In the wake of the recent government survey that found that 93 percent of all graduates cannot find a job, I wish to comfort recent grads on the street that you are not the first, neither are you the last. When I completed my course in 2006 at MUK (Makerere University Kampala), I, like thousands I had finished with ‘went on the street’.
There are many unconventional things I did to find a job that would sound unbelievable to many. I once stormed a popular Consultant’s office and swore to him that I would not leave unless he gave me a job as his research assistant, regaling him with how good I was and how he would forever regret not hiring me if he let me go. I remember he offered me one, at sh20,000 per day for a short contract he had.
He would later give me more gigs, and trust me to the point that I could write his reports and analytical papers to his clients, with him doing only minor edits occasionally. I was comforted by the fact that he trusted my abilities that much. We laugh about it every time I meet him now – I remind him how he was paying me a ‘slave wage’ then and how he currently can’t ‘afford me’. But 20k a day was not a ridiculous sum then).
I always loved writing and even though I didn’t do ‘MassCom’ (Mass Communication), I really knew I was a writer or a journalist. So I decided to pitch my state of joblessness to an employer as a possible job opportunity. I proactively wrote to the editor of one of the major dailies asking him to give me a column where I would write my escapades as a job-seeker for his readers’ pleasure or education.
When he asked me to prove what a good writer I was, I sent him five episodes right away as he was worried that if he made me a regular columnist I would later ‘run dry’. The column, for some of you who remember it, was titled: “A Job-seeker’s diary.” I wrote it under a nom de guerre (pseudonym or Alias) Ben Sabite. I knew the Sunday column had many fans here and abroad from the feedback I used to get.
I wrote that column for over two years, before it was ended. I kept writing it even after I got jobs. Now, I archived all the columns which as you can imagine are a sizable volume now (600 words every Sunday). I am now thinking of reviewing the manuscript, updating it for events accuracy, contextualization, and time-lapse harmonization and publishing it as a dossier on the cancer that has become graduate unemployment in Uganda.
Whereas, the Newspaper started paying me a stipend after a while, I really didn’t care as I enjoyed writing that little column. Most readers thought it was fiction, which in part it was but besides changing names of people and employers for privacy, a lot of what I wrote was actually happening to me as I looked for a job in Kampala and beyond.
Rude front office attendants, ‘technical know who’ shenanigans, and the poverty and desperation of being out of work, such as when I couldn’t take my then girlfriend out for an evening of fun. To cut the story short, I would later get many job offers and at some point would even agonise over which one to take.
I have never got a job because of so called ‘connections.’ Every job I’ve ever got I got on merit.
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The text and photos herein we derived from Mr. Bernard Sabiti’s Facebook Wall. Whereas, Mr. Sabiti is now a very successful consultant, we decided to share and to publish his testimony on our website because it is directly relevant to the stakeholders of our project: “Challenging Categories: Educated Unemployed Youth as Institutional Innovators in Rural Uganda.” Importantly also, we believe Sabiti’s experience speaks directly to the young adults whom we are mentoring under our project: “Mentoring Young Adults into Innovators Against Poverty.” Mr. Sabiti’s life story is the more relevant to us, since there seems to be nothing he has not done, innovating to better his lot and to contribute to the bettering of life for his wider communities. Yes, he in fact also did context for political office in 2011, five years after graduating from university.