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Put the Work in!



It is being thrown out flippantly that Nigerian graduates are unemployable, and the reported 75% failure rate of the 2010 NECO exams doesn’t do much to dispel this aspersion. It would be a waste to detail the inadequacies of our government and educational sector because if you aren’t a victim yourself, you have definitely watched the plodding debilitation of the system. With an equally non-existent vocational structure for training, internships and work experience would be the only substitute it seems to equip the average young Nigerian.

Along side this preamble, one cannot go without noticing that an awful lot of Nigerians want to be CEOs. It has become something of a pandemic these days. Not like there is anything wrong with it because even I am one of those infected by the CEO plague. The problem with this though, is that a lot of young people do not want to put the work in.

The ideal of waking up, driving to your own office, handing out business cards and slipping it into dinner table conversation that you run a business with a staff strength of over a hundred has come to epitomise the fact that you have arrived.

My office can seem overly laid back at times, so whenever we have young interns, I tend to give them bits of work and exercises to do. That way, they don’t leave with an impression that our jobs are all fun and games. Assignments could range from transcribing interviews to writing copy for adverts and jingles and even gathering news or information for the programmes. The general observation was that they always seemed uninterested. On one occasion, after giving  one of the University students the assignment of coming up with concepts and ideas for radio adverts, she was given a six-hour deadline and, in the end, she spent those six hours on Facebook. She and the others had refused to do any of the work they had been assigned, but I also noticed they always seemed excited when it came to the supposed glamorous side of the job – talking on the microphone.

Some of them had tagged me the mean lady in the office who didn’t allow them indulge in the interesting or exciting kinds of work they expected and hoped for. The thing is this: transcribing interviews allows you the chance to listen intensively, teaching you how to ask questions, what kinds of questions to ask, and how to avoid certain mistakes that would cause those uncomfortable silences which we in the business refer to as dead air. You also discover subtle ways to come back from a dead air situation, as well as uncovering different interview styles and techniques.

Advertising is always good to hustle extra money, and if you can write them, that’s an extra skill you have acquired. It’s called “Copy writing”. Subliminally, the more you do it, the more you understand products and their consumers. As for research, that is the primary basis for every kind of programme. When it comes to learning about production using audio software, nothing beats acquiring a technical skill. This is because a specialised skill helps you become less disposable.

I remember my time as a recruitment officer in England. On a daily basis, over 50% of the Resumes with Nigerian names on them were relegated to the shredding machine. Not because of intolerance, but because those CVs were only a page long with no reasonable work experience. All they seemed to have were just degrees, but no portfolio. Filing paper, answering basic queries and organising a database doesn’t necessarily always mean that you are getting used or perhaps you are not fulfilling your potential. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who will become CEOs and would have never worked directly under somebody else but still make a success story of it all.

Still, before you become a CEO, you have to appreciate and understand process. So, whilst you are fantasising about printing the phrase on your complementary card “I’m CEO bi*ch” Just remember that you actually need to put some kind of work in however unexciting it might seem in the beginning. There is nothing wrong with stewardship.

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  1. Dami

    January 26, 2011 at 10:16 am

    “There is nothing wrong with stewardship.” Tell them! We’re so carried away with glam and razzmatazz these days, it’s disturbing. The majority of us young people are lazy… Tweeting & Facebooking about their ‘hustle’ while in fact they are sitting on their couch all day doing nada. Love you for this one Wana!

    • Kechy

      January 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      Word @ Dami!
      We want to eat our cake and have it these days! CEO ko, CEO ni!

  2. ihy

    January 26, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Good one Wana, straight to the point.

  3. annie

    January 26, 2011 at 10:31 am

    i, for one, have always subscribed to the theory that one ought to work one’s way up to the top from the bottom. how r u gonna know how anything works if u don’t experience that? there is nothing wrong with even moving sideways as long as the brain moving sideways has paid its dues by moving vertically too…

  4. CC

    January 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

    *stands and claps* Kudos Wana! I’m tired of people telling me to help them get a job like mine, that they too also deserve to be senior level managers, after all they even have a Master’s degree. They do not acknowledge the fact that despite the fact that I am under 30, I have been working at least part time for over 15 years and have several non-degree related skills that I have increased during my varied on the job experiences.

    Few people start their careers at the top of the chain, most people have seemingly insignificant beginnings, filing papers and answering phones.

  5. honesty

    January 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

    “There is nothing wrong with stewardship”…a simple truth that is grievously missing in our professional world today.

