About 40 years ago, I was faced with the decision that thousands of students are faced with each year, the same decision that I have seen many of my students battle with. Career choices, the answer to the question “what career do I want to pursue?” is not always an easy one to reach. Times were different when I was a young woman and when considering what to do at the University, we did not have a selection of hundreds of courses like many students have today. The well-known and favoured degrees were Law, Medicine, Teaching and Engineering.
I toyed with the idea of Law because at the time it was thought to be quite prestigious to study law. Engineering crossed my mind, but only briefly, at the time, this was not truly considered a line for women and finally, after deep thought, I chose teaching, I felt that this was my calling and this is what I have done passionately for decades. There have been days over the years where I have sat down and thought that teaching was the best choice for me, a wonderfully fulfilling career However, there have been other times I have sat at my desk wondering why I decided to become a teacher, difficult moments when I have felt ready to down my tools and find something else to do.
Faced with long days setting exams, grading papers, meeting with disgruntled parents who are unhappy about their children’s performance or speaking to students who are perhaps going through a difficult phase and are consequently not reaching their academic capacity. Such days can leave anyone feeling drained and heavy hearted, but one thing I tell my girls is “do not let hurt or disappointment and little annoyances linger on your spirit for long”. Disappointment and disillusionment are a part of life, we all experience them at some point and whichever line of work you choose, you can be sure that some days will be wonderful but others will be difficult. What is important is that you do not let it cripple you or hold you back. Cry about it if you need to, vent to family or friends and then make a conscious decision to leave the bad days behind and move forward without the burden of disappointment and frustration on your back.
On the good days, I am reminded why teaching was the right path for me. Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet and mentor extra ordinary young talented girls. I have got to know them, guide many through the battles of growing up and I would like to think that I have positively influenced their lives, even if it may have been only in a small or indirect way. It gives me great satisfaction and joy to meet a young mother who says “Mrs. Akivaga you taught me 25 years ago…I am happy that you will also teach my daughter” or when I meet my former students when I am up and about in Nairobi each with a different story about what career path they decided to pursue and where it led them, within Kenya and all over the world. Many fulfilled, content, happy and others reevaluating their career choices and deciding to make a change.
Career possibilities are endless nowadays. Whether you are interested in the formal or informal sector, Kenyan and international universities, colleges and technical schools offer hundreds of attractive courses and there is something for everyone. What is important is for you to have an internal dialogue with yourself, question yourself, your interests and strengths. Where do your true interests lie? Is it in teaching, medicine, farming, art and interior design, engineering, law, music, event planning, finance, tailoring and fashion, architecture…the list is endless. Medicine might be a noble and prestigious career but if you are sickened by the sight and smell of blood, remind yourself, you not only have to get through medical school where you have to work on cadavers, but also this will be your life for years to come, you must therefore not only be able to bear it, but also find happiness and satisfaction in your choice.
We sometimes question why some people pick certain lines of work. A mortician for instance, why would anyone want to work with dead bodies day in day out, the mortician on the other hand looks at a teacher and questions why anyone would want to battle with students. Why indeed! We each have our calling. So I urge you, as you choose your careers, choose it for the right reasons. .not because it is what your parents want, not because your best friend has selected a certain line and you believe you will have a wonderful time at university together. Choose your path after careful reflection so that you can find fulfilment in your career and if years down the line you are unhappy or simply dissatisfied and need a change, you can still say with confidence “at the time I chose this path, I made an informed decision and felt that this was the best choice for me, but now, I would like to transition to something else”. I wish you all the best as you make this important decision.