There is one company meeting that all staff dread

In 2011 I was working as a product development executive with an Information and Technology (IT) company in Nairobi, Kenya where I worked closely with the sales and marketing teams to boost the sales of various products. I found myself in this strange position having been transferred from the sister company, another IT firm where I was in charge of website content, something that was more in my wheelhouse. Anyway, one fine Friday in October of that year I walked into the office, with a spring in my step, looking forward to clearing my desk and putting my feet up for the next couple of days. We had recently moved to new offices and we were still getting used to our new abode when a meeting was called mid-morning, ostensibly to officially welcome us to our new ‘digs’.

That was not, however, how things turned out. After formally greeting the staff our CEO informed us of the dire straits the business was in and how the board had come to the painful conclusion that they needed to trim the numbers. They were going to retrench a significant number of staff with immediate effect; the process was to be done department by department by close of business the very same day.

We were called in one by one and told our fate; the minute I walked in and saw the brown envelope sitting on the CEO’s desk I knew. I was thanked for my three years of service (this was the sum total of both organisations) handed a cheque and sent on my merry way. To be fair the company did organise a one-day workshop on what to do after you’ve been retrenched unexpectedly, which mostly consisted of polishing up one’s CV, interview skills and how to network. But let’s be honest, if you wake up one day and you have a job and by evening you don’t is there anything that can truly prepare you for that?

Anyway, I figured, hey, I’m still young (just a little over thirty). I had the rest of my life ahead of me or so I kept telling myself to keep from losing it, and it’s easy to lose it. Sure, we aren’t defined by our jobs but come on, if you’re used to waking up every day and knowing exactly where it is you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to do, then it’s pretty damn scary.

But retrenchment is not and should not be the final chapter in your life. So what did I do? I sat down and planned my finances. I knew I had to think about the inevitable, what if I was out of work for months or, heaven forbid, a year? Luckily for me I also happened to be in school so I decided to throw all my energies into that. During the day I would job hunt and network in the evening I would show up for my classes. I also started to expand my horizons, I looked for both part-time and permanent employment, and whilst I was restricted in terms of location (due to my classes) I didn’t shy away from short-term contracts. I took up freelance writing and editing; in my case I knew as long as I focused on something I was really good at failure was not an option. The hardest thing is not giving up; it’s always darkest before the dawn and as cliché as that sounds it’s actually true.


By Mukami Githagui

I am a freelance writer and journalist with experience on two of Kenya’s leading English language daily newspapers. I am passionate about societal issues and love listening and engaging with people from all walks of life.