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Life After Campus: Perception vs Reality

Life After Campus: Perception vs Reality

It breaks my heart every time I look at the smiles on the faces of family, friends, and students who score straight A’s. I wish they could fast-forward their lives so they can see the realities ahead of them.
Image result for ugandans lining up for job interviews
3 years after clearing campus, you haven’t landed a job. Your unemployment status has not been due to lack of initiative. You have applied for literally all jobs even those remotely related to what you pursued in college. Over hundred job applications sent yet only two firms invited you for an interview. The first job interview was a sham, from how the officials conducted themselves it was clear they had already picked their preferred candidates before the process began.
The second interview was full of drama. You arrived at the recruitment center at UMA showgrounds for the UBOS job at 7 am only to find about eight hundred candidates at the gate. The officials arrived two hours later, gathered you all at the parking lot where a man in his mid-forties addressed the crowd of Ugandans eager to land a job. He went on about the qualities they look for in a candidate and how great it is working with UBOS. All this time, you stood there, reciting answers to questions frequently asked in job interviews, like where do you see yourself in five years? Seriously how do you answer that when you have no idea of where you will be in a week? Suddenly, everyone except you bolts for the main entrance to the building. Young, old, men and women, in suits carrying brown envelopes with impressive CVs and academic papers, turned to savages, tearing at each other trying to be the first into the building. Are we under a terrorist attack? If so why are people running into the building and not away from it?
You decided to run along with the crowd. On getting into the building you meet a bunch of people, shirts ripped off, elbows grazed and a few missing a shoe. After inquiring for a while about whats happening, a lady about your age fills you in. Apparently, while you were engrossed deep in thought, the recruitment manager explained to the crowd the first test. The test involved racing up the stairs to 5th floor. The first one hundred to get to the fifth floor would sail through to the second phase of the interview while the rest would go home. You went home a dejected man, unable to understand how running up the stairs could make one a better employee.
Image result for ugandans lining up for job interviews
You try calling a couple of people on your phonebook. Nobody picks up. They all know u are not in positions of power and influence hence they don’t see the need of hanging around you.
Reality hits you, you are all alone just like you started only that you are now old, unemployed and neck-deep in debt.
Starting out as a creative in Uganda is tough. No one is willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. The few who do, don’t pay you a dime. They throw in the infamous line, “We are giving you a platform that will give you the exposure needed to grow your brand.” They say this with a straight face you would imagine exposure is a new cryptocurrency, never mind they will be making money off your art.
The family doesn’t make it an easier.
They think you are blinded by teenage infatuations worsened by a rebellious attitude, hoping that you will soon get back to your senses. Relatives, lecturers & mentors wonder what went wrong. Trying to explain to them what you do for a living is pointless. “Someone pays you to play with your computer all day?” Financial institutions are not ecstatic about helping your business grow since they simply don’t understand the creative industry.
not even this govt that is trying to put taxes on everything.
Driven by passion and a strong conviction to change the world you refuse to lead an ordinary life, working for a company you loath under toxic bosses all for a steady paycheck at the end of the month. Your friends loudly complain about it but lack the courage to leave their cushy jobs in pursuit of their dreams citing that they need to pay bills.
Cash inflow is unpredictable. You are clawing and scratching to survive. Your parents who are on the verge of disowning you pressure you to get a real job, make lots of money before you can pursue your dreams.
You pray and hope for a big break, however, it has been three years without a sign of success. You feel a tinge of jealousy whenever you scroll through Facebook only to see your former college mates doing so well in every aspect of their lives while you are struggling to make ends meet.
Most nights you lay awake wondering whether you are indeed insane, misguided and an idiot like they say you are.
After struggling to establish yourself for several months without success you hit rock bottom. Frustrated, discouraged and disillusioned you decide to give it one last try before calling it quits.
After dropping as many applications and CVs in different companies you are finally invited to an interview at some Nation media Center. A senior manager stumbled upon your CV and was impressed by its content. After a lengthy discussion, he asks you to create a newspaper written piece about a show on Nation radio that would delve into careers mainly targeting campus students. The deal is that if you prove your worth, u would be absorbed into one of the biggest print media in East and Central Africa.
The offer comes at a time when you are recovering from the loss of your 2nd business.
You desperately need to prove your worth to yourself and to the world.  you take the offer and sign a crappy 3 months contract.The following month sees hundreds of highly talented company employees laid off unceremoniously. Under the tutelage of the senior staff you get to learn so much about writing and newspaper editing, The newspaper ratings take a hit
And when the last quarter of the year results are released, The companies market share double with your editorial section being the most creative. you are excited that the sacrifice, late nights and new strategy you single-handedly developed finally bore fruits.
For a couple of weeks, you work to 9pm every night and through weekends to come up with solid and creative concepts. you write proposals to potential sponsors, set up meetings with vice-chancellors of universities across Uganda and coordinated various activities leading to the successful launch of a Youth segment in print media
The earliest you get home is from 10pm monday to friday.
You meet your immediate supervisor and boss seeking to improve the terms of your contract. you are a frustrated and overworked young man trying to curve a niche in the cooperate world. you outline all the work you are putting in and the milestones you have achieved so far. However, the two make it very clear that they are doing you a favor. They go ahead and suggested that you quit if you don’t see it that way.
your first instincts are to walk out and never go back after all you are multi-talented. Nonetheless, you choose to think about it once your anger subsidize.

