For a very long time I thought I lacked seriousness in my career path because I kept shifting from one path to another. Still in the same field of communications but I always thought you needed to stick to one, perfect it and become the authority everyone seeks for decades to come.
I kicked off as a copywriter then shifted to journalism, dabbled in PR and event management, went back to researching and journalism, MCíng was dropped on my lap in a baptism of fire. It was scary and nerve-racking as I explored these various paths. But I always felt like I was nowhere. In most cases, the weaving and bobbing was a mixture of sustenance and plain curiosity. At some point, I thought I could blog my way into a cash load. Didn’t happen. I didn’t have the staying power to keep blogging and I didn’t have the heart to turn my blog into an online supermarket pushing every single product willing to pay for eyeballs on my site.
It’s not that I actually had the numbers, I wished I did but I never really knew how to keep them coming. I met and sat with business coaches in 2015 into 2016 trying to figure out a business model around blogging but I realized it wasn’t an end itself. It was a means to an end. It offered a platform, yes, but writing and building content on this side of the globe wasn’t really making sustainable money. Readers needed to stretch far beyond my locale to the globe to get the numbers I needed to make it attractive to make money.
Because for me, money was the epitome of success. I didn’t want to have to want for anything. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just that I was hoping there was an easy way out. As I once again sat at the drawing board wondering what in the world I was doing with my life I started to meet new people drawn to my skill set, consultancy sounded like a way to go.
I had done pretty much everything except proper corporate communications at that point. I had worked in the development of brand strategy, dabbling a bit on marketing strategy and social media (which I discovered despite being a millennial I loathed for various reasons, that’s really a post on its own). I was getting requests for various services but there was a humdrum to the whole process. The excitement of each of these aspects of communication was no longer a novelty but a boring routine. I thought maybe it was my approach to selling it. I branded myself as a Brand Storyteller and content creator. A term I still needed to educate people on it’s meaning.
Most didn’t actually care about what I called myself, they just wanted to know if I had the skills to do the basic minimum of what they envisioned good corporate communication entailed. Then I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe, I should go a step further and educate the clients on the need for communications in their organisations. For them to see it as a strategic operational role and not the stepchild you summon to clean a mess or fill in a gap when need be. This was a long-haul strategy. After a few pitch meetings, I ran out of fuel. People just didn’t get it at all. And it just happened to be the same year we had two disastrous elections. My consultancy was caught up in the political quagmire of the country.
I felt suffocated stifled and bored to death. I started to consider a complete change of career, leave communications altogether and maybe just wrap up my undergraduate in Psychology and kick of clinical practice. I needed money to go back to school. I was back to square one. Like Liam Neeson, “I do have a particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a long period of time.” Cue dramatic thriller score.
13 years of experience is a very long time. And I have learned a whole lot, but I soon realized the Kenyan market wasn’t willing to pay for my skills. Tanzania came calling with open arms. For the first time in a very very long time, despite the huge workload and hostility from some quarters, I felt alive, useful and living a dream I didn’t know I had. I built an entire communication department for a company from scratch! That was exhilarating. I got my worth, I got the chance to do something I only had thought of severally in passing. Then it all came to an end and I was back to square one with the same old limited humdrum.
What I have realised in the past few months of reflection is this:
1. Talent needs to be honed and dreams need to be fulfilled no matter what –one thing I saw in my parents from time to time, which I never ever want to go through is regret. I never want to regret not having tried while I am young and agile enough to do so.
2. You need to meet people who build you – You read this a lot in books and from YouTube motivational coaches. But is real, you need to go to the most obscure places so far from your comfort to meet the people who are interested and willing to engage your skills. At times your cheerleaders are the ones you find not the ones readily available to you.
3. Kenya may be home but it doesn’t have to be your future – You will always love your home, but at times home stifles your growth and your potential. We can go on and on about entrepreneurship in Kenya and it’s potential. There is potential, but real growth requires a conducive environment for it. If you want to really grow as you should in your career and in business if that’s your path, maybe you should consider relocating the base of your dreams to a more conducive environment. Wherever that is for you.
4. Never ever think you know everything – in life, no career path is isolated from others, we all need to have vast and extensive knowledge about other things to solidify what we want. I may want to run a production company. I may be great at actual production, but I need to learn business models around distribution, marketing, talent acquisition etc as per the global business model. I can only do that by reading and engaging with the right players relentlessly.
Whatever your plans are in 2020 and beyond as you kick off the third decade of the 21st century remember this. You might have to physically uproot yourself from your current location to fulfil your life’s dreams.