How to adapt your career to changes in employment

Gachagua lifted the lid on joblessness and need to be creative

In Summary

• Expert says 'AI will not replace you. Someone who uses AI effectively will'

Image: OZONE

He is well known for speaking abrasively. That day, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua lived up to his reputation when he told university graduates there were no jobs waiting for them.

"I am an honest man, I don't want to sit here and lie to you that we have jobs for you. These jobs we are going to create together with you," Gachagua said on June 23, while presiding over a graduation ceremony at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Critics condemned the DP for being insensitive to the plight of the several hundred thousand mostly young people getting into the labour pool each year. On the other side, his admirers countered that the DP was being honest about a situation that is obvious to most Kenyans.

World Bank statistics put the official unemployment rate in Kenya at 5.5 per cent in 2022. In reality, about 85 per cent of working-age Kenyans are in the informal sector, which is characterised by low wages, lack of health cover, long hours and lack of job stability.

Only 15 per cent of Kenyan workers are formally employed in government and the private sector. Formal sector jobs are much sought after because they offer higher wages, a much better working environment and additional benefits such as health insurance, maternity and paternity leaves and house allowances.

As the formal sector clearly cannot absorb all jobseekers, there's increased attention on small and micro-enterprises to generate self-employment. Indeed, 50 per cent of employees across the world work in SMEs, according to a World Bank article.

For individuals wanting to get into business, various challenges exist, such as the lack of finances, lack of experience, difficulties competing with established businesses and a myriad of government regulations and taxes. It's hard getting a job, but it's also hard running a business.

The era of permanent jobs is slowly coming to an end. The average person will change jobs several times during his or her career. Circumstances may also require a shift between employment and self-employment, depending on available opportunities. In such a topsy-turvy world, how can a typical jobseeker stand out from the crowd?


It's hard to imagine that there are people who are yet to use a computer in these digital times, but Angela Muthusi, 23, is one of them. A recent graduate in hospitality studies, Angela is looking for a job in the hotel industry but has never used a computer.

"I hope someone can teach me computer packages because I did not get a chance while I was schooling," Angela says. She fears that the lack of computer skills will hamper her chances of getting employment.

Digital literacy is more than knowing how to type and use a mouse. The World Economic Forum (WEF) says employability is trending towards artificial intelligence, robotics and inter-connected technologies.

"Organisations across all sectors, from agribusiness, finance and manufacturing to media, are evolving into technology companies," WEF explains in its 'Future of Work' report.

At a basic level, jobseekers who know how to use digital technology to sell goods and services (marketing) will have an edge over the rest. Data analysis, knowing how to communicate with digital platforms and competency with online collaborative tools are useful skills.

At an advanced level, people who know coding, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are highly sought after. "AI will not replace you. Someone who uses AI effectively will," Tayo Oyedeji, a financial adviser, says.


Now in his 50s, Jones Mliwa was a telecommunications technician until he and his colleagues were sent off on early retirement a decade ago. The company no longer needed experts in maintaining landlines.

With his retrenchment package, Mliwa took a course in plumbing. Today, he makes a living as a plumber, sometimes getting contracts with NGOs and the water supply company in his area. His story is an example of a successful career switch.

Recruitment firm BrighterMonday says technological change is making certain jobs, such as Mliwa's former career, redundant. Affected individuals will have to move into another career to survive. Other reasons that force workers to change careers include burnout, evolving personal aspirations, lack of opportunities and a shift in one's interests.

"Effective career change demands that you get guidance and support to learn the ropes, either through coaching and mentorship, going back to school or shadowing someone in the role," the recruitment firm advises.


One of the tactics adopted by jobseekers is to send many unsolicited job applications with the hopes that at least one of them will result in a job offer. Career experts, however, warn that unsolicited job applications hardly ever yield results. Without a pending vacancy, human resource officers don't look at those applications. Most end up in the trash.

If you are a jobseeker, York University (Canada) recommends adopting a targeted job application strategy. Create a list of jobs you would enjoy doing.

Next, find out where those jobs are available. If you find a vacancy, do a bit of research about the employer then write a polished job application. Tweak your cover letter and CV to show how you fit into the job requirements listed in the vacancy notice. It is better to do a few strong job applications instead of many weak ones.


A career decision can make or break your future. Though it is never too late in life to make a change, it can take a very long time to recover from the consequences of a wrong career decision. Whether you are just out of school or an established professional, it pays to arm yourself with the right information before making a career move.

If you don't have a mentor, talk to professionals in your career specialisation before making a big decision. Before you join a new employer or a training institution, find out as much as you can about the place before you become part of it. The information you need can come from current or former employees, former students and online reviews.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star