2021 has shown up giving us a sense of relief…
Or has it?
2020 was just something else…
But the past year has opened up our minds in ways we could never have imagined…
We have realized how easy it is to lose a job.
How tough it is to stay at home…
And how painful it is to lose a loved one.
For some of us, we have had to venture into new territories by seeking out what we can do apart from our normal jobs and businesses.
Which brings me to the point about skills.
This word is often tossed around by HR gurus as one of the keys to land that golden opportunity.
But it doesn’t come cheap and easy.
Take for instance my own story as a farmer.
I thought I knew it all when I started chicken farming but little did I know what was coming.
As a farmer in a very turbulent sector prone to price fluctuations on chicken feeds, I needed to be equipped with knowledge to improve on my chicken rearing skills.
But it took someone else to notice my need: my agrovet shopkeeper.
He was the one selling me the chicken feeds I needed so much to keep my business on the move.
I remember the day he handed me a pamphlet to a free training for poultry farmers (with lunch included😊).
I realized that there was much more that I didn’t know about chicken farming.
And I must say that this training made me a better chicken farmer.
Where am I going with this?
Sometimes you may need others to help you identify your skill gap.
Remember, as you venture into your trade, you will be competing in the global arena filled with experienced gurus who can knock you off your tracks in no time.
Which is why skills are necessary.
Are you starting off in a new venture…
A new job…
A new business…
Or testing your new found skills…
Understand the skill gaps that you have and you’ll be miles ahead of many who pretend to ‘know-it-all’.
Several points matter in this regard.
First, arm yourself with a mentor in your line of expertise.
It may be a person you look up to actively…
Or someone you often bump into who is more experienced in the line of work (much like the case of my agrovet shopkeeper).
A mentor points you towards the right direction helping you to avoid unnecessary pitfalls.
Second, take that step and venture out.
What do I mean?
If you discover that you have a need, you seek to meet it.
Seek out for opportunities that will help you gain your required skill.
Maybe a professional course…
an academic engagement (yes academic papers are good especially if you start with the need and not just the prestige of having a degree)…
or even apprenticeships.
Let me talk a bit about apprenticeships or what we call ‘Jua Kali’ kind of jobs today.
Though frowned upon by many of us who are learned, apprenticeship offers are available to all and sundry only if we are willing to learn.
But the key point here is not to be so obsessed with getting paid but instead to begin with learning.
Apprenticeships are not for those who desire to make a quick buck but for those who have made a decision to pursue a certain line of work.
That way, they have time to learn from the gurus.
In many ways, jobs that thrive through apprenticeships include vocational ones such as electricians, mechanics, carpentry, masonry, food/beverage, salonists etc…
But just like apprenticeships, academic papers can help in fulfilling the need for a skill.
But to use them effectively, there is need for a different paradigm.
Why do we register for academic courses?
Is it for a job promotion?
Is it for prestige?
Before registering for any academic course, ask yourself how it will help you meet a skill gap in your current occupation or business.
That way, you’ll not be wasting your precious time on a course that will give you marginal benefit.
Skill gaps matter because they reveal to us what we need to do to improve on what we are doing.
But we need to start with identifying them before we take the next step whether it is seeking for apprenticeship or training.