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How I turned my internship into a meaningful career

Article
Christine talks about the role internship played in shaping her career and how she has transitioned from intern to a team lead.
By Flora Nanjala
Life at One Acre Fund

Christine Musau, the Recruitment Lead for our Kenya program, joined One Acre Fund as an intern through the Young Professionals Program in 2018. In this piece, she talks about her drive to continuously push her limits and how commitment and accountability propelled her from intern to team lead.

Christine M

Why and how did you come to join One Acre Fund? 

Before joining One Acre Fund, I was an intern at Safaricom. In 2017, my internship was coming to an end, and I began to look for new work opportunities. My research led me to One Acre Fund’s website career page, where I fell in love with the organization's mission and saw available job openings. I was especially fascinated to learn about working in rural Kenya. It was interesting to see how much impact the organization had on smallholder farmers’ lives. A new interest was born in me, and I yearned for an impact-driven career. Though working from a rural location felt daunting, I took a chance and applied for a role at the organization. I didn’t succeed at first, but my third attempt in 2018 was successful when I made the cut for the Young Professionals Program.

Why did you decide to join an agricultural organization? 

Farming holds a special place in my heart as it was part of my upbringing. My late father was a farmer and was elated when he learned I was joining an agricultural organization. Every enrollment season, when One Acre Fund offers employees the opportunity to sign-up for farming inputs and lifestyle products, my father and I would align on what he wanted to grow, and I would sign up for the products, collect them and send them to him. We mostly grew maize, beans, and vegetables.

Christine’s father on their family farm
Christine’s father on their family farm

Tell us about your One Acre Fund story, from the beginning of your internship to your current role.

Six months after joining the organization, I was absorbed as a permanent employee and promoted to Recruitment Coordinator. My role was to find talent for entry-level jobs at our Kenya headquarters in Western Kenya. I soon packed my bags and moved to Kakamega. Once I settled into my role, I started seeking growth opportunities — volunteering to take up more duties, exposing myself to new challenges, and actively shadowing staffers I looked up to. This got me promoted to Senior Coordinator and later to Specialist. When my manager pursued a different opportunity within our team, I took over as the Kenya Recruitment Lead.

Drawing from your experience, what should one consider when searching for an internship/work opportunity?

I think of an internship as the first stepping stone toward one’s future career. When searching for such an opportunity, one should try to align their interests and passion to their career or role. I studied human resources at university, and I was sure this would form the basis of my career. However, I was uncertain about what aspect of human resources to focus on. Sometimes you are born knowing your passion, and sometimes, your passion finds you. Being a talent acquisition intern in my first corporate role significantly contributed to my fluency and passion for recruitment. From then on, I was sure that the work opportunities I would seek would be in the recruitment space. 

How does your role contribute to our mission?

One Acre Fund’s priority is to make smallholder farmers prosperous. My role as a recruiter is to find talented individuals who share the organization’s vision and passion. My role supports hardworking farmers by ensuring the organization has the right people to get the best products at the best price, developing innovative farming solutions, helping improve farmer nutrition, and linking farmers to markets. 

What is your leadership style?

My current role came with a people management aspect, and I got intentional about building connections within my team. I enjoy interacting with them and allowing them to be authentic because this is when great ideas flow. My leadership style is collaborative — I like involving my team members in decision-making; it is important that they are a part of the planning and execution of tasks that directly involve them. 

What’s your secret to advancing in your career?

I strive to learn as much as I can. When I first joined One Acre Fund, I would reach out to the Recruitment sub-teams to get to know their inner workings and how their work is tied to mine. I took an interest in the Recruitment Operations team and mastered the different aspects of advancing a candidate from one interview stage to the next. At one point, when team members were offline, I would be the backup. I do not shy away from challenges, which allows me to unlock new skills and opportunities.

What has been the most exciting aspect of working at One Acre Fund?

I enjoy working in an organization that grows with its people! One Acre Fund invests in staff development — employees benefit from coaching and exciting work opportunities. The organization challenges staffers to innovate and use their skills to build life-changing solutions for the agricultural and development space.

What challenges have you experienced as a young professional? How did you navigate them?

When working on a team project, getting everyone to have the same enthusiasm and excitement about a project that does not directly impact their work can be challenging. I have learned that having personal touchpoints with people is essential to developing good work relationships. I enjoy setting up alignment touchpoints with my colleagues to allow us to get to know each other and build an initial connection. When people can put a face or a voice to you, they are often highly receptive to you.

What career advice would you give to your peers?

I have always lived by the saying, “learn from your mistakes.” We are human and prone to make mistakes, but how we handle and learn from them sets us apart. In my personal and career journey, I have learned to take ownership of my mistakes, learn from them and be intentional about not repeating them. Additionally, be open to new opportunities and tasks that stretch you and allow you to learn from new experiences. In summary, knowledge is power — learn from colleagues, mentors, and industry leaders, and make the best out of professional online courses.

What is one thing you cannot leave the house without?

My phone. I always need to connect with people through calls or texts; my phone is my primary mode of communication.

What are the top two things on your bucket list?

I am not a fan of the term bucket list (laughs). I have decided to travel more around Kenya, visit different counties and experience different cultures.

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