Meet the Crop of Young Graduates Who Are Turning Their Backs on Corporate Employment

They are young, full of life, and egotistical. But what really sets them apart from the youth of yesteryears is their indifference to corporate employment. While their parents went to school so that they could later find a good job that would pay them an average salary till they retired at 65 or 70, the Y Generation seems to have a totally different perspective on education and its co-relationship with careers.

“I cannot stomach the thought of working for someone from 9-5,” says a newly graduated 22-years old Mercy Njoki.

Mercy’s words are an incredible contrast to every young person (or parent) who cannot stop howling about the government’s failure to create employment opportunities for the youth. It is a story that is in direct contradiction with the more popular Hakuna Kazi version. Hers is the other side of the story that is rarely told; a story of young graduates who, for the love of their lives, cannot imagine spending the remaining quota of their productive lives locked in an office cubicle or chasing story leads in the field.

Mercy’s story is not an isolated one. Droves of young graduates, many with outstanding academic qualifications, are turning their backs on corporate employment. Some cite the low salaries paid by employers while others are concerned about losing the freedom of how they spend their time.

According to Mary Muchemi, a leading recruiter and headhunter in Nairobi, more and more young people are shying away from the perpetual pursuit of corporate employment, opting for the less traveled paths of self-employment and freelancing.

Mary says that a number of factors are responsible for this new crop of graduates.

“Most of them witness the struggle which their elder peers go through as their try to land jobs. Psychologically, they have already given up on the notion of landing corporate jobs even before they’ve graduated,” says Mary.

“Others want to feel that they have total control over their lives and how they spend their time. They do not want to answer to anyone but themselves, something which makes them an automatic mismatch for jobs in the corporate sector,” she adds.

Finding Joy Working Online in Kenya

So, where does this breed of corporate-employment-shunning fresh graduates go, and what do they want to do with their time?

Most of the young graduates who have shunned corporate employment are finding solace in online freelancing. It is the new way to find work and get employed, and, according to Mercy Njoki, if you you have not tried online freelancing, you are seriously missing out.

“I seriously get perplexed by guys that constantly cry ‘hakuna kazi’. There is so much work online. There is so much that you can do. You don’t need anyone to employ you, make you report to the office at 8, underpay you, and treat you like you are under their mercy,” Mercy rants.

Mercy, who works as a freelance writer with an online marketplace she identifies as Upwork, says that there are jobs for everyone online, and the best thing of them all is that the employers in these places do not concern themselves with your qualifications. You might be a form four dropout but as long as you can get the job done, you will get hired.

In Kenya, the idea of working online started a few years ago, but the information remained a reserve of a select few.

However, over the past two years, thanks to the wide penetration of low-cost internet and online social communities that are generous with information, the notion has gradually caught momentum and it looks as if there is no stopping it. Young undergraduates are being recruited into the movement years before they graduate. Apparently, there is a large market for their services in overseas countries where startups cannot afford to employ full-time staff. The startups turn to countries like India and Kenya for ‘cheap labor’.

However, what is cheap in overseas countries is a jackpot in Kenya where the cost of living is relatively low. Working online, Mercy pockets between Ksh. 90,000-150,000 per month. The lowest she has ever earned was 30K, and that was when she was young in the industry and still learning the hoops and crannies of the industry. On a good day, she makes about 5000/=, working for only 6 hours.

However, while the romanticism of working online is definitely attractive, HR professionals are afraid that the trend could shove the country into a labor crisis. Mary says that the country faces a possible worker-shortage problem.

“With the prospects that young people are finding online, it will soon be difficult to find qualified employees who are willing to work at the current salary rates in Kenya. Employers will either have to up their game or also resort to hiring online,” Mary explains.

The online jobs market also poses a nightmare for the revenue authorities in Kenya. While every individual is supposed to accurately file tax returns annually, many freelancers do not bother themselves doing so, and are, in fact, proud of flaunting the mantra ‘tax-free income’ to anyone who cares to listen. The government could be losing a substantial amount of revenue in terms of undeclared income.

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Patrick Mahinge

Patrick Mahinge is a prolific digital marketer and "serial webpreneur". He runs multiple profitable niche websites and blogs monetized through affiliate marketing and advertising. Patrick generously shares his expertise in affiliate marketing, blogging, and online business through his Facebook group of over 5,000 aspiring entrepreneurs.

