Monday, May 23, 2011

Stop hustling for a minute and take a step back

I remember the parents of a friend of mine fretting 12 years ago that the major bank their son worked for wasn't offering him a permanent & pensionable job i.e. in spite of the swelling sea of unemployment in Kenya his job with a reputable bank still wasn't good enough for them because it wasn’t permanent & pensionable. Well 12 years and significant bonuses/gratuities later he is still on 1 year contracts and doing really well by any standards. The main problem is that our parents and sadly many of us, still judge our career success by the ancient standards. Many of our parents graduated from college/high school etc. over 40 years ago and in those days employers would literally line up and compete to offer them jobs, a far cry from today’s reality. These days not even the village choir bothers to show up at the new graduates homecoming party because chances are the young chap will be living on their hand outs for the next few years. Besides the villagers’ soon realized that their ululations are better used at gatherings organized by the local MP’s than wasted on poor fellows with limited chance of getting permanent & pensionable jobs for their kids.
Anyway, faced with a tantalizing buffet of jobs, all our parents had to do was pick the one with the best perks and start work on Monday. No work experience, psychometric or medical test required, just be prepared to show up at work everyday for the next 28 years or so. Our failure to adjust over time to the changing economic circumstances is to blame for the huge disparity between our expectations and the harsh realities of the job market. If my friend in the earlier example had listened to his parents instead of accepting the contract job, it is very likely that he would wasted time searching for the type of job his parents wanted, one that looked and felt like the one they had when they were working. Unlike many of us he assessed the situation, recognized that times have changed and made a decision driven by a logical thought process. That is what I am asking Kenyans to do. Stop hustling for a minute, take a step back and examine your life. What is it that we do from dawn to dusk? Consider for a minute what it is that we would rather be doing and reflect upon how we ended up doing what we are currently doing. Show me a person who can’t think of anything they’d rather be doing and I will show you a contented spirit. Humans, unlike many other animals, instinctively try and differentiate themselves from each other through mastery of useful crafts/trades/skills and by so doing seek to gain an edge that will help them extend their lineage beyond that of their competitors. The thing that defies logic is how readily we shun our individuality in the name of blending in. 

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