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5 Terrible Realities of Being An Intern In A Small Kenyan Company

Working in the corporate world is the aspiration of many college students. In reality, many end up pushing paper and pins in government bureaucracy, or worse, jobless. According to the World Bank, 17% of the 20 million of working age Kenyans are unemployed. Which means that about 3.4 million able bodied people wake up not knowing what to do for the rest of the day. That number is equal to the whole population of Coast Province.

Whoever said that college does not prepare you effectively for real life was right. In some cases, what you do in college can end up being irrelevant to the career fate finally thrusts in your path. You know many people who are engaged in stuff they had no idea they could do after college. Well, I talked to one of them Lee*(Not real name. Revealing real name would jeopardize his standing with the employer) who interned at an I.T company in Westlands after four years of studying economics at the University of Nairobi. Prior to that, he had gone through four other internships. Talk of an experienced intern. The last one was however the most unusual and the most definitive and you will soon learn why. These were his were his observations.

5. One Internship Might Not be Enough

JOBOWhen I completed school in April 2014, I was fully looking forward to working in a place that would utilize my brilliant energy. However, as soon as I started sending application letters, my confidence began taking a serious beating when I realized employers didn’t even care for your brilliance. They don’t even have the grace of telling you you have been rejected. You are invited to interviews and all they tell you is ‘we shall get in touch’.  After two months of tarmacking, I secured a 3-month internship at I & M Bank in Nairobi. After three months, the internship was over and five of the other 12 interns were absorbed. Another 5 were recruited by audit firms, Delloite and PwC. Being an intern in a big-name company tends to lead to employment in other big-name companies.

Out of the twelve interns, only I and another one intern are jobless at this point. I know you are wondering how comes I was not hired for all my alleged brilliance. Well, there are other factors that can deny you a job when you are an intern. At the end of the three months at the bank, they threw a goodbye party for the 12 interns. I don’t mix well with alcohol, which means that in the course of the party that went well into the night, I did things that would embarrass even ardent drinkers of second generation brews. In my defense, I was completely inebriated and have no memory of things that happened that evening. That blew any chances I had of being absorbed in the bank. So in  August, I once again joined the 17% of the other unemployed Kenyans in the job market, which is not a very nice place to be, more so because I hate markets. Then one day in September, I got a from a small I.T firm in Westlands to attend an interview.  I had not even applied for a job there; they were referred to me by a friend. That’s how small companies work, because often, they don’t have the budget to advertise for positions. I was supposed to go for the interview at 10:00 am on the second day, which was September 9. That is the same day that residents of Githurai, along Thika Road decided  to protest and block the road and since I was coming from Ruiru, my 10:00 am interview had to wait until 3:00pm. When I finally arrived in Westlands, I was hired on the spot for a three months internship. Nobody asked to see my papers or anything. That brought my internship count to 5. Previously, I had also interned at E-Learning Africa, Kenya Industrial Estates, and Gulf Energy. I was beginning to think I will retire as an intern.

4. You might earn a negative salary

will-work-for-free-e1331732919700Most college students are prepared to earn a net salary of Ksh 0.00 after college, provided you get at least a few months of experience while slaving away. Of course, there are employed people whose net pay slip figure is close to zero, when you consider how many deductions and loans they pay every month. However, earning a negative salary is  not a thing that has ever crossed your mind. That means at the end of the month, you have to borrow from your friends to pay your employer. This is how it happened. As an intern, I was earning Ksh. 10K per month, which is not unreasonable for an intern. However, being a small company, my employer was particularly pinchy with expenses. Every day, we were charged Ksh 400 for lunch, tea and snacks. Remember that thing I said about being a slave? Well, we worked even on Sundays. On any particular month, I would report to work for 28 days. That meant at end-month, I owed the company Ksh. 11,200 while they owed me Ksh. 10,000. Those who are good at maths will see that every month, I would owe the company Ksh. 1,200. I would call my dad to ask for money to pay my employer!! …(Dramatic pause). When your gross salary is negative, your net salary is a debt. Bear in mind I had to commute from Ruiru to Westlands daily; that adds another Ksh. 500 to my daily expenses. Thankfully, at that time, I was living with a cousin, so rent was not part of my bills. But the salary was the least of my worries because:

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