  1. I have an year left before graduation and I envision myself resorting to online work due the flexible nature of the job. I already work part-time as a transcriptionist so I’ve already broken into the freelance world. Unless the corporate world shapes up and offers more competitive remuneration and flexible work schedules, they shall indeed encounter a labour crisis. Statistics show that 50% of the US population will be freelancers by 2020. We all know that what US does, the world follows. I want to be ahead of the competition so freelance work it is.

  2. Hey Patrick,

    Good job on this article. I love the way you coined the words to make it easy for people who have no idea about this industry to understand what its really about. I’m also a visionary and published writer with a number of authority sites. I don’t think I will look for employment in the corporate world. picture this, you get paid 50,000 a month. If you deduct tax, transport expenses, rent, food, investment, you are left with less than 10,000 to save or even nothing.
    Let keep doing what we do.

    Thumbs up

  3. do you file returns yourself mr. blogger?

    • Hey Tonny,
      I think you totally misunderstood me. I did not say that anyone has to pay taxes. I just pointed out that the government might be losing a lot of revenue. Whether to file or not to file returns depends on one’s level of patriotism.

  4. hello guys
    kindy introduce me to this online working

    • Hey Amos,
      It is easy to start working online if you have the skills required (basically any skill including writing, web design, graphic design, accounting and quick books, transcription among many others). If you do not have any of these skills, you might need someone to train, mostly at a fee.
      If you have any of the skills, simply head over to, create an account and start applying for jobs.

  5. Online employment will be the next big thing in Kenya. Its just second to none kind of employment. I started it when I was in 2nd year when I was introduced by one of my friends back in the university. What I have achieved so far would have taken me approximately 10 yrs to achieve if I was in the corporate world, thanks to online writing/marketing. My idea is to one day own a big company where I will be able to employ many of the university graduates who are ignorant of this beautiful venture.

    • Wow! That’s is so encouraging to so many guys out there. I wish I knew about the online jobs when I was in college. I would have avoided much of the hassle I went through. Kindly inform your college buddies about the opportunities available online. We all need each other.

  6. Nice article. I’m too swallowed in the industry; not that Kenya’s private/public sector doesn’t offer attractive salaries or renumerations. But simply because I admire self-employment and entrepreneurship. I’m glad to see young people making an honest and credible sum to sustain their lifestyles – courtesy of the myriad opportunities in online platforms. I believe the Internet is a game changer that continues to shape the current day employment mainstream. Nice work Patrick.

    • Online! Online! Online!! the way to go. got into it some few years ago (almost three now) and trust you me, most of my peers (in the corporate world) might need upto 10years to get where I currently am. Thanks to the internet

  7. Online work all the way. Besides the independence and better pay that online work offers, for a mother like me, I have loved working from home and bringing up both my babies without need for a sitter–particularly with the horror stories of nannies mistreating kids.

    Its a blessing. Mums, this is the way to go.

  8. One thing is true. Online writing can help you earn a living if done with a plan and it is helping many, me included, to get a kick towards the right direction (Self Employment). The issue about tax is over rated. Most of this money is not taxed as income but as money given from abroad. There is little tax obtained from it. This is because freelancing is not treated as a formal employment. Freelancing does not mean you have a valid job experience. While many people will argue that the money goes untaxed, there is no way to file this money as income. The same way you can receive money from your relative abroad, is the same channel we use. Hope this shades some light

    • Hi Kelvin,
      Thanks for your comment. I can’t comment further about the tax issue. I lack the proper info on how money earned by freelancers should be treated. I’ll probably have to consult a tax authority on the issue.

  9. This article is wonderful, I desire to join the online employment soon, this is the future. About the issue of taxation, we know some other many self employed Kenyans who are not taxed and the government is mum on that

  10. Hi, am Peter and I’m really impressed by your post,kindly can you help on how to go about online working,thanks in advance and I’ll be grateful getting your response

  11. Online academic writing is what sustained me the first few months after my graduation- talk of rent, daily upkeep and even family support. I resided to go this way because there was no job at that time, having applied many times and attending a couple of interviews. I personally think freelancing (online jobs) are helping address some economic gaps we are facing- unemployment. I know there are people who are formally employed but still do freelance as a “side hassle.” However, I agree with you that some of us are becoming lazy or are not willing to work for long hours in office; how time changes!

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