By Denis Jjuuko
Today marks the last day of graduation at Makerere University. By the end of the day, you would be among an ideally elite small number of people with degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Congratulations.
I believe this is the best time ever to graduate. In your hands, you have one of the most important gadget ever— a smartphone. A smartphone is only one when it is connected to one of the most important inventions of our time—the Internet.
The Internet brings lot of opportunities and tries to solve the three biggest problems facing humanity— ignorance, disease and poverty according to at least two books I have read. Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga’s Uganda:7-Key Transformation Idea and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Hit Refresh.
The most pressing for you is ignorance and poverty. The smartphone can enable you learn something new everyday and may be connect you to people that matter. There are many apps that can improve your skills and others that can even get you work. Or you can simply sign up to websites like Upwork and Fiverr and you never know, you may be working in America earning dollars when you are here in Uganda. You can get involved in many things across the world when you are here. You simply need to be on the look out.
Listen and watch some news and current affairs programming. Be informed. Don’t be like the lady who recently complained in The New Vision that women have no time to watch news and therefore should be excluded from aptitude tests when joining university on mature entry programs. And by current affairs, I don’t mean only watching people like Tamale Mirundi and spending all your time on Agataliiko Nfufu. Watch them alright but other programs as well. Know what is happening in the world. There is a saying that you are what you know.
Stay connected with your classmates and others. Don’t always be in Kamooli (not contributing anything) on your Whatsapp. You must be visible otherwise people will forget you exist. Contribute to debates, it may make you confident.
On Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media of your fancy, be visible as well. And contribute to debates and once in a while post something worthy. You may want to flaunt your bum that is more bootylicious than Beyonce’s and Kim Kardashan’s combined, that is alright. You may also post about haters, that is alright but you cannot be defined by your bum or six pack. Unless if you want to be a model or an extra in a music video. Even then, you can use your education to say something more constructive.
Talking of bums, you may need to change your email address. Bigbum@gmail, cutegirl@gmail or lovelyjames@yahoo may not cut it. We maybe in the 21st century but we are still a very conservative country. You may miss an opportunity because people are going to judge you by your email address. It is the same with dresscode. If you are a lawyer, you are expected to put on a suit and have your hair cut properly. If you are DJ, you can do your ripped jeans. And always shower and use a deodorant but I digress.
Write a blog or create a YouTube channel. You must be searchable. Because people are going to google you anyway. And they may make a decision based on that.
And do use search engines too. If you are ever invited for an interview, search and learn about the company and what they do. So that you don’t go to an interview and you start asking those interviewing you what they do. I have seen it happen. It may also help you avoid bafere.
If there is a skill you need to learn, the Internet is a good resource for anything you need. If you want to gain confidence in public speaking for example, watch Barack Obama, Charles Peter Mayiga, Nobert Mao among others and learn something from them. Or volunteer to take readings in your church, it will eventually make you confident.
And volunteer especially if it doesn’t cost you much. In your local church, help out with moving around the offertory basket, people will notice you. Help out in Sunday school or do community service like organising a neighborhood to clean the road where your home is. Post about it on your online platforms.
If your cousin is getting married, don’t just sit there drinking beer like somebody who crashed the wedding. Do some work and learn events management. Your larger family may notice your skills or you may find your passion for such work. Post about it.
If you parents, guardians or relatives have a business, study it and learn how you can support them. If they run a hotel and it is struggling, learn how AirBnB works and recommend it. If you are good at graphic design, help them with a signpost or menu. Volunteer ideas. They don’t have to take them on by the way. And don’t get offended if they don’t. You would have done your work.
Many industries today in Uganda are ready for disruption. The Internet gives you that opportunity and you have lots of time to fail, fail and fail. If you do accept that, you may end up creating something beautiful. So don’t rush to leave home in case you have one where you can stay as you build your ideas because you want to be independent or I hear develop yourself. Paying rent when you don’t have to and buying a sofa from the roadside aren’t signs of development. Work out your ideas and open yourself up to the world. There has never been a better time to graduate.
The author is a media consultant and businessman. firstname.lastname@example.org