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Gidi in Heels with ‘Layemi: Awon Lagos Boys & Girls

'Layemi Olusoga

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Image Downloads-1I am an avid believer in doing whatever makes you happy and living life to the fullest but occasionally I do have my responsible realistic moments. My friend had just returned from vacation and I had gone to pick her up for an event  – and of course collect the chocolate she had brought for me (Note to the dance instructor who may or may not be reading this: it was dark chocolate, which is actually quite healthy).

Anyway, as she got ready for our outing, I complimented the new bag she intended to carry and asked how much it had cost as I wanted to get something similar for myself. She smiled at me and casually announced the price, which after I had done the currency conversion (I am now a walking calculator) had set her back what was easily both our monthly salaries combined! Of course I thought it was a joke and so I asked her to be serious as I really did like the bag. This prompted her to hand me the receipt as evidence. I asked why she had spent so much on one bag and she casually said to me:

Oh it’s my business meeting handbag (she is an entrepreneur).

She then proceeded to explain to me that it is important to look a certain way when going for job interviews or business meetings. We argued all the way to the event and then because we couldn’t accept each other’s point of views we decided to present the matter to our other friends at the event and then the real argument began.

Now a handful of us were of the opinion that what really mattered at a job interview/ business meeting was your background, experience, confidence and your ability to carry on intelligent conversation and as long as you are smartly, neatly and decently dressed, you would be considered a suitable candidate whether or not your bag was a Louis Vuitton or River Island.

The others on the table begged to differ and were of the opinion that while this was the ideal situation this is not what happens in the Lagos of today. According to them, in today’s Lagos packaging is king and a candidate who looks the part (in terms of looks and ensemble), and can also speak the part (brownie points for foreign accents) is more likely to be considered before a candidate who only brought experience and intelligence to the table.

The major point established by Team Packaging was that Nigerians often relate competence to some form of exposure (preferably foreign) and so it is easier to convince someone to hire you for a job or give you a business contract if you have the look.

Having the look for men is pretty simple according to them, the metrics of measurement and analysis are your suit, watch, belt, shoes and perfume. If your briefcase isn’t amongst the list of mispronounced designer labels then it is better to leave it at home.

For women it is a bit more complicated. Having the look involves everything – shoes, bags, belt, watch, make-up, hair, nails, and perfume. The make of the dress according to them didn’t really matter much as long as it fit perfectly.

Seeing as there is no empirical data to support or refute we agreed to disagree, and focused on enjoying the party.

However, it would be nice to get more opinions on this topic. Do you think it’s a level playing field out there or do you think designer labels, fancy cars and a foreign accent are an advantage in closing business deals and landing a good job? Is packaging king in Lagos today? What’s your take?

Photo Credit: Foto.com.ng

Layemi is a career woman, a writer and a relentless dreamer. She is an eternal optimist, hopeless romantic and an advocate for equity. She wants to be remembered for impacting the world and inspiring billions through her writing which she hopes will someday earn her a Nobel Prize in Literature. She occasionally tweets with the handle @luola12

24 Comments

  1. Weezy

    May 31, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    I don’t think it is that extreme – as in you have to buy designer shoes and handbags. You can get some nice clothes (or sew them) for far cheaper prices than your monthly salary – though that depends on what your monthly salary is! Your friend probably just wanted the bag and feels guitly so she says its packaging 🙂

  2. X-Factor

    May 31, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    ‘ Been out of paid employment and labour market for a while but my take is:
    1. Fancy cars and a foreign accent are an advantage in closing business deals?- 80-85% YES
    2. Fancy cars and a foreign accent are an advantage in landing good jobs?- I really cannot tell, but as a regular member of interview panels, i ll choose substance over packaging any day especially if the role is in operations and not customer facing/sales

  3. Big Tee

    May 31, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Don’t be alarmed if your potential client insists on walking you to where your car is parked down the street (they somehow link the value of your car to your service delivery ability), …In the Lagos I know, style trumps substance 85% of the time, but the wise will seek a balance between both.

  4. Janet

    May 31, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Ahn! I am even thinking to move back home, but i don’t have money for all this packaging that everyone is peaking of o! hmmm na wa o

    • Delta geh

      May 31, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      Don’t be scared. Just make sure you look neat and well put together. No need to be buying designer sturvves

  5. Young kids

    May 31, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Lagos from time in memorial has always been packaging and it will remain so, social media is helping to make it more pronounced

  6. Benito

    May 31, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I to an extent agree to that. I have a friend who got a job just cause he was wearing a designer shirt on the day of the interview. And of course Nigerians still have that slave master mentality where they think anything foreign like the accent or if it’s a white man even though he might be Lebanese or indian, bring better quality. But hey you gotta fake it till you make it right.

  7. Niyoola

    May 31, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    A couple of years back, during my IT, our ‘Oga’ wanted to bid for a project. Even though there was going to be a tendering process, he said the DG usually selected who he wanted as contractor.

    Oga borrowed his brother’s G-Wagon and went for the pre-qualification meeting (Oga had a Landrover Discovery o, but that wasn’t catchy enough)
    After the meeting, Oga made sure the DG knew the car was his. DG asked to test-drive the “mechine”. Oga, obliged.
    Iong story short…… Oga got the contract.

    Packaging takes you a looooong way in naija o. Intellect etc will help you retain and get more contracts, but packaging is king.
    (of course, there will be exceptions…….. but then, the smartest/inteligent/competent may not get the contract due to nepotism, bribery etc)

    I don’t think this applies with Jobs though. Although, some people may want to hire well packaged people into their sales/brand mgt/marketing/business dev team.

  8. HR.

    May 31, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    It depends on the job, the position, the industry and most especially, the company/organisation.