  6. My lady

    January 26, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I totally agree..its good to go thru and learn the the with people during the stewardship period and learn to deal with people. With four years of working with a very good multinational firm…bin my own CEO is definitely the next agenda

  7. peleoo

    January 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    superb!…ur the best wana!…..the only way upwards is downards:)…..God bless you!

  8. cuteb

    January 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Spot on Wana !!!
    Pay the dues, garner the experience then you can talk management.

  9. dami O

    January 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Me i don’t want to be a CEO yet, i just want to have experiences because experience is where you will get to the management level and other bonus will add up too! If there any Vacancy in the Marketing department or anything to do with Business and Marketing let me know thanks my addy is [email protected] (i can only try!)

  10. mariaah

    January 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Wana TBH you mirrored what has been on my mind for the past few days.. Some Nigerian youths are kinda lazy, before you see a young person with a job in that country the person must be from a very poverished background. In developed countries most kids get jobs as soon as they are 16, most times in fast food joints, retail stores, at times the traditional office environment. Some even do volunteer work without pay just to gain experience. Based on observation, the average uni graduate get their first ever work experience during N.Y.S.C.. Am glad I got exposure; I have 2-3 yrs work experience under my belt working as as office Assistant and trust me I worked my ass off!! From clerical duties, banking, travelling on official duties, to being a nanny.. After all I am an assistant, but hey I got paid. Each and every Tom dick and harry wants to hand out business card, be CEOs, be a billionaire so freaking bahhd a la Bruno Mars, but We forget we have to serve to get served!

    • shade

      January 27, 2011 at 4:30 am

      Enough said.

      And great stuff Wana!!

  11. 070

    January 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    spot on.
    most young people are looking for cheap and easy money..and they forget that most of these CEO’s scrubbed toilets, mopped offices and houses, did all sort of jobs,hustled with all their hearts to get to where they are now..
    and dey think they can wake up one bright morning,in a big house,car keys to a land rover on the table,and the title of a CEO on a complimentary card..smh

    if only jobs were available esp to foreigners in this country,plus if i had time from a busy med school schedule i wont need any1 to tell me to go get busy…

  12. Tollu

    January 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    This factor you’ve observed just shows that many things are wrong with the country.
    Granted, the youths might be lazy and don’ wanna put in their bit but then, there’s a reason for this.
    Someone mentioned that youths abroad work in fast food places, scrub floor etc. This is Nigeria, we have to take into account that such jobs are not readily available for the sixteen year olds. What with graduates working behind counters, serving as cleaners, generally working in unskilled areas. There’s just no opportunity to start so young. Let’s blame it all on the government ( as usual)

  13. ify

    January 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Well said!!!young people do not want to take pains to climb the ladder of sucess.A lot of them believe you can become a sucess overnight without hardwork but history has shown that even those who became overnight sucesses had a lot of time to learn, fail, practice. We can all dream of becoming CEOs but are we ready to pay our dues?

  14. Toks Ogun

    January 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I think if we had more stories of how people got to where they are, it would teach the younger generations the merits of putting in the work. There is nothing wrong with starting off as a CEO, as long as you realize that you still have to put in the work. Just because you are the CEO, doesn’t mean you’re not also the receptionist, copy writer, researcher, janitor, transcriber, etc. Title aside the work has to be done.

  15. Anuli

    January 26, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I used to think the European way to life-must have experience to be employed-was hard and rigid BUT now i am so thankful for it. Never worked before and coming to the UK almost 8yrs ago, i put my back into it whilst studying and i must say its so worth it. Though i am very thankful to God for everything, I also needed to adjust myself to learn, work, save,pay bills and live within means(Wanz rem naw you dey there too :-). So i agree with you Wanz. Hustle is real and needful for whatever area, even the Bible says “do not despise the days of humble beginings” meaning one must start small to make it BIG!! Truth be told, some parents don’t help matters as some African mentality would see it disgraceful for thier children to work while studying, so it won’t damage the image of the parents (not that i am against parents support as my fees too were paid) not knowing that when they are long gone, this kind of mentality may afect thier childrens inability to fend for themselves (already affecting one of my younger brothers whose time is shared btw school,football on TV, FB,Twitter,BBing,gaming, online chat and sexting and not paying any bills or rent ooo until my husband and I kicked his 9ja backside off to get a job-now he is working @ d Cinema and learning to be a man)

    Heck!! Even so called Celebs work hard @ the Hustle and try so hard before ever getting recognized, and work even harder to stay at the top!!Msweeewww!!!

