Youth to Work — the Junior Associate Experience

Since 2016, I have had the opportunity to work with charitable organizations that promoted the health and safety of women and children. Every day, I was exposed to acts of good service from people across the world who dedicated their time and effort to serve the less privileged. As a young graduate, my dream was to always have a pay cheque at the end of the month.

When the global pandemic hit, I was hit too. My contract had ended and I was stuck making phone calls seeking job offers. For about 6 months, I was at home with no opportunity knocking on my door. I tried everything I could but all in vain. I got depressed; every day that I had to worry about what the future held for me was stressful.

On the 30th of September 2020, a friend shared with me a link advertising a volunteer program. At first, I was hesitant to check because I knew they wouldn’t pay and yet I needed money to pay my bills to build myself.

Close to the deadline, I decided to just submit my application without much expectation that I will be called. When I read about what the program offers, I was thrilled to know that I would be working with a diverse group of young people from across the country, working in the corporate sector and, undertaking a course from Chartered Management Institute in the UK. Luckily for me and 59 other young people, we were accepted to join the program.

Youth to Work Junior Associates after completing their pre-placement training

In the first weeks, we received training regarding consultancy, expectations from the program, and orientation into what we shall be doing on a daily basis. The most fascinating part of the program is the placement — we are placed in growing enterprises to provide structured and targeted business development services. I was placed in SolarNow — a Dutch founded energy company proving solar solutions.

The highlights of my placement range from having high-profile dialogues with the senior leadership team, to engagement with the entire team. The workplace is dynamic and has provided me with an opportunity to grow and learn.

I have learned a lot regarding consultancy in which the key is to understand a business needs first, before making conclusions. Often, people start new jobs and they want to do the best they can to improve. However, for one to be successful, one has to talk to people, learn from them, and build trust - that way you can have a positive effect on the company.

I have faith that everything I’m learning from this programme is a roadmap to what I want to achieve in the future. This programme has opened more opportunities to meet so many young skilled professionals in the country. We chat, laugh, and support each other especially during the in-house training and outside work. They are no longer strangers, they have become friends, family, and colleagues.

We receive high-level training from Chartered Management Institute that is very practical and hands-on. I have learned several aspects about leadership and management but most importantly how to make decisions. Oftentimes, young people struggle to decide what the right choice is. But now, I have been equipped with tools and knowledge on how to distinguish the right choices for a business and communicate them effectively.

I believe volunteering is a way through which a young person can discover their potential. Don’t sit around waiting for the perfect opportunity to come, take any opportunity present and do something good for your society.

The author is Betty Nantongo, a Youth to Work Junior Associate in Uganda.

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