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‘’It is important for young people to own their dreams. For them to do this they need to know themselves. Identifying their strengths and passion will enable them to be the best that they can be.’’ – Phyllis Wakiaga

Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? How did that influence your decisions growing up? Did you finally end up where you had envisioned?

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For many secondary school students, the thought of careers is something they always put off for the distant future. When it comes to selection of subjects and universities, then it hits them that that future is not so distant, but now. With no one else to talk to, most students choose careers out of peer pressure or the big name attached to it, never thinking for one minute of the impact those choices may have in future. 

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While her years in high school had molded her into the person she now was, Phyllis Wakiaga had also seen many of her schoolmates end up in the wrong careers because of making uninformed choices in high school. In her position as the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, she had also seen a lot of people who were very dissatisfied in their careers because they chose them without really having an idea of what they would look like. This is why, when an opportunity to conduct a career mentorship session at her alma mater came up, she grabbed it with both hands and on 21st March, 2017 together with her friends she visited Precious Blood Girls – Riruta to the form one and two students.

While Phyllis was really happy to be back to her former school, the students were happier to meet a person of her caliber and to learn from someone who sat on the same chairs and got to be taught by the same teachers. 

During the sessions, the students keenly listened to who shared her road map.  They were amazed to learn that even though she had wanted to be a CEO from her tender age, to rise to the top had not been easy. This, she explained, was one of the reasons she felt there was need come back share her career journey with the students so that they would have an easier road in life. She invested by purchasing Careerpedia resource materials which the students could use after she left.

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At the end of the day the students were able to identify their Values, Interests, Personality and Strengths, or VIPS in short. Knowing this early enough would not only help the students to make the right choices when it came to subject selection, but would also help them in choosing universities, courses and  careers that perfectly fit them.

 There is little factual information that high school students have access to when it comes to subject selection and future careers. This is why we advocate very much for alumni to come together and become career mentors to the young minds that are at this crucial stage of making lifelong decisions. BE THE BIG BROTHER!

 ‘’The mediocre mentor tells. The good mentor explains. The superior mentor demonstrates. The greatest mentors inspire.’’  - Lucia Ballas Traynor

The role of alumni in mentorship cannot be understated. Students tend to resonate more with people that had the same experience they're having. They tend to relate more to the possibilities they see in people that studied in their own schools. There’s a hope they get from seeing a success story that began exactly where they began. We want to create a very vibrant alumni network in secondary schools in Kenya that will champion the cause for career mentorship in their alma maters. A big part of this will involve them conducting career days in the schools and providing Careerpedia resources to the students to help them make the most informed decisions about their future careers. We are calling on all the alumni in every secondary school in Kenya to take up this mantle and inspire a generation of young people who know themselves and are happy in their chosen careers.

A typical career day in a secondary school usually ends up being a guidance and counselling session for the students. Due to a lack of career mentorship resources, the speakers usually resort to talking about themselves and giving moral advice, and rarely have any practical information to share with the students about careers. Most of the students use that time to catch up on homework or sleep.

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‘’In learning you will teach. In teaching you will learn.’’  - Phil Collins

It is for this reason that we conducted Career Teachers’ Training on Friday, 28th July 2017. It was attended by 30 teachers drawn from five counties. During introductions, there was a general consensus among the teachers that even though they were known as ‘career teachers’, it was just a title. The teachers had very little knowledge about the huge and expanding range of careers and the courses required for students to explore. A simple question from the students would result in to a quick google search for answers; which were generalized most of the time and not very useful. Again, they also taught other subjects, making it difficult to find time to do further research into careers.

The teachers were then trained on how prepare for career guidance sessions and how to deliver reliable and relevant information to their students who also looked up to them as mentors. They were also advised on how to set up a vibrant career office separately from the guidance and counselling one, and equip it with resource materials for use by both teachers and students. This would serve as a safe space for the students to ask career related questions.

 The training also explored the different available possibilities to career teachers when it came to planning and conducting mentorship sessions for students. A key factor explored was encouraging the involvement of alumni in mentorship. This was championed by Karoti Girls alumni chairperson who was in attendance and had previously conducted a successful career day in her former school. It was a wonderful thing for the teachers to have firsthand account on how to plan and execute a careers day.  To get a feel of the resource materials the teachers attempted the career assessment test as outlined in the Discover Your Career workbook. From this exercise the teachers were able to understand that career planning and development is not about good grades only but also other personal factors like values, interests and personality. The teachers acknowledged the workbook was very relevant in subject and university selection. They were also impressed by hundreds of careers detailed in the Careerpedia encyclopedia, especially the emerging careers in the job market. This was a huge sigh of relief to them, as they would now go back to school with the career resource materials and use them to provide the correct career advice to the students.

At the end of the training session, the teachers agreed that one day was a very short time to learn everything they needed to know. With more time, the training sessions would cover more topics and more career teachers could be invited.