    Sorry to go on jare- the thing vex me small!!!

  16. Joshua King

    January 26, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    A lot of issues are raised in this entertaining piece. What comes to mind and is most disturbing however, is the unemployability of most Nigerian graduates and the fact that these graduates want to become CEOs without work or hands on skill.
    A desire to rise to the top is great but so should be the desire to be knowledgeable.

  17. z

    January 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Well said, there seems to be a wide world entitlement phenomena amongst some young people. Don’t think it is unique to Nigeria. With the microwave ‘success’ we see on reality TV and talent shows we often don’t see the reality of what it takes to be the Boss. I think the episode on X Factor where Cheryl Cole’s two acts were in the ‘bottom two’ and she did not want to make a decision about which act to get rid off, is a great example of how we often want the glory that we think comes with being the boss but we don’t want to deal with the ‘challenges’ that come with being in charge. Well said Wana. Great piece.

  18. D.O.T.M.H

    January 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I couldn’t agree more

  19. nkechi

    January 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    one thing human beings have failed to realize is dat not everyone can be the boss, some pple are actually goin to achieve their life’s purpose by serving others. its this desperate neeeeed to be on top that leads to disloyaty and impatience in business and the work place cos the average man cant understand why his colleague or partner shld hav more than he does. its however unfortunate that this average man has refused to look back into the past from which his ‘opponent’ came so as to appreciate the benefits of hard work. that is why the more ceo’s spring up the more they dissapear cos they havnt acquired the necessary mindset and skills required for their job so they are out of work before they can even employ the fantastic work force they fantasize about. good talk wana

  20. Aibee

    January 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    When I saw the Heading of the Article, my mind just said “this is either by WanaWana or Glory”. Was I right? Yes! Now I’ll go read the Article and come back with my thots. See ya.

  21. Aibee

    January 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Okay, I really don’t have anything to add. Wana and the other ‘commentators’above have said it all. i’m a lawyer and I dint get the kind of job I wanted till 6 months after NYSC, despite my good grades in Uni and Law School. Before that job came, I spent that time doing administrative support in my mum’s school.The skills I learnt from that period and the period I spent interning in law firms came in very handy when I finally got the kind of job I wanted.
    My take is let ‘adults’ trust young people with assignments whilst still leaving room for the learning curve. For the young ones, lets soak up as much skill and knowledge as we can because as they say ‘no knowledge is wasted’. Who knew that speed-typing skill I picked in junior secondary school will be handy in typing out briefs of arguments?

  22. Gbenga Awomodu

    January 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Well said Wana!

    Ever wondered why many multinationals/highly respected institutions prefer to promote from within and hardly have a top manager from outside? I’m a bit worried that many young people are too much ‘in-a-haste’ to make the ‘big break’! We seem to find it easy to “despise the days of small beginnings”!

    [Maybe some of those interns could find favour with you when you highlight these salient points to them.]

  23. Damola

    January 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I have been a CEO all my life since I was 16, and I can tell’s a tough job. Now, am 25, worry for 40 people, I think a lot, my social life has always been dead, it’s a screwed up job.. but it’s my dream, so I have to live with it.. but even 2am, still working, NO TV in the house to even relax, and so so thinking, cos, when 30th come, gba gaun.. pay up time.. to break even till when I can smile is in God’s hands.. cos me, I don tire..

  24. Ima

    January 26, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I totally agree. I had my fair share of filing, typing and tea making at internships and volunteer positions that made me the laughing stock of my friends. Now i’m on my way up with experience gained in that period, and guess who’s laughing now?

  25. Gbemi

    January 27, 2011 at 12:50 am

    While trying to recruit an administrative assistant for my fashion business a few years ago, I asked one of the applicants how much she would like to be paid and she mentioned an amount that exceeded my own salary at the time. Thinking to myself, “is this girl for real??” I asked her “how do you plan to add value to the company that would justify that amount?” The “dead air” situation you described was all I got.
    I have not met a lot of people who approach their jobs from the ‘value’ perspective. When my clients pay me for making their clothes, they do so because I’ve added value to them. What are you bringing to the table? Opportunity usually shows up disguised in work clothes.
    Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, you get paid for adding value. You cannot add value to someone else’s business without increasing in value yourself. Even if your employer treats you badly, you’ll at least have learnt how not to treat your own employees.
    Jim Skinner, president and CEO of McDonald’s began as a restaurant manager trainee. Would your work ethic change if there was a possibility that you would own the company you work for??

