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A guide to peculiar Kenyan job descriptions

May 08, 2011 Humour, Sunday Nation

A job description, as every human-resource professional will tell you, is a very important thing. It specifies the nature of your role and what particular activities and responsibilities are most important for you to fulfil your remit.

In Kenya, however, most of our jobs are not as straightforward as they might be in other parts of the world. Indeed many are downright peculiar, and demand some odd things of the job-holder. As a public service, I thought I should outline the descriptions of some of our more common jobs, so that aspiring Kenyans know what to expect.

Night-watchman: The evidence of your eyes will confirm that this is a very common job in Kenya. If you wish to consider it, you must be able to do three things very effectively: one, go into deep sleep while standing up or sitting; two, open and close gates with alacrity; three, run and hide very, very quickly should any trouble occur.

Village elder: Your key duty here is to be able to sit on a stool under a tree doing nothing with your peers for the entire day. The stool is very uncomfortable, so the job is not for everyone – a hardy posterior is a pre-requisite. A variety of natural intoxicants will be provided to keep you going.

Lift attendant: The key responsibility here is to sit on a stool in your designated elevator and press buttons that lift passengers can easily press for themselves. You have no other duty. The critical qualification is to be a close rural relative of whoever runs the building.

Shopkeeper: Selling things to Kenyans is very stressful, as most people only pose as customers – they never buy anything. Equally, employees only pose as shop assistants – they never really assist anyone. A shopkeeper therefore needs to be hawk-eyed and ever-vigilant. On a daily basis, you must shout at and chase away at least 30 customers and at least one employee. You must also never leave the till in any circumstances, so you will need a strong bladder for this occupation.

Member of parliament: In this very special job, you will be compensated at world-beating rates to NOT appear at your place of work. This is obviously not for everyone, because you must have many, many other extra-curricular activities to preoccupy yourself with. Showing up too often at your workplace and trying to say clever things will in fact make you deeply unpopular, and will likely result in your termination.

Chief executive officer: In other countries this may be regarded as job requiring many complex skills. In Kenya you will succeed or fail depending on your ability to do one simple thing: attend functions. Your key constituencies – staff and employees – will be handled by minions. You, however, must be ready, willing and able to glide from economic forums to awards ceremonies; industry gatherings to fashion shows; product launches to cocktail parties; investor briefings to wine tastings. You must be equally comfortable making televised donations to hospitals and children’s homes, as in toasting departing ambassadors their fond farewells. Since you will have to attend several such functions a day, this job is not for the socially challenged.

Foreign ambassador: if you are a top diplomat posted to Kenya, please note that this demanding job has two contradictory requirements: first, to maintain a robust and healthy financial relationship between the two countries; second, to maintain a constantly hectoring tone with all Kenyan leaders until they learn how to behave. These contradictory requirements can be very stressful, so a variety of pleasing landscapes are provided across the country to relax you. You are also not subject to any of the normal laws of the land, including the Highway Code.

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