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THE ROTARACT EXPERIENCE: Worth Every While

“The core Objective of Rotaract Clubs remains Professional and Leadership Development.” PDG Mohamed Abdulla sentiments on the role of Rotaract.

Tired of potential employers not valuing your experience on the Kenya Tarmac-kers  Network? Well, ni Wakati wa Kuhama na Rotaract.

Once, I remember watching this young man on television narrate his frustration over unemployment in the country. For seven good years, the young engineering graduate had been on the network and he was not very sure if his eighth year would see his hardwork, patience and persistence in the KTN yield some fruit. Am not sure what fate befell the young man. You know, its only in Kenya where you only make news once unless you are one of the Ocampo Six!!!

A few years later as I was still growing up, the government of Kenya came up with a remedy for the Kenya Tarmac-king Network subscribers. They called it entrepreneurship and innovation. The government said: “why work at KTN when you can all the brilliance the 8.4.4 system puts into your head, start a business, innovate something and actually create employment for fellow subscribers on the KTNetwork and be their boss? Some of the networkers actually took up the challenge and are now smiling al the way to the bank!!! But none managed to completely rid the country of the KTNetwork ghost! KTNetwork subscribers are still very much at large and each year, the 8.4.4 system produces more!!!

Now, I have a preposition to make. I do not guarantee it will rid the country of the KTNetwork ghost but I guarantee it will keep you off the KTNetwork and if you are already in that network, ni Time ya Kuhama na ROTARACT! YES, ROTARACT!

One fear that cripples the KTNetwork subscriber in the interview room is that question every potential employer never hesitates to ask: “WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE IN RELATION TO THIS POSITION?” These days, they have gone to the extent of putting it upfront in their call for applications. For my desolate engineer with 7 years walking experience at the KTNetwork, the chances get slimmer as you spend an extra year at the network. If you are just out of campus and maybe have been on the network for a few months or so, your potential employer might consider you for an internship position. But 7 years and still going strong on KTNetwork? My friend, give it up already. NI WAKATI WA KUHAMA NA ROTARACT!!!

THE ROTARACT EXPERIENCE: WORTH EVERY WHILE AND THE NEXT BIG THING IN THE EMPLOYMENT WORLD

The 8.4.4 system is largely to blame for the kind of mindset we develop as young people and unfortunately grow with it to our old age. YES, the 8.4.4 system simply teaches us to be theoretical, our politicians are a living example, if you doubt me. All principles and theories are exercised in theory. Practice is not a priority. If you’ve got the theory, you can use your smart mind and gift of imagination to tell how its gonna work when in practice.

So, we all know that at the workplace, you need to embrace team work; you need to solve problems; you need to handle different personalities with different abilities and capabilities; you need to manage time; you need to communicate effectively to different audiences; you need to organize successful events; and you definitely need to deliver. Our 8.4.4 structured mindset tells us, like our own son of the soil, Barrack, “YES WE CAN” And we go to the interview room and with all confidence and belief in our “imagined abilities and skills” we desperately try to convince our potential employers that we are the best man for the job. And we are frustrated and disappointed when and if the dread phone call or email comes and splashes in your face, “NO, YOU CAN’T” And you spend one more day, one more month, one more year on the KTNetwork. Well, its time ya kuhama na ROTARACT!!!

ROTARACT IS NOT AN EMPLOYMENT BUREAU

What the hell? So you thought am going to give you a job once you hama na ROTARACT? Neigh!!! You are going to get yourself a job with ROTARACT. “YES, YOU CAN” 

Let me share with you my experience:

I joined the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central back in September 2008 while I was still at campus but was officially inducted in February 2009. At that moment in time, employment was the least of my worries. Like most subscribers on the Kenya Tarmac-kers Network, I could comprehend what was required of me and with all confidence, I was sure I could convince potential employers that I was the right candidate for the job. So, why did Ijoin Rotaract when the common notion was that anyone joining rotaract could hook themselves up with a potential employer or referee? Well, I chose to give my reason as “giving back to the society as society had given me so much and Rotaract would put me in a position to give back.” To this date, since September 2008, I have never served in the Community Service Committee of the club! I have not been able to validate my reason for joining the club.

Perhaps, it was just peer pressure. YES! Peer pressure. My classmate Njoki told me of this great club which has big shots in HR, Law, Engineering etc and they bring other big shots like Rotarians Patrick Obath and Eric Kimani to give talks and they meet at the Grand (now Laico Regency) and I dragged along. I wouldn’t say my reason for dragging along was Networking as Njoki had proposed coz I had this naive side of me which simply/bluntly put was pride. I always believed that I didn’t need anyone to make it in the employment world! I was good at what I do (all, imagination of an 8.4.4 mindset) and any employer who would not hire me at their first encounter was at a loss himself! I must say, after my 2 and 1/2 year stint at Rotaract, I take back every word in that sentence. I took back those words sooner than I had imagined. But networking was not on my agenda and clearly, Community Service was just so cliche. With time, I have come to learn, rather Rotaract has taught me what I really came to do when I “hamad”

Once, the incoming Club President 2011/2012, Huma Kaoga Kaseu said: “Rotaract is not an Employment Bureau.” This was at a time when he was asking for our CVs to forward them to the Rotary Club of Nairobi Vocational Committee. I personally translated it to mean that we should not raise our faith so high and tag our hopes on the Vocational Committee and expect to get a job immediately. I did not send in my CV anyway and have never for subsequent calls for CVs. Perhaps those who did send in their CVs can prove or disapprove Mr. President’s statement.