  26. Steve "Job"

    January 27, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Some years ago, a recent graduate friend of mine with a degree from a University in England resumed for work at a multinational manufacturing firm somewhere on the Mainland.

    On his first day, the HR manager gave him a tour of the firm’s premises, and took him to the department he was supposed to work under and introduced him to the manager in charge there – a grouchy man called Mr. Laja.

    While the HR Manager was there, Mr. Laja asked the graduate (Toby) what his major was in school. Toby proudly replied “Project Management and Finance from the University of Liverpool.”

    As soon as the HR manager had left and was out of sight, Mr. Laja asked him “Shebi you know how to sort files?” and gave him the key to a filing cabinet that looked like something from the National Library and Archives.

    Toby sorted files for weeks and weeks; he would get to work, take off his suit jacket and tie and sort out dusty files which had been previously arranged by a whirlwind. He might as well have studied Library Science. Well, at least he got some experience for his CV…..

  27. Tina Ike

    January 27, 2011 at 8:51 am

    this is so true Wana, having lived in the states since 1996, two degrees and several work experiences later in education and banking, now i have started my own PR&Marketing, and i can now value the time and effort to put together projects, 100% , all or nothing. CEO, Owner and Founder, this should be all titles that supports years of experience and dedication, it truly should be earned. lessons can go both for Youths, Young Adults and some parents who advise their children

  28. oma

    January 27, 2011 at 9:45 am

    thanks wana for shedding light on this.some people i know think im crazy to be working without pay just to gain the experience.before you think im just a rich kid who has everything she needs and maybe doesnt need the money;let me stop you there cos im an average nigerian lady with huge dreams.i know that my hard work and dedication with God’s favour will surely pay off soon.

  29. penelopeia

    January 27, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I am 24 working with one of the United Nations agencies, its one of every uni grad dream job. among some of my duties; i make photocopies, scans, coffee for my boss and for meetings, climbing and descending stairs for these photocopies and scans. It can be difficult at times but I don’t stress much about doing all these things. I try to enjoy my work both good and bad and learn from my bosses. I know it will pay off when I become a programme officer or an international staff own a blue passport, travel the world and take $50,000 per, mwaaah. Am putting in work.

  30. Ekene Onu

    January 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Well said, Wana! You have to do the work. Pay your dues. I remember a friend of mine, a Caucasian American and she was switching careers, she went from being a high powered account executive to a chef’s assistant, where her days where filled with menial tasks. Today she is a chef herself but after a few years of washing dishes and cutting carrots. She did the work. Nobody owes you anything. It is this get rich, sharp, sharp idea that gets people into trouble. I was discussing with a graduate the other day and her mom asked me to help her get a job. I said I could send her resume to some friends to see if they new of any open positions. The girl was really excited. Until it came time to actually do the simple work of writing a passable resume. She was a pretty girl, who knew how to put herself together but zero work ethic! I hate to imagine what she is doing these days. Perhaps she has landed a job based on her other qualifications.
    As Wana said, to be a CEO is not the issue, the vulcanizer with his cardboard sign is a CEO and his boyboy is his staff! The issue is to add value to the world we live in and use your abilities to create resources that we all can use.
    Hear, hear Wana!

  31. George

    January 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I so much appreciate this Wana. After reading others comments, I realized that there is a need to get this in the ears of those tweeting n face booking young people, if not then we are just complaining without taking necessary steps for change. lets reach out to these young people by working on our education system to include vocational structure from secondary level n i truly believe that we will see good results with a space of 5yrs. Well done again. Keep up the great work.

  32. rolake

    January 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY AGREE…no CEO position for lazy man….and even if lazy man get am….it wud be difficult to maintain…

  33. tamiz

    February 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm


  34. Adekunbi Adeoye

    March 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Wana!! Fantastic write up!

  35. nita

    May 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    thanks wana, it seems i was the only one thinking in this line, i lost my job in a bank a few months back and then i got another in a field i always wanted foe one-third of my previous pay, i took the job not even for the pay but bcos i cant afford to be idle and i need good experience in this field, folks think am daft but u just put my spirit back one track, cos am going places am still in gathering my tools for the next big bang, am luving ur work too, keep it up xoxo

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