Wednesday morning, I was reading Ron Ashkenas’ column on Harvard Business Review. He had interesting remarks, perspective if you like with regards to the importance of experience in relation to job availability. You can read the article here. He asked some questions:
- Have you ever tried to get a job where you were told that you had all the right skills but lacked experience?
- How important is experience, and should it be such a critical asset for hiring managers?
I will not reproduce his article here but these questions got me thinking about some recent events in the Kenyan job market, especially with the direction so called blue chip companies are taking.
In recent history, we have seen restructuring at Safaricom Limited, Kenya’s leading Mobile telecommunication giant. We have also seen Barclays Bank retrench over 200 managers countrywide as a measure geared towards cost cutting and building up efficiency. Wednesday’s (18Th May 2011) business reports; KCB Bank Group was featured in a news item that showed they are restructuring and as such, the executive management committee comprised of around 22 senior managers is required to reapply for their jobs, which have since been shrunk to seven with some departments having been merged. Reason? KCB is geared towards reducing its operating and administrative costs besides improving efficiency in customer and service delivery. Late last year, KCB and Equity too, downsized some of their staff in a drive still thought to be restructuring.
Later on that very Wednesday, we had lunch with an indirect mentor whom in almost every way; I owe my experience with Banking Systems and Information Technology to. Our banter featured recent developments in the job market, with big, medium and even smaller organizations restructuring one way or another. He reckons the one time joke that ‘computers and systems will take over our jobs’ is happening right before our eyes. We spoke of Equity Bank’s adoption of Finncore or is it Flexcube for its core banking operations, CBA, CBK and KCB’s implementation of Temenos T24 for their banking operations among others as possible points that could be triggering the restructuring phenomenon that has caught the corporate world like a wild fire.
Have you tried applying for a job lately? Well, I have. It has become increasingly hard to get through interviews, if you are lucky to find any meaningful job advert in the first place. Just check your newspapers, you’ll find either a job had requirements far too high for someone who can do the job with less academic decoration, was re-advertised for being non-responsive and such. Equally, the culture of knowing someone to get you a job is fading. A close acquaintance was telling me of how she called a CEO of a ‘tier three’ bank locally for a job favor for a nephew fresh from university. While the conversation was cordial and the gentleman seemed patient enough to listen to what my friend was asking. He was categorical that the applicant must have obtained at least a minimum of an Upper 2nd class Honors in his course and must have had very good scores in English and Mathematics for their KCSE. Very good is ‘B+’. It has become that difficult for possible employers to even shortlist candidates.
So as we spoke with said mentor, our conversation dwelled heavily on the appropriateness of our education programs and curriculum to the heavily dynamic job market as seen. Have you had a look at KCSE results of late? Alliance High School will have at least 110 of their 140 candidates scoring a straight ‘A’. Friends School Kamusinga will have the worst performer scoring a ‘B+’ for a mean grade in said exams. Getting an ‘A’ is no longer something to hold with such high esteem. It has become quite easy to manage that. Maybe it is time to review the whole system. Look at our Universities and the curriculum. While courses offered there feature titles that are relevant to the changing job and business market, do the course content, or do the graduates know what to do with the knowledge obtained over years (assuming they learn anything) besides seeking employment or further education?
Our education system for the sake of those still in school has to change. It is no longer about getting good grades and getting promoted to the next agenda. It is no longer about realizing a good score to land a good job. There are fewer opportunities by the day. Even those at their comfort zones are no longer at ease. Whole Chief Executives, Directors of Divisions and such are being asked to reapply for jobs they are already holding. Better yet, positions they are holding are being scrapped as they watch… a clear demonstration of their irrelevance, inefficiency or need to be creative and think far much outside the box. Every organization wants to be at the top, to be at the top, some will excel, others will be sacrificed.
With the increasingly few opportunities, entrepreneurship becomes point of focus. Self employed people, farmers, brokers and consultants will most certain thrive, I think. Professions that are dependent heavily on individual’s knowledge are going to stand the taste of time. By that I mean Doctors, Lawyers and such will probably remain in safer places for a while… before a machine comes that can inject, operate, dictate prescriptions and interpret legalistic. Even they will need to be creative. A doctor will probably have to go further, like they do on Royal Pains… A lawyer will probably have to utilize technology to come through to a special clientèle on-line seeing as extensive matters are settled out of court and we are building a heavily digital and tech savvy generation.
That said and done, will the bank call already! I need my post graduate fees ready before I sit in front of an Ahmed Nasir like Interviewer!