  9. Pee

    May 31, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Packaging is not only king in Lagos! Its queen too. If you dont have a VI,Ikoyi or Lekki office address some potential clients wont even consider you twice. As an entrepreneur, I can categorically say that people size you up to know whether or not to take you seriously! And if you want to go into PR, Media, Fashion et al better know how to package! N yes I agree with the writer, brownie points if you have a foriegn accent!!! Why else do you think almost all the OAPs on radio these days cant even talk with a typical naija accent! It is what it is.

  10. Nene

    May 31, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Sometimes packaging works against you. If you look too good at interviews, then they think you’re flamboyant and will steal the company’s money or they think you’re looking for a job to get rich men and women to sponsor your lifestyle

  11. Nene

    May 31, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    For closing business deals however, packaging would be important. For job interviews, I think you need to tone down your look and show them that you’re smart and you can think on your feet. They look more at your smartness than your packaging. Dressing neat and appearing neat at a job interview is a no brainer.

  12. Lucinda

    May 31, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    I approach any business with one motive and that’s to make profit. Prudence is one of the first qualities I look out for in a business deal/relationship with a client/customer. I’ll have second thoughts if I notice anything excessively flamboyant. Miserly people too are red flags. They could compromise on quality for quantity. What you want is a middle ground from both extremes.

    If I have to clear my bank account to get deals from you, you’ll pay for it and your bills must be higher.

  13. Bee

    June 1, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Packaging only works in Nigeria to get a job because we do not have standard employment laws and also employers are sometimes not too smart to see through the packaging. If my dressing impacts the business in anywaythen it should absolutely be a selection factor,otherwise what are the required skill sets for the job? Does this individual have the competencies?

    But then again it’s Nigeria,so anything goes!

  14. Jo!

    June 1, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Layemi!!!
    I don’t know you but I really want to say I’m proud of you, you’re a fantastic writer, just FANTASTIC. I used to wonder who the writer for the series that you wrote was, and I’m glad you’re finally getting recognition for your work and are even on your third series. Two thumbs up.
    I’m also really happy that you’re “putting yourself out there” I know how hard that can be. Keep up your level of excellence and the sky is just the beginning.

    • Pink

      June 1, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Is she that Layemi from the Bella series?? O wow!!! I am such a fan! It’s great to finally have a face to go with the name. Please do let us know when you write a novel, your writing is brilliant!

  15. Jo!

    June 1, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Yea, now I can contribute. I’m about to buy a 2k$ bag for work (on sale, usually 3k) well,for key meetings/events tbh. It’s top quality Italian workmanship, lol, my first step before I can Scrape together the 5k for the channel flap.
    I don’t think Its for everybody, buying expensive “stuff”, many people would rather put that amount of money in investments and things, it’s okay, but I also see this as an investment, depends on what you do and the kind of people you interface with, so, do you, really, and make sure you can afford it and not doing it to keep up with the joneses.
    And for those who will ask, or wonder. Yes, I have also invested and am paying for my own property, so no, all my money isn’t going into “shoe and bag”

  16. Lara

    June 1, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Packaging for an entrepreneur is something of a big deal,because no one wants to do business or entrust a large amount of money with some one that is not well packaged, to the extent of the kind of car you drive to a business meeting matters.
    As regards seeking employment, you do not necessarily have to looked very expensive, but you need to look well put together and i mean well dressed,smell nice and speak eloquently(not necessarily twisting your tongue), then you are good to go.

  17. davinci

    June 1, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Packaging though neccessary but shouldnt be the crux of the matter when you are bidding for a contract or going for a job interview. Most importantly you need to be intellectually sound. Afterall packaging wthout brains na wash………..

  18. Abidemi

    June 1, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Packaging only works for feeble minds, A smart person can easily lift the veil on any facade by probing the substance.

  19. olamide

    June 1, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    The truth remains that the world we live in today is governed by perception: it rules. From the moment you walk into an interview panel, even before words come out of your mouth, a huge impression has already been made. It’s a cognitive bias labelled the “hallo effect”, i.e. taking one’s appearance to be a judge of overall character. It happens everywhere, a facially attractive lady lands that hot job, the snazzy guy with the cool accent is made CEO ahead of his superiors – its a lazy and unfair world. Communication experts will tell you the ability to engage your audience in an effective communication comprises 55% physiology (looks), 38% tonality (sound of your voice), and 7% words (kind of words used). If you don’t get the interviewer’s attention within the first 5 seconds of speaking, then you’ve lost the interview forever. Building intellect is good for longevity, however, you need to polish your act to get ‘caught’ in the first instance.

  20. MNC

    June 1, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Packaging really is King in Lagos. Sad but true. Infact, it is the norm for Nigerians as Nigerians are slaves to everything oyinbo, be it the people, mannerisms or just regular stuff. It is especially so for people in business (the entrepreneurs). The environment forces them to adopt oyinbo accents, ‘borrow pose’ or live above their means. If an entrepreneur goes to an organisation to make a presentation, chances are the contract will go to the person with the oyinbo accent, an entourage (nicely dressed individuals who just nod in agreement to whatever their ‘boss’ says at the meetings), an expensive bag filled with all sorts of gadgets (ipad and co) as opposed to the person with a great presentation from their trusty but old laptop, jotting down feedback on their almost ‘filled to the brim and trusty’ notebook. In Naija, unfortunately, Image is everything!

  21. Middle Aged Profnl

    June 2, 2016 at 7:26 am

    O my! When did the Nigerian value system sink to such an abysmal level! Little wonder the country is this way. The comments I have read so far just make me wonder when “crass” became “class” to Nigerians.

  22. Dodoridodo

    June 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Its all about the look…hence the unsmart bosses who “look good”

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