After Your Graduation Ceremony, Then What?

The graduation ceremony had a touch of grandeur, solemnity and nostalgia about it; the special day has come and gone. You reached the milestone; you stayed focused and graduated well. The plan was that with this solid foundation, armed with a degree under your belt, you could step out, start to build your own future and conquer the world. That time came over a year ago and there is still nowhere to go.

Every day young, intelligent, articulate graduates, pound the pavements in search of work. For so many graduates, having a degree has not translated, as expected into a job. Some have applied, unsuccessfully, for hundreds of jobs, some have part-time work, or internships, several are doing a masters degree “to improve their chances.” Today’s graduates are competing for entry-level jobs against laid-off workers with MBAs and years of experience; with the increased competition for only a few jobs the job outlook continues to look grim for scores of graduates.
Here are some suggestions that might be useful until things improve.

Cultivate your Network
Effective networking is achieved through cultivating relationships over time. Reach out to those with whom you already have a personal, professional or academic connection. Does everyone you know realize that you are looking for a job? Use all the contacts and connections that you have, including your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends and so on. Make sure they know what your skills and talents are, so that they keep you in mind when they hear of any openings.
Stay in close touch with professional colleagues and actively seek to expand your network. If you have been an active member of professional or business associations, on-campus organizations, or social groups, keep those connections alive. Networking activities, provide good opportunities to gain useful insights on careers, get job leads, and for you to sell yourself. Stay in touch with former managers from internships, and part-time jobs; if you left a good impression, they might be able to help.

Use on-line resources to search for job opportunities. If you are interested in a particular company do online research about that company and follow the companies activities closely in the media. Improve the presentation of your CV to make it flawless and perfectly tailored to the positions you are seeking. Through company websites you will be able to send out several applications efficiently, but bear in mind that most great job opportunities are not advertised; they are often filled by personal contacts.

Be Flexible
If you are broke and are not one of those that is lucky enough to be housed and fed by your parents or relatives for an indefinite period, you cannot afford to sit at home until you find your dream job. Naturally it can be very tedious and disconcerting sending out several applications and get no response, but don’t focus solely on your area of study, be flexible and broaden your scope. Expanded your search to related fields; this will boost your chances of finding something that is relevant and that will still utilize your training and abilities and enhance your skills.

If you regard every other position as demeaning and “beneath you” as you are in fact “a graduate,” you could be in for a long wait. In this highly competitive world in recession, it is important that you are humble and accept the fact that you might have to start at the bottom and work your way up. There may be opportunities working at a restaurant, in a shop, baby sitting and lots of other temporary jobs that can keep you busy and give you some badly needed cash until something more in line with your expectations and credentials turns up.

Do you have a special skill or talent?
Be creative and identify that special gift or talent that you might have ignored before now. Do people always comment on your painting, photography or writing skills? Are you good at public speaking or organizing, web-design or programming? Can you design clothes or model them? If you can play musical instruments to a decent standard, there may be freelance work as a singer, pianist, organist or violinist in churches, clubs, music lounges or private receptions. There may be opportunities to offer tutorial services in a subject that you excelled in, to students in your area. There are endless options and not only will you be earning, but you will also open yourself to opportunities and contacts that may be of help in your job hunt.

Consider working for free
One good way to get your foot in the door with a company or organization is to demonstrate to them what you can do. By working as an intern or volunteering, you have an opportunity to impress them by showcasing your skills, commitment, and professionalism and doing something that makes a difference. This might make them want to hire you.

Whilst getting your foot in the door and proving what you can do can get you full time employment after a few months, do not assume that it will translate into a permanent position with the organization or you might be disappointed. Even if it doesn’t, you would have gained valuable experience. Of course if you have no assistance whatsoever from family or friends, it will be difficult to work for free.

Try to avoid having significant gaps of unemployment in your CV to have to explain in interviews. A future employer will be impressed that you did not just sit at home doing nothing but you kept yourself occupied gaining experience and new skills.

