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What it takes to work for a multinational company in Kenya

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In a forum organised by Ignite and Campus life, Norah Odwesso, the Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola Central, East & West Africa, shared bits of industry insights to students aspiring to work for a multinational company.  

“Believe it or not, all the big giants (MNCs) are setting foot in Africa. Africa is the last frontier for growth. Africa is the next best place to invest in. Multinationals are setting camp in Africa and more so Kenya,” asserts Norah.

According to Norah, the giant corporations are coming to Africa and setting up regional headquarters in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. Apparently, Kenya is the preferred location given its position in Eastern Africa, human talent and the political and business leadership and infrastructure.

Several MNCs like Google, Microsoft, IBM, Airtel, Coca-Cola, Visa, have made Nairobi their regional headquarters.

So what are the big shots looking for? Business savvy individuals, global citizens, self-starters, technologically astute fellows, smart people and who are operations agile.

Norah Odwesso, Public Relations and Communications Officer - CocaCola
Norah Odwesso, Public Affairs and Communications Director– CocaCola

While having a deep pool of talented and educated workforce may be good for multinationals, it also means that you are competing with highly qualified individuals, not just in Kenya but other candidates outside the country and Africa as the MNCs balance diversity.

Norah shares her experience on what multinationals require and how to get around the corporate world.

1.  Having a professional CV. – Avoid the use of slang language on your resume. Avoid xaxa, among others.

2. Networking  – Norah advised the Campus finalists to invest and expand their network and friends as they came in handy during job search and getting jobs.

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 3. While a graduate is waiting for the multinational job to come, volunteer your service or time. Internship, Graduate Training Programs are a good way of getting jobs.

4. Life after campus can be very difficult. Having graduated in 1991 with a BCom, Accounting option, she got her first job with a firm taking home a salary of Sh3,200 per month. She advised graduating students to accept days of humble beginnings as being in a job enables you to get better jobs. There is no job that will come to you if you are sleeping in your bed, she insist.

Tim, the co-mentor at the forum held at Ufungamano House, advised students not to spend even a single day sleeping upon clearing college. He stressed the idea of volunteering one’s services.

“You cannot volunteer for three organizations and fail to be absorbed. Soon, they will realize that they need your services. Be a performer at the workplace,” said Tim. Graduates, he added, need to ask themselves 3 questions: “Why was I born? What pain do you have in your life? If you have the resources, what would you change in life?  That is what sets people apart.”

5. Norah was lucky to have benefited from a scholarship and did her masters in the United Kingdom. Her advice to the students? If you land such opportunities, don’t think twice, go for it.

6. Sending many applications and receiving regrets can be discouraging. Norah advises young grads to rely on a higher Power-God the Almighty. He advised students to form partnerships with God. Seek him till he is found. It is him who orders the steps of the righteous and surely, if you are in partnership with him, he will open doors.

7. Just in case the going gets tough, Norah advises young grads to surround themselves with positive people. Avoid the negative people who complain all the time. She said that negativity in people is evident during job interviews and it has a way of blocking your chances of joining the multinationals.

8. While in a job interview, Norah told the young lads to be confident and SELL themselves. Say things like “I led a team that installed a software for the University of Nairobi, School of Computing Library. I supervised a team that did X. I was the lead architect in the design of University of Nairobi  Towers. I did this, that, and so on. Unfortunately, many students don’t sell themselves, they say – I was in a group that did A, B, C. Rarely do they say, I did A, B, C and that’s what Multinationals want to hear. They want problem solvers,” she said.

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