Do you have the skills to keep your job?

In today’s dynamic job market, the need to have a unique skill(s) cannot be emphasized enough. New work models are cropping up like freelancing, where employees don’t have to necessarily sit at a desk to work for an organisation. Within many companies, teams are learning to be more agile, to work with distributed and remote workers, and adapt to the ever changing market.

It’s unfortunate that in Africa, the education system has failed to follow suite with the changing work models. The system remains rigid and doesn’t encourage students to be creative. Consequently, when graduates get into the job market, they can hardly secure a placement given the stiff competition. The idea of becoming job-creators through different start-ups is also too alien to pursue. Given that individual efforts can only do much to change the school system, you have to be intentional about acquiring new skills outside of it.

Well, for those currently working, you shouldn’t get so comfortable in your jobs either. A recent research by the World Economic Forum shows that the Half-Life of a job-skill is about 5 years. This means that the skill you have right now will be half as valuable in the next five years. So, it’s important to keep re-skilling yourself as you prepare for the future market.

The first step is to ask yourself these questions:

1. What unique skills do I have?  2Are those skills relevant in the job market today?  3.What skills will be in demand five years from now?

Based on your response to the above questions, start making deliberate efforts to skill and re-skill yourself. Make good use of the resources you have now so that you can improve your marketability in the years to come.

Thanks for reading, until next time…

The Homerun: If you’re willing, then it’s possible.

The homerun obstacle race was scheduled for late last month and I was so looking forward to it. Unfortunately, a few days prior to the race I got sick and started second guessing my participation. This run was meant to demonstrate the challenges that refugees face while fleeing their home countries, usually in small families. Some of the challenges included delays in documentation, language barrier, tiresome routes, hostile and unfamiliar cultures. Manoeuvring through barbed wire fences, climbing over walls, crawling through muddy fields were also simulated.

The day before the race, just after deciding not to participate, I got a pep-talk from a close friend who successfully convinced me to change my mind. However, there was one problem, I didn’t have a family to run with. “Hey James, am looking for a team, can I join yours?” a colleague asked me. “Hey, I don’t have one, but we could create our own.” I responded. “Cool, let’s do that.” he added. A minute or two later, four ladies walk up to us and say; “Hey guys, is it alright if you adopt us into your family?” “Yes, of course!” we were quick to respond. We then formed an adopted family named it Samuka and hit the road.

During the race, there were times when I felt like sprinting but some family members were exhausted. So, we all had to reduce our pace and run as a family. At some point, it became more of a home walk given that we resorted to walk a good portion of the distance. Then came the obstacles! Hardly could we hold our breaths, when we encountered the next obstacle. Our mental strength was challenged, our bodies were pushed to the limit, we got agitated, but we’re willing to go all the way. When we couldn’t sprint, we jogged, when we couldn’t jog, we walked, when we couldn’t walk, well, we rested a bit, the ladies took a couple of selfies then we marched on.

Just when we thought the obstacles were done, there was the mud-crawl looking right in our faces. The whole family was quite skeptical about doing the mud-crawl given that some of us didn’t have a change of clothes, and the thought of walking through town all muddy was simply unbearable. Luckily, one of us had a change of heart and decided to take one for the family. Inspite of the occasional hiccups along the way, we managed to reach the finish line because we were willing.

Obstacles and hurdles that are often times impossible to anticipate disorganize our plans and divert us from our goals. Nevertheless, we should be flexible enough to adjust our plans whenever necessary, be willing to extend a helping hand and take one for the team. Above all, we need to develop a character of resilience, an attitude of never giving up.

It’s not how many obstacles we may hit and fall that matter, but how many times we are willing to get back up when we do.

If you’re willing, then it’s possible!

Until next time…

Development starts from within us.

I usually take walks along the streets of Kampala everyday after work. Last Friday proved to be one of a kind, mostly because I was accompanied by an enchanting and brilliant young lady. Momentarily, a conversation ensued between us in which I got fully immersed. Just across the street, there sat an able bodied man who was clad in rugged clothes with arms stretched out begging the passers-by. “Mpaako kikumi!!” (Give me one hundred shillings!!)” He repeatedly begged. “Ariz, do you think that guy over there has aspirations for the future?” I asked Ariz signalling towards his direction. “Uhmm, I highly doubt that, at least based on what I see.” Ariz responded. “Honestly speaking, I think having aspirations for his future, let alone pursuing them is the last thing on his mind. All he cares about right now is his next meal and possibly where he’s going to spend the night.” She added.

When I saw this guy begging, it got me thinking of the many young men and women in Uganda and across Africa who relate with him in one way or another. Some even have the privilege of University education but are still indifferent from the street man. They are sitted on their potential gifts and talents at home doing nothing productive. Apparently, most youths believe that personal development is a waste of time and energy. This is largely because of the mindset they have adopted from their societies. They don’t value their self worth and also don’t have mentors to emulate in that regard. Therefore, the whole idea of building human capital is an aspect so alien to pursue.

Personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop skills and talents, facilitate employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realisation of dreams and aspirations. These activities are more often than not disguised in service, that is, opting to be selfless inspite of the qualifications and certificates that we hold. I believe that we ought to look beyond ourselves, because the abilities that we possess aren’t for us to just keep in our minute and pocket-sized worlds, but rather to give of ourselves and create a positive difference in our localities and in the lives of those we are privileged enough to encounter.

When we begin to serve with a passion regardless of the field we are in, the need for personal development becomes inevitable. That way, we become vessels of change and a means to development rather than an end in itself. Better yet, pursuing something bigger than self opens doors for a great yearning coupled by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom. Eventually, development becomes an adventure worth taking on.

An orator once said; “To every individual, there comes that one opportune moment when you are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and given a task specifically tailored to your gifts and talents. What a shame when that moment finds you unprepared or unqualified!”

