5:30pm East African Time
I headed out to the matatu* stage hoping to catch a quick ride home after a long day at the office. As per the norm, I found a mob waiting staring into space as they impatiently waited for the matatus to come. With no hope in sight, I decided to seek refuge at my favourite coffee house along Tom Mboya Street to kill time and possibly distract myself.
After settling down to a cold drink, I flipped through the Business Daily Africa that I had bought earlier in the day. Soon, just like any other geek I had my biro out, marking, underlining and circling ideas of interest as I ignored all the people gawking and staring at me in disbelief.
90 minutes later, I left the coffee house feeling accomplished for having a productive date with myself.
Looking back, I came to realise that most people do not read financial news because they think it is only for a select few. Or they just gag at the sight of stock market listings. Here are 3 reasons that will motivate to take the first step towards understanding business news:
Command of a language. I cannot reiterate enough the importance of reading for writers. Reading broadens your vocabulary and improves your grammar. As I said in a previous blog post, until further notice, English is the official language of business. Communication is part of making a good impression, whether written or spoken. People will consider giving you a particular account, job or contract depending on how smart or sloppy you present yourself.
Entrepreneur and former CNBC anchor Nicole Lapin said this about her early experiences with financial news:
…I became determined to be a person who could hang out with those Wall Street guys.
I began by reading The Journal** every day. At first it looked like Chinese. Then it started to look like Hindi, and after a few months it morphed into French. I was only speaking broken Wall Street when I got a great and super intimidating job offer to be a business reporter on the floor of the stock exchange in Chicago. I was freaked out, but took it because I knew I could—and would—learn to understand the language. And I did, jumping into the only place where there is neither time or patience for faking it.
Fast forward about five years. I was named the anchor of the only global show on the business network CNBC. (And yes, that means that it covered pretty hard core financial news.) By now, not only did I understand the language, but I spoke it—to the world…
Conversation starters: Just having the publication on hand itself is sometimes enough to spark a conversation, especially when you are in a public place. I can’t tell you the number of times that in my own conversations, I have referred to articles that I have read to support my arguments in both professional and personal kind of settings. This definitely fuels the conversation and opens up opportunities for networking.
Career progression: Financial professionals can tell you that it is super-important to watch the news every day because everything that happens around the world has an impact on our local markets. On a personal level, I have been able to connect the processes that I perform on a daily basis to the world around me by keeping up with business news. By keeping tabs on the current events in the Gulf region, I am able to deduce whether I will be allocating more to my transport budget since Kenya is a major importer of fuel. Also knowing simple things like which countries are located in the Euro zone or why BNP Paribas was recently heavily fined helps me explain everyday processes in more depth to my colleagues and clients.
I am sure that you can be able to find articles that relate to whichever specialization that you are inclined to. When you empower yourself with knowledge about specific topics, you carve a niche for yourself and attract positive attention from the right quarters.
Buying a newspaper daily may neither be the most eco-friendly nor the most pocket-friendly route to take. Consider subscribing to various e-papers and websites . You can start by checking out this infographic on 68 websites that will seriously boost your career . Start small. Dedicate 15 minutes per day to educating yourself on personal finance, money or even how the economy affects you as an individual. By personalising issues, you increase your levels of interest and drive to make positive changes .
In the words of Kenyan personal finance guru, Waceke Nduati-Omanga:
The difference with the financially educated person is that they do not play victim, understand that the principles above still apply, make the necessary adjustments and know how to allocate money to which assets to take advantage of the environment in order to make a bigger leap when the next cycle comes along
*Matatu is normally a 14-seater bus that is used as a means of public transport
**Wall Street Journal