You enter school for a 4-or 5-year degree; endure the strikes and long semesters; persevere through crowded classrooms and dilapidated labs; put up with broken down systems and irritating lecturers who never give you true reward for your efforts; and 2 or 3 years after the time you ought to graduate, you finally have your degree. Then onwards to the mandatory NYSC where you are thrown away in some remote place to ‘serve your fatherland’. Now Your Suffering Continues! One year later, that too is over. Now you are ready to face the real world.
Then, the shock! One month of job-hunting slowly becomes 6 months and then a year. Then two years. You are still awaiting a job. Your excitement at finishing school has slowly ebbed away; you have started becoming hopeless; frustration begins to set in. No one ever told you it was going to be like this.
This isn’t a fictional story. This is what thousands of Nigetian graduates go through. There are really not enough jobs to go round.
But at the same time, I continuously meet Nigerian graduates who have numerous job offers that they can even choose from, and all gained by merit.
How do they do that? Simple: they make themselves employable.
Despite the millions of unemployed graduates on our streets, Nigerian firms still have a hard time finding the right fit of employees. Multinationals that can afford to retrain new employees; the smaller ones that cannot make do with what they have. Therein is a gap that you can fill if you are able to make yourself employable.
Here is a how-to:
1. Have an idea of the type of job you want to start in: There’s a difference between ‘I want a job’ and ‘I want that job’. It gives you a goal to work towards, and helps you to focus your efforts. If you are not sure, try your hands at many things and pay attention to those things or that thing you enjoy doing and are at good at.
2. Never Waste A Holiday: I understand that you have to rest from school, and overworking yourself might cause you to suffer a burnout. However, rather than be at home doing nothing, that time can be better applied to learning. We are not short of holidays, planned and unplanned. Use that time productively. Intern at a firm or volunteer at an organization, especially one that it is in the sphere of your interest. Don’t worry about pay; you are there to learn.
I have a friend who had just started to take graphic design seriously. He used a 10-week holiday to intern at a marketing communications firm. That brief stint gave him immense exposure to practical application of design. Today, his own design firm does some of the best corporate design I have seen compared to its peers.
Even beyond work experience, use your holiday to learn new things, such as enrolling in a short course.
I once used a 3-month strike to enroll in an Arabic Language class. Though I didn’t get to finish, it has made me to start learning a new language which is an invaluable skill.
3.Focus on skills, not the degree: One misconception Nigerian students have is the belief that a good degree guarantees jobs. If it were so, how come employers still have problems finding the right employees? Surely, we don’t lack enough First Class and Second Class-Upper graduates. What then is the problem?
Employers are looking for skills in addition to having a higher education, not degree-holders. Skills such as being able to take initiative, analytic and cognitive skills, communication, teamwork, etc are invaluable. Work to improve these skills especially by experience.
4. Make Yourself Very Marketable: One thing I have learned is that the more skills you have, the more desired you are as an employer. Take short courses, learn new languages, gain experience, etc. No knowledge is a waste.
I had a couple of friends in secondary school who chose to take Hausa, which they speak fluently, as a subject over French. In their reasoning, they were future Engineers and they didn’t see the place of French in Engineering. With time, they finally came around to the fact that language skills helped in being globally competitive.
5. Despise Not The Days of Small Beginnings: Do not be insistent on having a huge paycheck with your first job. What you should aim for is to be in a job that gives you opportunity to learn and grow. A lot of the jobs with huge paychecks can stagnate your learning. The experience too comes in very handy.
All I have hammered on basically is the need to keep learning. Learn and learn. It doesn’t stop after school.
If you have any more tips about how to be in demand as a graduate, please add yours.
Image Credit: www.n-gap-ng.com