For 10 years, Jared Owiso worked for Eveready East Africa at their plant in Nakuru as a machine operator and sometimes a store attendant.
At work he easily got lost in the crowd, but back at home in Mwariki estate, he prominently stood out and he knew as much – working for a big company known to pay well put him on a pedestal amongst relatives and friends who were either jobless or casual labourers. ''Pesa zilikuwa, siwezi danganya (To be honest, I had money),'' he says, appreciating how liquid he was then.
But the reason the 35-year-old father of five describes his liquidity in past tense is because he is an honest man – it is all in the past!
''Every day should be a learning process to become better so that it's easy to get another job even if you’re let go within a short notice,'' says Emmanuel Mutuma, CEO of BrighterMonday.
It all started the morning of September 29, 2014, when they were abruptly summoned to a general staff meeting. ''When we got to the meeting grounds, no one seemed to understand what was going on because there was also an ambulance on standby,'' he recalls. After incubating in the boardroom the idea of shutting down the plant and sending home 99 employees it was time to break the news on the factory floor.
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The picture of the confusion that prevailed when the bad news was unleashed is like a nightmare that has refused to go off Owiso’s head. ''Some people murmured words that did not make sense, others began moving around even as the speaker continued talking while many stared blankly at the speaker. Personally my heart almost stopped,'' he recalls.
Everyone was handed a one-month contract and proceeded to serve the painful last days. Thereafter a few people were called back from time to time to help run the plant in a bid to clear the raw materials that remained.
For many, the lights had gone off. The livelihood and the esteem had vanished in a flick. ''I thought about my first born daughter who had just joined Form One and my other four children and thought only God could intervene,'' he says. But he also took solace in the knowledge that despite his affliction, many of his former colleagues were worse. ''People had bank loans and all manner of debts. Many went crazy and families even fell apart,'' he says.
But with meagre earnings from his wife’s tailoring business, they tried to hold things together as he looked for another regular job while also taking up house painting jobs whenever luck knocked. It took him two years to quit job hunting altogether and specialise as a house painter, a skill he always had but had never put to use. ''I couldn’t easily let go of that mentality of having a job with a regular salary, but when I got the courage to do so I realised everything is possible,'' he says. His daughter will be sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams this year.
Job loss is one thing every Kenyan employee must prepare for today more than ever before, according to Emmanuel Mutuma, CEO of BrighterMonday, an online job search and advertising platform. ''Every day should be a learning process to become better so that it's easy to get another job even if you’re let go within a short notice,'' he says.
The platform has noticed an escalation of fear among employees concerning job loss and in 2017 published an article: Job Cuts in Kenya: The Growing Headache of Job Loss.
Mr Mutuma also recommends that employees keep updating their education and training in areas where they have more skills to ensure that they become experts in certain areas. That way, people do not job hunt for long as people with unique abilities in certain specialities will always be on high demand.
And even with all other kind of preparedness, it is always best if one has some savings as this boosts their self-confidence and composure as they search for their next engagement.