm, sold clothes, sold boiled githeri, worked in a wholesale carrying bales of flour, just to sustain myself.
I have since realised that your responsibilities increase in tandem with your level of income. Your needs evolve as you earn more money, which means you have to work harder to meet them.
I now have a fiancé and a car. All these come with different needs such as fuel, service and insurance. I have to keep working hard so that I can comfortably sustain my needs.
At the same time, I have to be contented with my status, about what I have. There are people who are above me, some below me and others at the same level as me and that is normal.
I just have to focus on what I want and assess what I’m doing with what I already have. I have to find more money making opportunities. So I surround myself with wise people, many of whom are older than me. They challenge me to be better. Gold has to go through fire to shine bright.
Brian Ongore, 29 (Filmmaker/Celebrity Security Expert)
I work in both filmmaking and security industries where you get better with time, like wine.
When looking for a job, I wanted to be able to cater for my rent, transport, nice clothes, and all my basic needs. I also desired to have my own investment. Like my own company.
In the security industry, your name is very important. My income now is stable, but not regular. In the filmmaking and security industries, one has to invest in order to grow.
The worth of your investments is directly proportional to your income. It is the surest way to distinguish yourself from others.
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 22 years old.
After high school, I had stayed home for a while because my father and I could not agree on which course I should take. He refused to pay my school fees, and I stayed home to look for money.
Then, I did not have a stable income so when I moved out, I started off as a bouncer, earning very little. With time, my income increased and I started saving for college.
I have a diploma in video production from the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, and I am also a trained celebrity security expert. Things are okay, but I plan to invest more.
Moureen Mwaura, 24 (IT professional)
I started working four months after I finished my university degree.
At the time, moving out was my primary goal, followed by buying a new phone, change my wardrobe, and acquiring financial freedom. I also wanted to help my mother pay some of the bills at home.
And now that I had finished my studies and had a stable job, I wanted to do something good for my mother. All the things she wanted to do but could not because she had to take care of my needs.
Upon receiving my first salary, I bought a new phone, and paid part of the rent at home. Unlike many of my peers, I did not move out of my parents’ home.
I am yet to get a place of my own because I realised there were other things which are a lot more urgent. I have ended up shouldering some responsibilities I had not thought about initially. Strictly speaking, I cannot afford to move out yet.
I thought that I would be totally free once I got a steady source of income. But in reality, I am not free to do with my money as I wish. I realised that in this freedom, there are responsibilities. It looks like a small thing at the beginning but the responsibilities keep increasing.
The next thing on my mind now is how to expand my sources of income because my salary alone is not adequate to take care of all my responsibilities. I am more mature in my actions. Always focused and intentional. You can spend your salary as you please, but you have to be mindful of your responsibilities. Budgeting becomes a reality.
My folks also advised me to not move out right away because it was too soon after employment, and could be too much of a strain on my salary.
So instead, I have to first think about ways to diversify my sources of income before moving out so that I will not just depend on my salary to pay all my bills.
I have decided to wait for a year before I move out, save some more, and also learn from my budgeting mistakes throughout the year.
Once I have an alternative source of income, I will start thinking about moving out. I love my personal space so that is why moving out remains high up on my agenda list.
Charity Gathungu, 25 (Administrative Assistant)
I got my first regular income while working as a house help. This was immediately after I completed my secondary school education. The pay was not good, but at least I was independent.
I desperately wanted to go to college, but my mother was not in a position to pay my fees. I got a good employer who helped me save money.
Eventually, I managed to enroll at a tertiary institution. Since then, I have been employed in different places. I once worked on night shift as a night guard for about two years, but I developed some complications because of the cold and I resigned and went back to college.
The main reason I looked for a job was that I really yearned to acquire tertiary education. I saw how uneducated people struggled to make ends meet.
Expanding my knowledge, I believed, was the only way I could elevate my status. And that could only happen through education and learning other skills.
I have encountered challenges along the way, especially with paying school fees, but the progress is fulfilling. I started with a diploma course, and now I am scheduled to graduate with a bachelor’s degree at the end of this year at Tangaza University College. My plan is to keep studying and get a PhD.
I think personal circumstances dictate what is important to someone, and what they want to do and achieve. Under different circumstances, I would have prioritised other things.
My father died when I was a child so my mother brought me up single-handedly. Growing up, I was determined to dispel the stereotypes that are associated with children from single parent homes. I wanted to prove that my mother’s single parenthood did not limit my achievements to just doing menial jobs.