In my own ways and means, I found out that, in deed, ROTARACT IS AN EMPLOYMENT BUREAU. For once, I differ with my dear friend and president who remains a mentor. I know once he reads this, we will be on the same page once again. Please note, I have not got a different job since I joined Rotaract but I strongly believe Rotaract is an employment bureau. I would at this stage call it the “The Apprentice” the place where men are separated from the boys and the women are separated from the girls and a place where employers can choose potential employees rather than just pick anyone from the interview room.

CLUB COMMITTEES

Why is Community Service so cliche and almost everyone associates Rotaract with Community SErvice? Well, because everyone who walks in says their main reason for joining Rotaract is to give back to communities. Literally, we can look at it in that way but in the real sense, Rotaract is all about communities and its members are part of these communities and so it gives to communities within and without.

Why do I call Rotaract an employment Bureau? Well, we believe in our 8.4.4 mindset that we have got skills that employers are looking out for. But they still insist on experience! You are just fresh from campus or perhaps a 7 year old subscriber to KTNetwork, where do these potential employers expect you to get experience from? Well, still wondering? Rotaract offers you that opportunity to develop and sharpen your skills. Simply synomized, having skills is like having faith and having experience is like doing the action. Faith without action is dead! Similarly, having skills without experience is death in the interview room and one more day on the KTNetwork!

This is where the Rotaract Anti-dote comes in. Rotaract, other than the Community Service Committee, has four other committees i.e. International Service, Professional Development, Club Service and what I will simply call the Treasury which works hand in hand with the Public Relations and Fundraising Committee.

All these committees give members the opportunity to exploit their skills and gain that relevant experience every employer is looking for. You believe you can market a product and sell until you run out of stock? Well, the PR and Fundraising Committee will give you the opportunity to prove yourself. You believe you can write proposals and run a community project that is sustainable? Well, the Community SErvice Committee is here your chance to prove yourself. And so on and so forth. Every committee you serve in gives you an opportunity to put your various skills, you believe you have, into action. It is an opportunity to grow professionally, to develop your leadership skills and sharpen them.

For a serious Rotaractor who wants to make the Rotaract experience worthwhile and also make it big in the employment world, the opportunities that Rotaract provides for them to gain relevant experience are innumerable and invaluable. Speaking a few weeks ago at the Rotaract Officers Training Seminar (ROTS) 2011, the Incoming Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) chair, Patrick Obath, could not have put it any better: “We need to run our clubs the same way we run our businesses and jobs.” I would reverse it and say, the way we run our responsibilities as Rotaract officers in various club committees very much contributes to the success or failures in our work places and businesses. Many Rotaract leaders have echoed Rotarian Obath’s sentiments. Our outgoing President, Michael Waiyaki, has always insisted that the skills we develop while at Rotaract are the same ones we need at our various workplaces. Sentiments which time and again have been shared by long-serving RCNC member Chris Otera who himself is a HR practitioner and speaks from experience.

Rotaract committees are platforms to learn and experience. If you come to Rotaract and mess up, chances are you will more often than not mess your own job or business. If you take up the challenge and prove to yourself that you actually have the skills every employer is looking for, then success is in the offing. Through the various roles and responsibilities each committee is tasked with, you will be able to put various skills in  leadership, people management, problem solving, time management, organizational and so many others into use.

Rotaract gives you the platform, its up to you to outdo yourself or get the Boos

In the real sense, it is the apprentice. How you use your skills while serving in these committees determine whether or not you are the ideal candidate for your potential employer. That is why I say Rotaract is an Employment Bureau and an alternative remedy for the KTNetwork problem in our country. The only catch is that you create that employment yourself through Rotaract.

Rotaract Clubs throughout the world have the core objective of developing young Rotaractors into leaders in their professions and enterprises and integrity, honesty, fellowship and service are key pillars in the development of these individuals.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

The core objective of Rotaract shall remain to be professional development through engagement in various avenues of service.

Where do I see Rotaract going? Well, I believe we are in a position to engage employers in this country to take the Rotaract Experience as a valid and valuable experience that the potential employee can use to perform the tasks and requirements of the position they want filled.

I believe we shall make the Rotaract Experience more professional and give each member an opportunity to excel at what they are good at and develop.

I foresee I time in this country when potential employers would recognize and count the Rotaract Experience as a plus for their vacant positions and would consider the Rotaract Experience along if not above other experiences. I foresee a time when potential employers would include in their call for applications that: “Experience as a Rotaractor highly recommended/added advantage.” you know, the way they usually say experience working on a world bank project highly recommended?!!! YES WE CAN THROUGH THE ROTARACT EXPERIENCE.

The Rotaract Experience has just began. We shall be bringing you views and real life examples of how Rotaract has been instrumental in shaping some very successful and young entrepreneurs and leaders in this country. There is so much that happens behind the scenes that we take for granted, yet it is the very essence of Rotaract – Development of leaders in various professionals and enterprises through various avenues of service.

Lets keep talking.

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