In which category do you belong?

Until next time…

The state of Economics today.

I am always fascinated by the prospect of discovering a new definition of economics and its role in shaping the dynamics of our society. Some of you are probably still caught up in a maze of figuring out what this phenomenon called “Economics” actually is.

A number of people perceive it differently and so have varying views on this subject. Some say economics is a way of life, others say its a science that enables society to utilise scarce resources by making decisions based on individual preferences.

When asked, a colleague of mine just narrowed it down to being some complex subject having lots of incomprehensible jargon, that is apparently only meant for the “elite economist!” Well, I beg to defer. I believe that economics is meant for everybody. From the lady vending maize along the streets to the tycoon owning a number of shopping malls in town, from the illiterate kid digging somewhere in a shamba to the rich kid anxiously waiting for the release of IPhone 8! The only difference is that all these individuals look at economics through varying lenses.

Recently, while chatting with some friends of mine, an interesting topic came up involving economics, its evolution and subsequent impact on our society over the years. We were later on joined by a fellow who was quite learned and knowledgeable in economics based on the thoughts he shared. What stood out for me was his argument that economic knowledge without political power in this day and age is hardly effective. He then posed an intriguing question; “Is economics dead?” To which we all responded almost in unison “No! Ofcourse not!” “Economics cannot die, it’s part of life!” One of us added.

In my humble opinion, economics has been put in an ideological box and maliciously suffocated by the major players who use power backed by their selfish and myopic interests. As a result, key policy decisions that affect the multitudes are taken by the minority.

Ironically, most of the interest groups have no clue that this is happening!

Until next time…

Poor spending habits: A major cause of the vicious cycle of borrowing.

Yesterday, I came across a very interesting article in the Daily Monitor Newspaper regarding peoples’ spending habits. I found it related to my previous article titled “Living within our means for a better tomorrow” and was therefore prompted to share it with you this day.

The phrase, “Failing to make ends meet ” is common in Uganda and it means that a person has got into a pattern where their income does not cover the money they spend month after month. In our book, “Make Sense of Your Money” we describe this situation as having more months at the end of the money- meaning the salary gets finished several days before the next pay cheque. 

Recently, a group of people attending a personal money management course that I was facilitating shared with me their major spending mistakes;

Living above means was a major spending mistake mentioned, for instance having expenses to an amount that is twice your income. Another was relying on anticipated income i.e one of the participants said his biggest spending mistake arose out of spending money in anticipation of future income. However, the most common mistake was  the “What will people say syndrome” where several participants said their spending mistake was that they spent money out of fear of the opinion of other people and they cited several examples to illustrate this issue. By James Abola.

Astala vista…

Integrity: A virtue essential for personal and national economic development.

Yesterday, I was part of a market place convention held in Kampala, Uganda. This convention is held once every year and brings together Christians from different walks of life in the job market. For instance, some of the companies that were represented included Renault car company,Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA), to mention but a few.

The theme for the night was Facing the Giants with the guest speaker being Mrs. Angela Kirabwire from Capital Markets Authority, Uganda. This convention is aimed at empowering christians with knowledge and skills required to prosper and leave a mark in whichever field they encounter. It also offers an opportunity for people to interact, network, and make connections in the job market.

Individuals who have been in the field of work for a long time (20 years or so) are given a platform to share their stories and experience in the job market. They also talk about the challenges encountered, how they handled them, as well as the crucial lessons learnt in the due process. This is meant to provide mentorship to the young graduates and those just starting out in their careers.

Mrs. Angela Kirabwire took the stage and put the theme of the night “Facing the Giants” into context using her story of about 20 years in the job market. She ably illustrated various scenarios in which she had been put in very compromising situations involving graft, bribery and corruption in its ultimate description. Angella then added that she stood firm by her values of Integrity inspite of the insurmountable consequences.

She later on emphasised the importance of giving our best and working diligently however small the tasks at hand seem to be. This lays a firm foundation on which we can slowly and progressively build our careers.

True economic development starts with people in the economy, and Integrity is a core value eessential for personal development.

If only every individual were to steward their resources faithfully, our economy would grow and develop exponentially!

Planting trees: A huge leap towards fighting climate change.

As trees grow, they help to stop climate change by removing carbondioxide from the air, storing the carbondioxide in the leaves and soil, as well as releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Trees provide many benefits to us every day, they offer cooling shades, attract birds and wildlife, purify our air, prevent soil erosion, clean our water, and add grace and beauty to our homes and communities.

A short term move to enhance food security.

Inorder to decrease the risk of highly volatile prices, price regulation on commodities and larger cereal stocks should be created to buffer the tight markets of food commodities and subsequent risks of speculation in markets.

This includes reorganizing the food market infrastructure and institutions to regulate food prices and provide food safety nets aimed at alleviating the impact of rising food prices and food shortage, including both direct and indirect transfers, such as a global fund to support micro-finance to boost small-scale farmer productivity. The Environmental Food Crisis

Being innovative and adapting to the changing times.

We ought to support farmers in developing diversified and resilient eco-agriculture systems that provide critical ecosystem services (water supply and regulation, habitat for wild plants and animals genetic diversity, pollination, pest control, climate regulation), as well as adequate food to meet local and consumer needs.

This also includes managing extreme rainfall and using inter-cropping to minimize dependency on external inputs like artificial fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation water and the development, implementation and support of green technology for small-scale farmers. The Environmental Food Crisis.

Could post harvest preservation systems be a remedy to food shortage?

Food waste contributes greatly to world hunger. One solution includes placing a greater emphasis on post-harvest food preservation methods such as solar refridgeration, intelligent packaging and creating a world food preservation center. Charles. L. Wilson, Ph.D