How retrenchment made me an employer
Sunday, August 9th, 2020 11:00 | 3 mins read
When NJERI MUCHINA lost her job in 2018, she had to learn how to survive. Known as the graduate who cleans, she used the skills learnt cleaning people’s offices for measly sums to land cleaning contracts and be an employer. She tells us her story.
“I studied social work in school, graduated with good grades and landed this sign language job with a major media house in the country.
I had made it,I thought, especially since I was in a niche and marketable field of sign language where demand was high yet we were just a few to begin with,” Njeri starts.
She adds that like many employed people she reveled in the regular paycheck, but soon learnt it was a false sense of security: that salaried employees feel confident that the next pay cheque is guaranteed when it is really not.
And just like many Kenyans, she started a side hustle, a wines and spirits outlet, in Ruaka to supplement her salary.
But then the unexpected happen; in March 2018, the media company she worked for conducted layoffs, and she was among those who lost jobs.
Needless to say, the business suffered and she wallowed in despair and self-pity in the house for close to seven months.
“Being jobless was a new experience for me, having been employed since I was 19.
I blamed myself, friends and family who I thought should have done better and been there for me.
It was only at the tail end of this long pity party that I realised I am responsible for me and no one was coming to save me. I had to save myself,” she says.
In hindsight, that period was necessary. It taught her lessons no one teaches in schools: that the world owes her nothing, and that we, as a people, should stop expecting it to be fair.
She had friends she had helped set up businesses, get jobs, was close to, yet they deserted her in her hour of need.
It taught her the importance of not gauging others using yourself as a yard stick; she would never let a friend starve, but that choice was now not up to her.
The time also made her realise everyone is going through something, and that expecting them to take care of you was neither altruistic nor realistic.
It taught her everyone has the capacity to push past the greatest boundaries they thought they were incapable of doing, that with enough willpower one can blast past any obstacle whether it is redundancy, a failed business or simply a workplace with a toxic culture.
After the said seven months, the last of which was spent reading the Bible, she was ready to do anything to survive.
A friend would send her for an insurance sales job interview. On realising it was not a salaried position, and being an introvert, made her chances of making nil every month, she opted to clean people’s offices.
Charging Sh50 at each shop would see her make a guaranteed sum of Sh500 daily if she cleaned10 offices.
She had to stand comments about being a graduate yet cleaning people’s places for meagre sums of money.
She did not mind, she knew pride would not feed her or alleviate her hardships.
She cleaned offices to the best of her abilities, and in the process, earned many referrals that she needed help.
She trained a few women to help her out and soon a company she would later register was born.
She landed her first cleaning contract for a hospital in Meru, but she would later bag other contracts, forcing her to diversify services her company offered to such as laundry pickup, cleaning and drop off.
Today she maintains the same work ethic: reliability, hard work and meeting clients’ standards and specifications.
“I believe I would not be at the place I am today had I not gone through that hard period in 2018.
Retrenchment taught me about having real friends and discerning between real friendships and just friends whom you hang out with.
It also taught me that so long as you stop that pity party and start doing something, anything at all, your breakthrough shall come.
To all those who may have lost their jobs, or their businesses may not be bringing in much, I am sorry that you have to go through that.
But do not despair. Keep moving. Whatever you do, just do not stop to feel sorry for yourself and wallow in that space. You are your own saviour,” Njeri says in conclusion.