Consider setting up your own business
What is it that you are passionate about and capable of doing relatively easily and well? When you are young and free of significant financial or personal commitments such as a family, a mortgage and other debt, you have a unique opportunity to take some risk and consider establishing your own business if you are so inclined. Do you have what you consider to be a great idea that you are passionate about and doesn’t have huge start up costs? You may be surprised at what you can accomplish.

There may be comfort in numbers. Perhaps you could partner with a classmate or a friend whose skills complement your own and set up something together.

Continue to develop yourself
Whilst no learning is wasted, avoid fleeing into an expensive and lengthy graduate program that may not necessarily give you that added advantage, just to postpone the difficult period. As far as possible, seek continuous training and experience that can directly support any chosen career path. Professional qualifications or certifications, or shorter courses to improve your IT and other skills can sometimes be of greater value at this time. Basic skills in languages such as Mandarin, Spanish, French may give you an edge. Employers will always value employees who strive to develop themselves. Keep abreast of current events and in particular of what is happening in your industry. Be disciplined about keeping your learning alive.

The hard reality is that being a graduate never guaranteed anyone immediate employment. As you await the “right” job, open yourself to various opportunities and experiences. Develop a supportive group of friends and cultivate friendships with people who are positive in spite of the challenges. Such people will make the most of this opportunity, and will give you the encouragement you badly need to get through this phase.

Ask yourself what the lessons learnt are, so that you benefit from the overall experience. What opportunities can you create out of the uncertainty? Despair and depression will only make you less attractive to a potential employer. Above all, maintain a sense of optimism and resilience and keep your spirits and energy levels up through exercise. It is that strength of character and self-confidence that will make you stand out and help get you through an employer’s door or even the door of your own small business.

Photo Credit: Stock Image
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Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private banking and wealth management. She is passionate about encouraging financial independence and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues. She is married with 3 children.Find out more via www.nimiakinkugbe.com

35 Comments on After Your Graduation Ceremony, Then What?
  • Layo March 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Great Advice. Graduating this year and this is the kind of useful advice I’ve been receiving which is keeping me (kinda) sane.

  • Personal Shopper March 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm
  • onyx March 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Every Nigerian graduate (whether in or outwith the country) badly needs this advice. We’ve all been fed the wrong assumptions of what to expect from after graduation and that rigid approach to the future just doesn’t fit into the current economic situation.
    Blue collar jobs and internships are absolute no-go areas to a lot of today’s graduates but I keep telling folk to try these out and build some experience from wherever. You’ll be surprised at what appeals to a potential employer looking through your CV…

  • funmi March 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Beautiful piece.

  • kem March 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    i am wowed, wish all this could be given as counsel to most young people when still in tertiary,

  • damojo March 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Impressive. I’m a trained pharmacist but currently work in one of the top 3 banks. It’s also interesting to know that i now have my own retail pharmacy outlet and also make some money from my profitable hobby, sewing suits and natives. Nobody knows my other businesses in the office, we all cry and wait for month end but trust me, i don’t even touch my salary…Maybe one thing Nimi forgot to mention is this; keep your plans to yourself. Most young people talk more than they actually do/can do nowadays! Good luck!

  • cathy March 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    right on point

  • pynk March 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    The one line is “expect nothing because you have a diploma in hand, but fight hard as hell to get a chance to showcase urself”

  • rogotigi March 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    BN, why can’t we share posts anymore???

  • nala123 March 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    No doubt this is good advice but I remember clearly reading this same article word for word on Yahoo a while ago. Please if you are going to post an article that you didn’t write, it would be nice to credit the source

    • BellaNaija.com
      BellaNaija.com March 20, 2012 at 3:37 am

      This is definitely an original article by author, not culled from Yahoo or any other source. You should also provide evidence or do your thorough research before making such claims.

