In the last seven years, Philip Masembe has served as publicity and marketing manager for the Bayimba Foundation, he has learnt a lot on the job, largely horning out his skills as an arts publicist.
The foundation organises the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts, one of the biggest arts platforms in Uganda, which has grown from organising a handful of gigs to fully fledged international festivals of different art disciplines.
Masembe has been part of the foundation’s journey having joined as a media intern in 2011, under the mentorship of the media coordinator.
Grabbing the opportunity
When the then coordinator left, he was asked to take on the role of seeing to it that Bayimba activities got media coverage. Subsequently, he assumed the role of heading the marketing department, which meant he had to also get sponsors on board.
Prior to joining Bayimba, he attended the festival whose stage offerings blew him away given an activity menu of various art disciplines for three days, back-to-back.
“I was so inspired, I started to figure out ways to join the team and create more magic. Before joining the team, I had interned with Record Television and Sunrise media,” the journalism graduate recounts.
Like many students, Masembe never received career guidance to prepare him for the job market and attributes his go-getter instincts for leading him to media houses that finally helped him interface with managers. He says: “There was never an opportunity to be guided and I would say it was sheer luck that I chose the right job that gave me exceptions to learn while executing.
Willingness to learn
“My love for arts public relations challenged me to learn more. Bayimba has sent me to different places worldwide where I have interacted with people and been able to observe how things are done and therefore sharpened my skills further.”
Making sense of what he learnt in school and realities of the job market, Masembe says he did not get much from the lecture room. “I felt we were rushing into things to just graduate then go seek jobs. The lecturers made it seem like we were in that kind of rush yet we needed a lot more exposure and that you can only get if you are lucky to interact with those who have made it in same profession.” He argues that journalism school offered him theoretical learning, which ought to have been coupled with some real experiences for it to make sense. To those pursuing journalism or courses in institutions that do not open doors to practical learning, Masembe says to win; they will need to find ways of professional interaction as they follow their passion.
When he started working with Bayimba, one thing led to another. When he was taken on as an intern, he made sure he worked hard to prove to his supervisor that he could do a lot more than pass internship.
Whenever there was an assignment to accomplish, he stepped in to accomplish it and thereby proving his value to the organisation. And when the media coordinator was moving on to another career opportunity, she recommended Masembe to the foundation director. The doors of opportunities had started opening. Bayimba sent Masembe to be part of Sauti Za Busara, one of Africa’s biggest festivals where he appreciated the work that goes into organising the fest that attracts big musical names from the continent.
He was also able to widen his network through meeting artistes, stakeholders in Africa’s arts industry. He was also sent to learn from South Africa’s Bushfire fest programme.
After a seven-year career at Bayimba, Masembe is ready to explore career prospects elsewhere. “Bayimba has nurtured me in the best way possible...The next chapter in my career path is going to be fulfilling. I am happy that my superiors have endorsed all my future plans and are willing to support me,” he adds.
Preparing for the job market
You may be reading this on your first day of graduate school, but it’s never too early to think about your entry into the job market—whether you plan on taking an academic route or applying to jobs in the non-profit, government, or business sector.
By thinking early on about how you’ll look to potential employers, you’ll be prepared to differentiate yourself from other candidates. And no matter what type of a job you’re applying for, you’ll want to make the “first cut” (where employers read your CV or résumé and cover letter) and move on to the interview stage.
To stand out, think about what makes you unique. What experience do you have working with others? Do you have experience organizing events as well as researching? Have you held leadership positions? Thomas J. Straka encourages applicants to consider their leadership experience in graduate school because “hiring committees know that such graduate student leaders usually stand out. Don’t underestimate yourself; don’t think committee members won’t know how hard some of those ‘minor’ accomplishments were.” These experiences will be a part of your application, and you’ll want to show a single narrative formed by all of your materials.