What you need to know:
- I was in my second year pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in law when I got my first job.
- In my third year, aged 20, I got a full time job as a news anchor and show host at a local TV station so I was quite busy.
Lizz is the head of corporate communications at Amref Health Africa. She is also a chartered public relations practitioner with more than a decade’s worth of experience in strategic communications and public affairs. Her achievements include being named among the top 100 most influential young Africans by Avance Media, a leading PR and rating company.
Tell us about your company…
The Lizz Ntonjira Network is a platform that offers training and coaching that is tailor made for young people. We aim to make the youth aware of the uncharted or underexplored career paths, how to position themselves strategically in the job market, and mentoring them on personal branding and personal development. I was inspired to start this network after receiving overwhelming requests from my fellow youth to either be their mentor or to give them career, personal and academic guidance. It was very clear to me that there was a gap with regards to youth mentorship.
How can young people join the network? What are the qualifications?
You can join via our website www.lizzntonjiranetwork.com and register as a mentee. All our sessions are recorded and can be viewed on our YouTube page, Lizz Ntonjira Network.
What drew you to this field?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, speaking and connecting with people. I like taking a concept or idea that others consider to be complex, and then breaking it down to small parts that the public can easily understand.
What would you say is the best foundation for a lasting career?
When it comes to corporate communication, you’re always on a deadline. Forget the fame associated with this industry. You must get the work done within very strict timelines. You must always think outside the box and do your best to help the company achieve its mission.
This career is about always staying ahead by reading widely, and studying new trends such as how digital media is causing disruptions in the industry. It also involves leveraging on technology in your content supply chains to automate operations, championing for sound decision making, and personalising your clients’ experiences. I would also ask graduates to be clear on the specific area in communication they would like to specialise in – public affairs, government relations, investor relations, public relations, advertising, digital media, or executive communications. This field is quite large.
You have worked for several organisations. How do you decide when it is time to move?
I started my career when I was only 19. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to gain extensive experience while holding different roles within the public, private and international sectors. I usually change jobs only after reviewing my goals and checking whether I am on course to achieving them.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve picked so far?
I learnt that when you are good at your job, you will get offers and opportunities even when you are not looking to take on a new role. I also know that having many options or being head hunted can be both good and bad. Before you make that move, understand why you are doing it. Are you comfortable with the culture of the new workplace?
What was your greatest struggle while transitioning from campus life to the workplace?
I was in my second year pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in law when I got my first job. I had a weekly column in the Sunday Nation, and I was also a regular contributor for a number of magazines.
In my third year, aged 20, I got a full time job as a news anchor and show host at a local TV station so I was quite busy. If I wasn’t finishing my assignments, studying for exams or reading my notes, I would be found writing my articles or reading news.
I lost many friends, but it was worth it. In retrospect, all that hard work paid off because I never struggled to get a job after graduation. I moved out of my parent’s home and bought my first car at age 21.
What is the greatest challenge you encounter in your profession?
Low budgetary allocation for communications departments is a big problem in most parts of the world and across all fields. Finding and keeping talented communications professionals is another challenge.
Brands that require specialised experience or skills on top of the ordinary PR knowledge may struggle to find the ideal candidate because the qualifications for a successful communications professional are changing almost daily.
That Bachelor’s degree you got 10 years ago may be already outdated in terms of the requirements needed for a specific role.
We also lack the tools necessary to accurately measure the impact of our communications campaigns on business. Without this data, it can be tough to measure success or lack of it, and this makes our work quite difficult.