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How to succeed in a saturated profession


One of the major frustrations faced by Kenyan job seekers is applying for jobs and not getting any response. A candidate is left wondering whether the application reached the intended party or if the problem was the application itself.

While there’s much that jobseekers can do to improve the odds of getting invited for an interview, the sheer number of applicants  in some profession makes it hard for employers or recruiters to respond to each candidate.

In some professions i.e. accountants, administration, customer service, IT, NGO and nowadays procurement, it is not a surprise for a job advert to receive more than 3,000 applications. Let’s consider the fact that an employer is looking for only one candidate and reflect on how competitive the job market is. By the time they are going through the 100th application, they will already have shortlisted at least ten candidates to interview. Whether its recruiters or employers, the reality is that they are trying to save time.

The professions I have highlighted above are what I term as saturated careers because there are far too many candidates chasing very few job opportunities. Additionally, some of the professions are affordable to undertake i.e. for CPA you can take exams without having to attend classes. Others like HR and procurement are relatively new and candidates are registering in droves.

So, how do you position yourself to remain relevant in such a competitive field?

With my experience as a recruitment professional, I can say that it helps to be an all round professional. For example, in accounting, if you only specialize in one area say accounts receivables, payables, or credit control, it will be hard to move to a job that requires a profession competent in all accounting areas.

In other professions, say HR, you are better off getting skills in all areas. For example, those in HR and have worked in the manufacturing sector always have an edge over those who have worked in service or government. This is because working in manufacturing exposes you to health and safety, labor unions, ability to supervise skilled and unskilled labor and also a chance to handle a large workforce. If you are looking to grow your career in HR, work for a manufacturing company.

If you find yourself in the wrong job or career then it’s time to make a move ASAP.  I know of Bcom + CPA (K) graduates working for banking institutions as customer care professionals and tellers. This might break your heart but as long as you remain in banking, no one will ever hire you as an accountant. Employers are looking for specific skills and you won’t get this working in customer service or as a teller. I have seen this happen in all professions where after college you get a job in a different field away from your area of training.  I always advise such candidates to consider a pay cut or an entry level position.  Another trick you can use is to find a part-time job or volunteer to gain skills. You could, for example, help an SME keep their accounting books in order.

Another tragedy I see with most Kenyan professionals is going back to class for an MBA when they feel that their career is not going in the right direction. An MBA should complement your current skills and should be seen as an ‘added advantage’. However, if your plan is to take an MBA to drastically change your career and life, then it won’t work. MBAs in Kenya used to be a ‘hot cake’ but as more and more Kenyan professionals go back to class for this certificate, it is slowly losing value with employers (because of saturation). My free and time tested advice, an employer will always pick a candidate with the right skills and attitude over one with many papers and less skills.

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Ultimately it is you who knows what you want to achieve in your career. And just like a product in a competitive marketplace, you have to study your environment and position yourself strategically. I can’t promise you it will be easy or cheap but over time and with persistent, your career will work for the better.

Perminus has over ten years experience in human resource management working with employers from different sectors. His major goal is to build relationships with employers in order to gain a better understanding of their recruitment needs and meet the requirements in a cost-effective and timely manner. Email

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