 
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As they went home, this is what some of the teachers had to say:

“This is an important organization to Kenyan students in careers. The Discover Your Career workbook is very innovative. I wish all Form 4 students could have the book in Form 2 before they select subjects.’’ – Samson Mahugu, Buruburu Girls Secondary School.

“What I have learned here today has motivated me to guide my students in the best way possible, something I am now able to do thanks to the Careerpedia resource materials.’’ – Mrs. Adolwa, Our Lady of Mercy.

“I am so glad I came today. Not only have I connected with many other career teachers, but I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and understanding about careers that I’m very eager to share with my students. I also can’t wait to fire up the alumni to start mentorship in my school. Good job!’’ – Job Abanga, Fr Heeran Girls.

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“If I was 15 years old, I would aggressively search for available information on careers to gain an understanding of the career landscape and make an informed career decision based on my interests and passion”, said one of the career teachers attending a capacity building workshop organized by Storymoja in collaboration with our partners, KNLS-Meru and I Choose Life.

Majority of career teachers on Kenyan schools have cited the lack of credible career information and resources as the biggest impediment to provision of desired guidance to support students in making informed subject and career choices. Careerpedia is a holistic careers intervention platform that seeks to offer career resources and capacity-building workshops for students, career teachers, parents and mentors.  The resources equip the teachers, parents and mentors with appropriate and relevant information, skills and expertise necessary for them to offer desired support and guidance to students in their career journey. The platform empowers students and guides them to make informed career decisions and choices.

At the end of the training workshop in Meru, majority of the teachers said, “We have learned quite a lot from this training. Now we have the expertise and resources to provide career guidance and mentorship to our students. We know that with a partner like Storymoja, the future of our children is safe and secure”!

 

 

‘’We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.’’  - Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Career choice in high school was never about what the student wanted or was good at. It was all about what the teachers or the parents thought. This case was no different with Karoti Girls Secondary School alumni.Even after they dispersed from high school to pursue different courses and jobs, a large number were still haunted by the career choices they made back then. Most of them had taken long breaks from school to figure out exactly what they were passionate about. For others it led them to change areas of study in the middle of the school year, which was a huge waste of time and resources.

Right from their first reunion meeting, giving back to their former school was on the top of the agenda for the more than 50 alumni. They agreed to organize for a career day with the aim of guiding and mentoring their schoolmates on how to make informed career choices. They settled on Saturday 15th  July 2017 under the theme ‘Help a Girl Secure Her Career’, a topic which they felt would really aid the students in career choices and avoid some of the mistakes the alumni had made while at school.

Karoti Girls Secondary School is located in Mwea, Kirinyaga County and has a population of 1000 students. In the alumni meetings held prior to the mentorship, it was decided that the career day would focus only on the form two students. This is because they were just about to choose their subjects and they would need a lot of career advice. In preparation for the career day, the alumni realized that they were not very well equipped to speak about careers, and so they partnered with Careerpedia. They therefore purchased 163 Careepedia workbooks and two sets of encyclopedias for the school. These resource materials would be used by the students as reference career materials in making the right career choices, and helping them to discover their passions and abilities early enough so that they could make informed decisions about their future. The alumni were very much convinced that it take one step to make a huge difference in other people’s lives.

‘’Getting the most out of life isn’t about how much you keep for yourself but how much you pour into others.’’  David Stoddard

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During the mentorship session, the alumni members spoke about their careers and their experiences in the workplace. It was a very interactive session enabling the students to open up and share their fears and misconceptions about life.The biggest lesson for the students was that choosing a career was more than a ‘gut feeling’ and good grades. Most of the students had no idea about the careers they wanted to pursue after school, and the ones that did, had very little knowledge. By using the workbooks the students realized that natural abilities played a huge role in getting the right career. The detailed list of questions and aptitude tests in the workbook helped the students to not only discover their talents but also gave them several options of what their future looks like. The encyclopedias helped them to learn more about their chosen careers while also letting them discover some unusual ones they may never have imagined.

Secondary school is a huge defining moment in everyone’s life, and one wrong move can have disastrous consequences for the future. While students these days have so many career choices at their disposal, it also makes it very easy to make mistakes without the right guidance. This is where the alumni come in. Becoming an alumni mentor enables them to provide guidance, and the students to gain insight and understanding of their future chosen career path. With the right resources, an alumni mentor can become one of the most important and positive influencers in a student’s life.

This is what the alumni had to say after the career day:

‘’In my brief interaction with Careerpedia, I am fully convinced that this is a resource that the alumni of EVERY SCHOOL should make sure the school has. With the detailed approach it takes in guiding students in making the best career choices, while also showing them all the options available to them…I don’t know how far some of us would be now if we had Careerpedia back when we were in high school.’’

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