5 Things Every Undergraduate Should Know about EmploymentPosted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013 at 10:30 AM
By Beyond Better Bridges Africa
Unemployment remains a huge problem in Nigeria. Every year Nigerian universities continue to churn out thousands of new graduates with freshly minted diplomas who join a competitive job market with bleak employment prospects. If you are among the 25 percent of unemployed Nigerians or perhaps one of the approximately 45 percent of working age Nigerians who have given up hopes of finding a job in a job market that seems to be tilted in favor of the connected and returnees with shiny diplomas, questionable accents, and exotic work experiences from abroad, here are five things you should know:
Now is not the time to begrudge the rich and fortunate who can afford to travel abroad for work and educational purposes. Just because you come from a poor or middle class socioeconomic background does not preclude you from opportunities abroad. In today’s hyper connected global landscape, what you know is more important than where you come from or your socioeconomic background. Take advantage of globalization and develop a global mindset.
A global mindset in the employment context is about developing your skills and applying them wherever they are needed around the world. For example, are you an unemployed Political Science and policy graduate who grew up in the North and who have mastered the cultural factors and dynamics that influence behavior and day to day living in the North? While a bank or oil company in Victoria Island may not necessarily value this in you, your perspective may be invaluable to an International Development agency somewhere around the world that is focused on resolving the conflict in Northern Nigeria and other African countries undergoing similar challenges as the North.
Similarly, are you fluent in Arabic? As a bilingual Nigerian, your English and Arabic skills maybe highly appreciated by a U.S. contractor in the United States or the Middle East. There are many instances where the skills we take for granted in Nigeria are actually appreciated around the world. Rather than sinking deeper into the pool of unemployment in Nigeria, broaden your horizons by thinking about how your skills may be applied beyond the shores of Nigeria. Think about teaching English in countries with emerging economies, such as Brazil and China. Most of these English teaching jobs will usually have a preference for people from the United States, the UK, Canada, and Australia; however once you can demonstrate that you know English just as well, you also have a fair shot at these jobs. Apply for fellowships and programs such as the Atlas Corps, which provides work opportunities in the United States to individuals from around the world. Take advantage of the aging populations in many countries and apply for skilled jobs in these countries. Some countries with aging populations are seeking qualified people to join their workforce and pay taxes.
Update Your Skills and Competencies
Just because you are unemployed is not a reason to set your alarm clock to 10:00am every morning. You have to do what you can to improve your chances of landing your next employment opportunity. And updating your skills set does just that. If there is any benefit to being unemployed, it is the time it allows you to do things you may otherwise not have time to do when you have a job. Now is the time to get that professional certification you have been putting off, return to school for a graduate degree or certificate program, and learn skills that will distinguish you from other job applicants.
Learn to Tell Your Story
An engaging C.V or resume and clear cover letter is the key.A common mistake most job applicants make is to underestimate the power of a good CV and cover letter. Your CV and cover letter is your ticket to landing an interview and a potential job. It also represents your brand. The secret to writing a powerful CV and cover letter that would make recruiters remember you, even after reading hundreds of other CVs and cover letters, is to think about your brand and the value it represents. Don’t just list all your past places of employment and job description or few assignments and chores you did there. Instead, write about how whatever you did added value to the organization. Remember that you don’t need to have had the fanciest title or position. It all depends on how you sell it on your CV and cover letter. When writing your CV and cover letter, establish a clear link between whatever you did and the bottom line of the business. Show your impact.
Consider an example of a secretary whose only responsibility was to pick up coffee for a physician in private practice. Although her tasks may seem menial, such a secretary can show her value on her CV by explaining how the coffee she sourced enabled the physician to stay alert and perform more than two surgeries a day. And by performing more than two surgeries a day the organization brought in X amount of money. She can also explain that by bringing in coffee every day, she enabled the physician to concentrate fully on patients, provide the best patient care, and increase patients’ satisfaction. In this example, the secretary has shown how her role contributed to the bottom line.
Think Outside the 9-to-5 Box
Don’t be ashamed of unprofessional jobs. At one point or another, we have all been guilty of tying our self-esteem to our jobs. And so when we suddenly find ourselves unemployed without a traditional 9-to-5 professional job, our self-esteem plunges, and then we vigorously look for another 9-to-5 job. Our society has typically regarded bankers, doctors, lawyers, telecommunication workers, and oil company employees with a lot more respect than individuals in other professions. But here’s the deal: there is a lot of value and learning opportunities that can be gleaned from nonprofessional jobs that can help you get your next professional job. The financial rewards and respect may be minimal, but your professional growth would be enormous. For instance, by selling goods as little as recharge cards and even pure water, a person can learn highly valuable and sought-after skills such as customer service, interpersonal skills, and supply-chain management. Moreover, the experience provides good information and answers for behavioral interviews in which recruiters ask for specific life examples or situations of when you exhibited certain skills and capabilities. Again, it all depends on how well you are able to articulate these skills on your CV. and cover letter, and how you can translate the lessons learned from a nonprofessional job into a professional situation.
Volunteer and Make a Difference in Your Community
Volunteering helps to keep the mind engaged and it can be a potential differentiator between job candidates. When a recruiter is presented with two identical job candidates, the person who has volunteered and made a difference would be preferred over the person who remained idle and done nothing since being unemployed. Volunteering can also help you shake off the self-pity, shame, and laziness that unemployment sometimes forces upon people. Rather than eating Nkwobi, drinking stout, and complaining to friends about how hard it is to find a job in Nigeria, get up and start making a difference in your community. Something as little as cleaning your street can snowball into a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization. Don’t underestimate what you can achieve simply by getting started.
So there you have it. These five tips should get you moving towards your next opportunity.
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