    • Gidi March 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Such accusation can not be done flippantly. Like BN said,kindly provide proof of the yahoo article. Mrs. Akinkugbe has such a reputable career that i would be damned if she could post a yahoo article and pass it off as hers. I am trying to imagine in it but my imagination fails me. We, interested bloggers eagerly await proof of the yahoo article.

  • Lynn March 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Really encouraging. Thanks BN

  • Omalichanwa March 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Bn y cant we share?

  • nala123 March 21, 2012 at 6:02 am

    It’s been a while and i don’t know if i can find the article. However, if the author comes forth and states that it’s an original by her, then that’s good enough for me. @ Gina Even Madoff had a reputable career till he made off with ……..well you know how that went. Yeah I get it though people we’ve placed on a pedestal can do no wrong in our eyes.

    • Gidi March 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Common mate. your analogy is off. Madoff was bent for fiancial gains. What is Mrs. Akinkugbe plagiarizing a Yahoo guidance counselling article on BN for? A few kind words and thank you to massage her ego? Which sane soul will jeopardize a decent career like hers for such silly gains? Even Madoff would not attempt such as bent as he is.
      I vouch for no one and have no heroes either dead no alive but i repeat that the lady could not have plagiarized this article.
      A more serious issue is your inability to back your accusation with proof. You should have had the proof ready before going public with such a weighty accusation. That is the proper order. Don’t abuse the privilege that anonymity on the internet provides by just throwing unsubstantiated accusations you are too lazy to back up.

      • Gidi March 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm

        i meant either dead or living.
        sorry for the typo.

  • miss laurance March 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Hey BellaNaija ,how can i advertise my biz here,can i get a contact info plz?

  • Nimi March 22, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Dear Readers
    I published an article entitled “After the graduation ceremony, then what?” several months ago in my Personal Finance column in 234next. Since then it has been culled on various blogs and websites, including my own. Even though Nala123 may not have intended to suggest that the article might have been written by someone other than myself, I thought I should put this point utterly beyond conjecture.
    I am pleased that you find the article useful.

    • Steve Adams April 2, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Nimi has been a financial expert for decades and she even works in one of the biggest banks in Nigeria. I remember the first time we were introduced in 2005, she had just started contributing articles to Genevieve Magazine and wanted to be sure that the agency managing the magazine’s website was truly competent. She liked the fact that at 27 i already had a fledging, relatively successful, business and she literally opened new doors for me. Needless to say we became friends and she was like an aunt constantly advising me about my personal finances and investment options i should be considering at that age. It was an eye opener! I thank God i applied her advice and learnt a lot from those wonderful pieces she wrote. She hasn’t heard from me in several years now but i thank her immensely. My business has grown from a one-man company to an employer of men. I’m more financially comfortable now and have a family to boot. Heed her advice or not. The choice is ultimately yours.

  • dami O March 22, 2012 at 2:16 am

    i so much understood this article.. i graduated 2 years ago and still no Job in this UK may God help us all

    • Gidi March 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      Wishing you the best. May the search bear fruit soonest.

  • excel March 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Please my advice is that,before pple go into the universities they should think about courses that can equip them with skills for survival. Especially if you are not connected,don’t just go their and read any course,this makes it more difficult for you to survive in this country. Please advice your younger once.

  • Innarticles March 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

    A big one! Ma, i think this type of advocacy should not end on the cyberspace. I suggest you partner with some youth organizations on our school campuses to get this to the minds of many. I bet you, many do not know of this truth yet. Some of these organisations are already established so you wont bother yourself on organizing or event logistics. One i know of is the Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) present in 39 tertiary institutions. If need be , i can assist you in reaching them. Thanks for your support for our youths. GOD BLESS NIGERIA

  • denze March 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    @excel, it dosen’t work that way again. If you are in this country, the thing now is not about what you read but your ability to defend what you read by passing an aptitude test. my background is Agriculture but currently i am having a wonderful time in the telecommunication sector.