That is when you realize that if you left at that very moment your absence wouldn’t be felt.

you are underpaid for the next 10 months. your friends and family think you are insane.
Why would you put in so much work to a company that clearly does not value you or even pays you less for all work-related trips from your own pockets?
Well, you did because you wanted to acquire corporate discipline,

 Due to lack of pay and motivation creating art for your brand becomes increasingly difficult as the company you work for demands value for every dollar spent on you taking up all your time and energy.demotivated by lack of pay and the need to please your sponsors your art begins to lose its soul. Meanwhile, other young and hungry creatives are plotting to take over the industry. Nonetheless, it doesn’t worry you since you are getting famous with a few of your articles making it in print media.you are now a celebrity because of your articles.
Fame comes with lots of perks. You no longer have to queue, explain who you are plus you get invitations to all the hippest parties happening around the city complete with a reserved table, food, and drinks on the house.
What you didn’t know is that the more famous you get the lonelier you become. You have an image to maintain this means no matter what problems you are going through you can’t show or tell the world. You regularly post pictures of you in fancy joints smiling broadly plus an inspirational quote.
Deep inside you are sad. You crave for human connection. A steady stream of meaningless sex does not fill this void. See everyone around wants something from you. You have no real friends. Those who claim to be your friends are only eager to profit from your relationship. They use your name to get dates, business deals, and privileges that accompany it. “I know people bwana. Last night, I was drinking with Abraynz who is a very good friend of mine and a designer …” You are a simply a strategic alliance. A credit card without a limit.
When you act like a moron, they just smile at you. Nobody wants to jeopardize the good relationship they have with you. No one is real with you. Even when you tell a stale joke they all laugh like you are Charlie Chaplin.
You begin drinking more than usual, smoke more than you should and start taking a concoction of synthetic drugs to numb the sadness and loneliness. It is all fun until you have to down a glass full of the hard stuff before breakfast and another before you go to bed. Since you are a celebrity, you can’t get caught taking cheap liquor or hanging out in shady joints so you take premium brands of alcohol which burn a gaping hole through your wallet. You ask for a salary advance almost every month to keep up appearances.
One morning you find out that the company you work for is trending top on Twitter. On checking the trend you find a press release announcing retrenchment of fifty employees citing tough economic times and digital disruption. Unfortunately, you are on that list. Keyboard warriors are having a blast celebrating your downfall. They gleefully rub it on your face. The worst part is that the company you have dedicated most your adult life to wouldn’t allow you past the reception now that you are fired.
Unlike other professions, creatives have no trade unions to champion their welfare, no job security or structures in place to help them save for retirement. Younger and more talented creatives who connect better with the newer generation are working overdrive to take the spotlight away from you. Therefore, constantly reinvent yourself otherwise you will fade out into oblivion.
That said, avoid spending all your money on maintaining an image or pleasing fake friends because when things go south, they will all abandon you without a shred of guilt on their conscience. Invest your money wisely and plan for the future because fame doesn’t last forever.
A few years ago, I was standing on the edge of a cliff next to this waterfall. Moments before a lady and two guys in the expedition group jumped off the cliff without the slightest hesitation. It was now my turn to make the jump. A crowd of more than 50 hikers was watching from the sides in anticipation. Uneasy, silence followed. Every single flash of the camera pushed my racing heart a notch higher.
I took a step back. Just as I was about to jump the tour guide stopped me.
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Yes…How deep is it?”
“This is the deepest pool around here. There are lots protruding rocks, sharp roots and sticky mud, please don’t jump in if you are not a great swimmer.”
“Last year, I saw two people die right here. One of them jumped in just like you are about to at 10 am. We retrieved his body at 3 pm,” the guide continued.
The only other time I felt this scared was the very first time I quit a job.
It is sad how shackles of employment suppress many of our dreams because we are afraid of losing the few benefits that come with our jobs. We are scared of challenging the status quo. We are mortified by the thought of venturing out of our the comfort zone. Sometimes that steady paycheck is the only thing standing between you and greatness.
I know a good number of people who are running a small business on the side that has the potential of growing into a profitable empire.
Unfortunately, they deliberately limit its growth so they can keep their day job. Unless forced by circumstances, they may never get to make hard choices that really allow them to achieve their full potential.
Needless to say, I dived off that cliff into the icy pool of water below at least six times. Just like with everything in life, the first time was scary as hell but it got easier with every successive dive. Hidden on a bend right across the pool was the most magnificent scene I have ever laid my eyes on.
It is now your turn to make up your mind. Are you going to jump into the treacherous pool, swim across to the enchanting view or let the tour guide, shackles of employment and fear of the unknown discourage you from becoming what you are truly meant to be?
or are you willing to take the risk and do both?
Written by: Juuko.M.Acram (acramist.wordpress.com)

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Tracie Mugisha is a lovey-dovey prying eye pursuing her Bachelor's degree at Makerere University while capturing all the news and gossip happening around campus.

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