It takes more than just brains to make it in the job market


A first class honours is worth nothing if you lack employable skills. This is what recruitment personnel who interact with young graduates on a day-to-day basis reiterate in every interview.

According to the human resource managers, many young graduates lack the most basic skills required to navigate the job market. Many graduates are said to be arrogant, impatient and ignorant. And worse of all they lack many lack interpersonal skills.

Although this may not necessarily be a new topic, it still sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact, two weeks ago, a social media user on Facebook who claims to be a UK trained recruitment consultant added his voice to this perennial problem.

While highlighting problems that face Kenyan youth, one thing evidently stood out in his text: that youth do not like working. And those who want to, demand for unimaginable salaries for start-ups.

“I often get calls from anxious parents saying‘my son graduated two years ago and is still looking for a job, can you please assist!’ Oh really! So where exactly is this “child” is my usual question. Why are you the one making this call dad/mum?” he wrote.

He went on to say that even after accepting to interview the “child” and engage in a “fairly decent conversation,” the graduate often is not able to justify why they want to earn that fat cheque.

“Oh, why do you think you should be earning that much on your first job?”

“Well, because my current pocket money is Sh100,000 and I feel that an employer should be able to pay me more than my parents,” the post read.

While the writer blames parents for pampering children, employers feel that universities are not doing enough to prepare graduates for employment.


Every single day human resource managers and recruiting firms bemoan the state of half-baked graduates who are not suitable for the job market. Today many articles have reduced university graduates to four simple words: young, jobless, clueless and desperate.

And as the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) latest survey notes, only half of the more than 50,000 students who graduate annually in this country stand a chance for employment.

Of these graduates the report says, more than half are not suited to their career choice because “they lack employability skills, technical mastery and basic work-related capabilities.”

The report published mid last year states that in Kenya, 51 per cent of graduates are believed to be unfit for jobs. This is a problem which the council has blamed on the falling quality of education on universities.

Lack of quality education in universities and colleges is increasingly being projected as the reason why employers shun new graduates in favour of highly skilled personnel who may only be possessing a diploma or certificate.

But Lynn Mugeni, a human resource associate at a management and training consultancy firm thinks there is a better explanation for the high rate of unemployment among graduates.

She aptly says that contrary to popular opinion, University qualification is not the only quality employers look for when recruiting.

“Fresh graduates usually feel that a degree is the unquestionable answer to direct employment and often cannot manage disappointment when turned down,” she says.

According to Ms Mugeni, that shiny CV is not a sure ticket to the prestigious job many graduates always desire, but just a stepping stone.

“Employers are looking for much more than the papers at hand, among them how they will benefit from employing you.”

Ms Mugeni points out that an individual’s personality is one of the key factors that determines whether or not you will get the job. And many graduates unfortunately lack it.

“Your personality is your first selling point,” she argues.

“As an employer, or a recruiter I will want to see how you interact with me during the interview. I will be keen to see if you roll your eyes or twist your mouth. I will look at how you are dressed and much more.”

These, she says, are not skills taught in classrooms and many graduates are often ignorant of the nitty-gritties of a work environment.

So what can be done to assist graduates to seamlessly transit into the job market?

Well, Ms Mugeni repeatedly insists that there is an urgent need to train students and fresh graduates on interpersonal skills.

“A simple thing like a handshake can be what stands between you and that job,” she says.


As if inadvertently taking up her advice, Barclays Bank of Kenya recently launched a training scheme for unemployed youth and students. The programme dubbed ReadytoWork is tailored to offer work, entrepreneurial and money skills to young graduates.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Barclays Bank managing director Jeremy Awori argued that by introducing the programme, the corporate will help bridge the gap of unemployed graduates.

“It is imperative that students and indeed those eyeing the job market take it upon themselves to find out what employers are looking for and then proceed to acquire those credentials,” he said.

The ready to work curriculum is aimed at preparing and empowering young people across Africa with the training and development they need. It was launched across Barclays Africa markets.

To add on this, Ms Mugeni advises that besides working hard to earn stupendous grades, graduates should not side-line extracurricular activities.

“Employers want to see other qualities beyond the classroom. Therefore try and participate in things like community work. Such activities go a long way in getting you that job you so much desire,” she says.