David | Kenya

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A career disrupted before it could begin

David was in his second year of university in Nakuru, Kenya studying marketing when the pandemic hit. When the city went into lockdown, classes were canceled (and would remain so for over a year). As the weeks turned into months and there was no sign of the universities reopening anytime soon, David began to seek employment.

“I have always felt the need to do things for myself.” He was not comfortable living with his parents and relying solely on their support. Every day he searched for any job he could get. However menial or low-paid, he was willing to do any work that came his way. Yet as the lockdowns persisted, unemployment became widespread.

“If you got a job you were really lucky,” he recalls of that time. “It was especially hard for those of us who had never had jobs before, because we were competing with those who had experience.”

Despite his many efforts, he was unsuccessful. He felt increasingly down as time wore on, but saw no other choice than to continue his job search in spite of its seeming futility.

A new possibility

One day, David’s sister sent him an ad for Generation Kenya’s digital freelancing bootcamp. The Generation center was not far from his home so he walked over to obtain more information. When he understood that this program would prepare him for work he could do from home, he knew this opportunity would be perfect for him. It also meant that he could continue working after he resumed his studies and support himself through the remainder of his college years. David applied on the spot.

In the program, he learned the technical skills needed to successfully serve as a virtual assistant, such as calendar management and transcription. He also learned about the mechanics and possibilities of various platforms like UpWork on which he would find gigs. He was especially grateful for the mindset and behavioral skills portion of the curriculum. In a remote, self-employed role these are crucial skills that would otherwise be extraordinarily difficult to learn on the job. It’s non-trivial to understand client expectations around communications and deliverables while building relationships virtually and often internationally, especially for entry-level workers who have not had similar jobs before. Learning these skills would be crucial for his reputation online to grow, enabling him to continue landing more gigs.

A new path forward

After graduation, Generation connected David and other learners to various platforms and actual projects so that they could get their start in the freelancing world. David quickly became a top earner, and has since been invited to mentor other new freelancers.

His income from this part-time work has since enabled him to move to a new place, and even go out with friends on the weekends (something he couldn’t afford to do before).
An overall sense of financial security and well-being is a new feeling for him. Today, he knows if there’s an emergency, he has the resources to respond.

The income has also brought him a new sense of agency, with an expanded range of options. He has recently decided to change his major to agriculture in a nearby city and is proud to be able to cover his own living expenses while attending college away from his family. His future goal is to leverage his earnings from freelancing to support projects he can develop in the agricultural world.

“I never thought all this would happen. Without Generation, I would still be jobless. I’m really, really grateful,” says David.