My First Job; a house, a spouse and a cow
A tiny book that will change the way you build your finances forever
Reviewed by Kevin Mwachiro, Published in the Standard Newspaper, Thursday 5th October 2006
When I received my copy of the book from Allan, I chuckled and was slightly perplexed by the personal message he had included as he autographed the book. Stupidly I got to understand what he meant when I was half way through the book. This was the message, “the next house you move into had better be your own”. The gauntlet had been thrown down.
Bukusi describes himself as a transformational writer, urging his readers to read his work and take something out of it. This book does that to you. If I were to describe it in a single phrase, I would go for a West African saying; “ you only know the strength of a mosquito in the middle of the night”.
Bukusi leaves you asking yourself an endless range of questions like, why bother with pursuing education, why aren’t you your own boss, why do we look for jobs that increasingly have a short shelf-life, why do I pay rent, or will I ever be ready for retirement? The “whys” and “hows” this book leaves you with are numerous for a book its size, it sure does pack a wallop.
When I first read the title, I thought “catchy” and immediately wanted to find out about the house, spouse and cow. I was already anticipating revelations on Bukusi’s personal journey into the corporate world. Furthermore, the title immediately took me back to my first job. Bukusi touches on his own personal experiences, but does not delve into them. He craftily weaves his own personal story in and out of the job, but draws parallels that one can easily identify with.
The book, which is a prequel to Thinking Leadership in Africa, is stylistically simple. There are bigger words in this review than there are in the book itself. Bukusi explains that when he wrote the book, the language and style were aimed for a reader who has attained the primary level of education. I was almost insulted when he mentioned this, but that in itself is the charm of the book. It contains simple and hard truths that we have either heard or read before, but laid out in a way that is practical in application. Little gems like this I found refreshing; “ your career can advance in your present situation – whatever the station or... the quickest way to the top is to hire yourself. The moment you do that you become Chief Executive.” These principles Bukusi highlights I suggest should be offered to those opting for a career change, starting out in employment or those who simply want to better themselves. Basically, all of us need to hear these principles time and time again.
Bukusi describes himself as an anti-employment advocate – and this comes across in the book – but challenges you to think seriously about your present situation and almost politely calls you to milk every opportunity that your job offers you for your own good, within ethical bounds of course. “Before we set out career (advancement) goals set practical goals and then take every opportunity to learn from experience we could gain from exposure”.
I must admit that as I read the book, I almost felt I was sitting in a lecture, where I was being challenged and having my traditional concepts of life confronted. This should come as no surprise as Bukusi is a trained teacher.
If you are unfamiliar with aspects like ‘personal and social development’ or you have always thought that words like ‘empowerment’ should be relegated to civic society, you can rest easy. The simplicity of the book not only demystifies, but also illustrates the practicality of these terms.
Bukusi also manages to sneak in a tiny chapter on how Africa can be developed, hence the phrase, “Transforming Africa” on the cover. I was skeptical about it, noting that I have heard all this before – more idealism, more blame, more evidence of Africa’s unearthed potential – but I found his take on Africa’s problems as it acknowledges that the continent has made mistakes: “Humility is important but we also need a handsome measure of courage to go back to the junction where we took the wrong turn”. It is in this chapter that Bukusi also injects a good dose of realism into modern day challenges like urbanization and the ever-looming threat to job-security brought about by downsizing and retrenchment.
The overall layout of the book is similar to the concept it carries, simple. Bukusi’s publisher could do a lot more to make the book less cluttered and compact. At times it seems too busy, with Bukusi’s introduction on the book appearing twice. The different font types that appear in the book make it almost clumsy in design. But what it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in content – simple and practical concepts that could also have you writing about your firsts!
This book has sold over 10,000 copies and published in two languages. It has been revised and reprinted and republished as How To Prosper in Employment; A house a Spouse & a cow. email allanbukusi@gmail. com