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By Irene Best Nyapendi
As she waits to graduate, Doreen Mbabazi Naiga is already giving back to Uganda Christian University (UCU) through equipping the continuing students with what most call “soft” but nevertheless vital skills. Naiga, who will receive her Bachelor of Laws degree when she graduates in July, partnered with Solomon Esadu, also a student pursuing a Bachelor of Laws in his fourth year, to reinforce employability skills of communication, teamwork and more.
“We saw that after finishing school, students face a challenge of getting jobs because they lack some of these soft skills like perfecting their Curriculum Vitae,” Naiga said.
Naiga said they wanted to be proactive at offering students knowledge on some of the softer skills they need to get a job. Along with their organization, United Nations Association of Uganda (UNAU), Naiga and Esadu organized a one-day workshop on May 27, 2023, at UCU on the theme of “Career exploration and professional developing: Mapping your future.” UNAU works in conjunction with UN agencies to achieve aims and objectives of the UN.
Naiga and Esadu were among 20 delegates selected by the Africa UNAU. Naiga was inspired to join the fellowship because she wanted to be part of the solution.
“I wanted to be in a position where I am able to help and influence communities,” she said.
Esadu joined UNAU because he is passionate about leadership and social development.
As delegates, they were offered a skilling program, mentorship, training and workshops where they learned about what they need to do in their community. At the workshop, the two passed some of this knowledge along.
“We learned that more people in society would love to obtain the same skill, so we brought it to our brothers and sisters at UCU to help them understand the skills they ought to have as they go to seek for jobs,” Esadu said.
Esadu noted that with so many graduates hunting for job opportunities in the competitive work world, soft skills make one stand out.
Esadu cautioned students about spending many hours on the internet just watching fun videos, but rather invest that time networking on the various social media platforms and learning about potential employers.
He also encouraged students to volunteer while they are still in school so that by the time they graduate, they would have acquired more experience needed and desired by employers.
He commended the university for the soft skills it offers through the undergraduate course units of Writing and Study Skills. However, he observed that students don’t realize how important the course unit is early in their studies, necessitating that students re-study it later.
“The students were able to learn and re-learn some of the pertinent issues they have not been paying much attention to such as resume writing,” Esadu said of the workshop. “When the speakers emphasized them, they got to understand them more.”
Eborty Ntami, a governance and peace fellow with the United Nations Development Program, taught students how to write an attractive Curriculum Vitae (a resume), how to answer interview questions, how to prepare for an interview, among other skills.
“I urge you to aim at having an attractive CV, to read about the job details and understand them before you apply and carry out research about the organization you are applying to,” Ntami said.
Ntami emphasized that having knowledge about a company before going for the interview not only increases the student’s chance of being hired, but also helps that student decide whether the company will be a good fit.
According to Ntami, knowledge, networking, empowerment, inclusiveness and persistence are key in determining what people become. She encouraged the students to be ready for opportunities when they come and to leverage on Information Technology to overcome in the dynamic world.
“Interviews are always tricky,” said Alex Kaitale, a student pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration, after the workshop. “I am now prepared for the marketplace. I am sure I will submit the appropriate documents and respond to interview questions in the right way.”
Elijah Biimbwa, a second-year student of a Bachelor of Tourism in Hospitality Management, said he learned about the importance of networking.
“I learned that we need to network to increase our access to job opportunities, increase our visibility and advance our career. It is important for us to engage with others,” he said, adding that he also learned to make the best use of his social media platforms to network.