  • Lee March 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Wow, Such an inspiring piece…kudos!!!

  • Nic March 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Something that’s fairly obvious, although I don’t think it can be said enough, is that you must never give up. And that’s hard, what with the media coming at you from all angles, telling you that you’ve wasted your time, that there are no graduate jobs, that you might as well give up.

    It’s not true. The jobs market is tough, that doesn’t make it impossible. Take my sister. She graduated in 2009 with a 2:2 in a subject that academia loves to sneer at. Everyone from careers advice to her classmates told her that she’d wasted her time and money, that no employer would give her the time of day.

    Strange, then, that she was employed in a relevent position within two months of graduating and many of those who got the highest grades are still unemployed. I’m not saying that my sister’s experience is typical of all graduates, but she is living proof that you shouldn’t listen to what the media tells you.

  • Ezekiel Lasbury March 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    very informative and will set any prospective graduate is the right path. unfortunately the way our institutions are set up is more focused on acquiring certifications as oppose empowering potential graduates with key skills to excel in the real world outside the walls of the tertiary institutions. http://elekcybersolutions.wordpress.com

  • Dandayo March 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Nice piece of advice for graduates. As one waiting to hook up the dream job it is a very good thing to stay positive and take your mind off the daily routine of sending emails and applications. Focus more on self development and learning new skills because they would help take cushion the anxiety that comes during this period while you wait for feedback and so on.

  • Ebizmagazine March 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    If you’re looking for an experience and unpaid internship in a magazine, kindly email me

  • dramameen April 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I suggest an academic focus in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics for the Youths of Africa. These are the fields that can potentially give the continent a competitive future. It saddens me to see technology graduates working in banks and fields that are unrelated to their field of study. Years ago, there was an investment in R&D. I wonder why that does not happen anymore. I recommend a site for African job seekers: http://chukslist.com

  • kem April 3, 2012 at 9:57 am

    i find myself going through her archive, lot need to be learned and first thing is how to be in control of financial issue, i shall get there, i am glad i find bella naija useful in all ramification, kudos to you and thanks for educating, entertaining and inspiring…

  • bbfashionisata April 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    I can relate to this post so well because am currently living it,i graduated from unilag
    In 2010,I read physics with education,which of cause wasn’t my first choice,I struggled with it in school came out with a 3rd class, still unemployed because no one would give a a chance,I am intellegent,I passed all three of the apptitude tests I ever took,the first time I wasn’t taken because I hadn’t served d second wanted me 2 work 7days a week and the 3rd wanted experience.
    I have skills I trained to be a makeup artist in school,I have knowledge of sewing,I have done temp jobs to volunteering but sometimes you just wish someone can give you a helping hand,I want to go back to school get a Pgd then masters on a part time basis

    I would need a mon-fri job to do that,I can’t work at a shop because they work weekends,I don’t mind earning low,but I would need someone to point me to the right direction. Whn and where any1 pls help mail me bio16us@yahoo.com

  • Oyindamola May 11, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Mary Schmich-
    Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:This was published as a column in the Chicago Tribune in 1997, written by Mary Schmich

    Wear sunscreen

    If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

    Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

    Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

    Do one thing every day that scares you.

    Sing.

    Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

    Floss.

    Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

    Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

    Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

    Stretch.

    Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

    Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

    Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

    Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

    Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

    Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

    Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

    Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

    Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

    Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

    Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

    Respect your elders.

    Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

    Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

    Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

    But trust me on the sunscreen.

  • oyindamola May 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Mary Schmich-
    Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:This was published as a column in the Chicago Tribune in 1997, written by Mary Schmich

    Wear sunscreen

    If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

    Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

    Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

    Do one thing every day that scares you.

    Sing.

    Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

    Floss.

    Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

    Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

    Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

    Stretch.

    Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

    Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

    Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

    Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

    Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

    Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

    Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

    Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

    Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

    Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

    Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

    Respect your elders.

    Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

    Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

    Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

    But trust me on the sunscreen.

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