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Without these qualities, your cherished degree is just a piece of paper


As the head of a department, I have had the privilege of leading a team and engaging in recruitment efforts. In the past, I prioritized hiring candidates from internationally-renowned universities such as Kepler, ALU, and CMU. However, I have come to realize that attending a prestigious university alone does not guarantee workplace success.

Indeed, I have encountered candidates who relied solely on their prestigious alma mater to secure a job, without demonstrating substantial skills or experience, ultimately leading to their elimination from the hiring process.

On the other hand, I have worked with exceptional individuals from various universities, such as Mount Kenya University, the University of Kigali, and the University of Rwanda, and even those from Kepler, ALU, and CMU…, one of which I attended myself.

Don’t get me wrong!

Make no mistake, attending a prestigious university can offer benefits like enhanced job prospects, access to a vast alumni network, exposure to distinguished faculty and resources, and a high-quality education.

However, merely possessing a degree from a renowned university is not enough to guarantee career success. To become a successful professional who makes a lasting impact disrupts inefficient systems, and advances in their career, one must possess various qualities beyond a degree.

Earlier this year, KURA took part in a Human Resources Expo whereby young people met HR professionals to learn more about how to get a job and keep the job. There are numerous platforms for young professionals to learn about employability.

When speaking to the cluster training manager at Sheraton by Four Points and Kigali Marriott Hotel, Robert Gituma, he mentioned that there are particular things they look for in employees.

Yes, they look for experience and education but he mentioned several other characteristics they look for such as attitude which to Gituma is ‘La Crème de la crème.’

Read: Did you know that attitude can change your career in seconds?

Attitude is everything when it comes to excelling

When speaking to a life coach, Founder and CEO of Lead Access, Iris Irumva, she mentioned it takes more to succeed in a fast-changing and competitive job market. It takes more than a fancy degree, it takes more than four years in college or University.

She said young people especially girls should start “Playing big.” According to Irumva, it is all about having the confidence to step up and say, “I am going to do it.”

“Playing big requires you to step up and win,” she explained.

Read: “Be an arrogant Idiot”- Iris Irumva
Watch: Iris Irumva shares her 10 rules for brilliant women

Iris Irumva encourages people to play big and not to hold back!

These are not things that are taught in universities. Yes, they serve as a bridge between aspiring professionals and the competitive job market, ensuring they are well-equipped to meet industry demands.

But too often you find that students remain with the theoretical knowledge but not the practical. They say, ‘They can talk the talk but not walk the walk.’

The Rwanda Development Board’s Head of the Strategic Capacity Development Department, Nzabanita Viateur, said earlier this year that young people need more than sciences—they need cognitive and soft skills as well.

He said that since Rwanda is a knowledge-based economy in this day and age, young people are encouraged to pursue cognitive and soft skills that will set them apart in the market and contribute to creating 1.5 million jobs by 2024.

Read: In this knowledge-based economy, young people must improve their cognitive and soft skills

Read also: What you need to take your innovative solution to the next level

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Nzabanita Viateur the Head of the Strategic Capacity Development Department at RDB

Charlotte Umutoniwase, a student at Mount Kenya University, says it takes a lot more than straight A’s to succeed on the job. She currently works as a salesperson in a small advertising company.

She said, “When I first started, I knew textbook marketing and sales, but I had to do things differently if I was to be different from all my colleagues.”

She said, for her to succeed as a salesperson, she had always to find ways to be innovative and creative. “Textbook people do the same things over and over again.”

This is not just her opinion. Nicole Hategekimana, Talent Manager at BAG Innovation, who shared her thoughts on the top 21st-century skills also concurs.

To her, the skills needed for young people out there include, “creativity, pitching, and tech-savviness.”

Read: According to a Talent Manager these are skills that will save every entrepreneur’s career

work performance is influenced by skills abilities and competence the concept of the individual scaled 1
You need to be well-versed in the latest trends and understand how they can use them to their advantage

The World Economic Forum recently published an article that detailed according to different experts the most useful skills for the jobs of the future.

The article detailed that Analytical thinking, Creative thinking, AI and Big Data, Leadership, Curiosity, and lifelong learning are the skills that will make you unique in many different fields.

To pursue a successful career, individuals should choose courses that align with their interests and career goals while considering current job market trends. They should actively engage in extracurricular activities to develop soft skills and seek hands-on experience through university partnerships or direct company applications.

From my experience, I have learned that attending a specific university is not the sole indicator of success in the job market. Instead, the most successful colleagues and peers I have observed share common qualities such as a passion for continuous learning, meticulous attention to detail, a strong work ethic, effective communication skills, adaptability, problem-solving abilities, creativity, and teamwork.

Cultivating these qualities will not only enhance your professional performance but also set you apart in your field, increase your job prospects, and pave the way for new opportunities and career advancement.

Without these qualities, that piece of paper you acquire from your favorite university is just that: a piece of paper.

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