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Oreoluwa Sonola: Being a Housekeeper Is Never the End for an Educated Person… Unless You Want It to Be

Oreoluwa Sonola

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To say the truth, we know that not every graduate will get a corporate job immediately after NYSC or eventually. It is not a Nigerian problem. Even the biggest economies in the world have shortage of jobs.  Some of us know some people who have made up their minds to be business owners immediately after school. As easy as that may sound, that road is not to be traveled by faint hearts.

I believe that entrepreneurship is not an art but a spirit. It is not something you just do; it is fueled by a passion to solve problems; the ability to be able to identify needs/problems and stay on course to solve them. There are many business owners who are not entrepreneurs at heart, and there are many employees and career people who have and display the entrepreneurship spirit every day at work.

In the past decade, despite the fact that there has been a recurring and pressing need for capable housekeepers/house-helps/maids in Nigeria, very few graduates are open to exploring the opportunity, even though it is profitable. Some willing ones have shied back due to the societal conditioning that associates certain kind of people with housekeeping.

Or maybe there is this idea that housekeeping is easy, it requires no special competency. The people who do this job wouldn’t agree. I can tell you that all those skills that you listed in your CV sent to an oil company; Ability to work under pressure, Team player, Ability to Multitask, Resourcefulness e.t.c are the key competencies required to thrive on the job. It requires that your emotional intelligence and value proposition be high.

If you take a random survey on the needs of maid-employers, the basics are: someone who is hardworking, has a tested character, can communicate fluently, who can assimilate instructions well, can take initiative, learned and skilled enough to be able to stay with their kids, prepare meals and so on. With the quality of maids that are being outsourced, you will quickly see that there is no balance in demand and supply. Wouldn’t it be unfair of us to actually expect so much from someone who is just coming from the village?

It is lack of this balance that causes a family to go through as many as eight maids in a year, simply because they can’t find what they are looking for. This is why I recommend and encourage more educated people to consider these opportunity.

It amuses me that “The American Dream” and greener pastures many young and able Nigerians go to seek for abroad, most of the time starts from this point. So why has it become difficult for our society to come to terms with and incorporate this? The promise of the American dream is that no matter where you start from, as long as you work hard, you have a chance of becoming something. But you must start, even if it means starting very small.

Being a housekeeper is never the endpoint for an educated person; except he/she really wants to. Home and abroad, people have used these jobs to pay for their tuition, pay debts and provide for their families. It only serves as a platform. I see it as as a small door that would lead to other big doors.

While on the job, he/she would be amazed at the other opportunities that present themselves. The entrepreneurship spirit can help an educated person see that his/her employer’s network is their first selling point for other marketable skills.

Look at these examples:

  1. Because of your education, you are able to teach your employer’s children. Eventually, with your employer’s permission, you can explore the option of teaching other neighbors kids for a fee.
  2. With your professional make-up skills, can make up for your employer for free and ask her to bring her friends for a fee.
  3. You make your employer and her daughter’s hair. Soon enough, neighbors and friends are bringing their kids, then you work on having a salon.
  4. You are a #fitfam member, so you help your employer draw up a meal plan and prep meals that would help her lose some weight. Imagine what would happen when she sees results.After working for some time, you can begin to plan your exit strategy with your employer in the know. I think any employer who is hiring an educated maid, should already know that the person may not stay for a very long time, but for the time being, they are at peace. A contract should be in place to specify the duration and conditions for termination.

To conclude, statistics already prove that corporate employers are more likely to favor someone who has volunteered or done some kind of work over another person who has done nothing at all, to fill in a vacant position. So while still applying for your corporate job, you can be sure to put in your experience as a help in your resume. Don’t forget to re-christen the role to something like “Home consultant” or “Personal Assistant on home affairs” as the case may be. Just kidding!

Photo Credit: Georgerudy | Dreamstime.com

Oreoluwa Sonola is a Household Manager. She ensures the systems in homes run smoothly with little or no supervision from the homeowners. She creates management and training resources, procedural manuals, work schedules and SOPs for Domestic staff within the home and chore schedules for kids where the domestic staff is absent. Some of her resources can be found on her website www.maidformee.com  and Instagram and twitter @maidformee.

8 Comments

  1. Om

    May 23, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Hello Oreoluwa, you just read my mind in this piece, its like we had a conversation two weeks ago. I absolutely concur with you 100%; I have an MSc but I also love and know how to clean very well, I have a 9-5 job but I still NEED extra cash, so I’ve been toying with the idea of providing housekeeping services only on weekends. I started a cleaning biz in PH but I’ve just moved to Lag. Anyways, everything you said is soooooooooo true. well done

  2. Berry

    May 23, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Naah. Being a maid is a no no for a graduate in my opinion. I’d rather you volunteer in a company where you learn professional skills and gain valuable experience than be a maid.

  3. Yes!!

    May 23, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    It will not work in Naija and I can give you the following reasons;
    1. UNfortunately in most homes people want a slave not a housekeeper or nanny that they can work from dusk to dawn. No one will go to University and come and be doing such work. In the West your working duties and hours of work are clearly stated and abided to, and you are treated like a human being.
    2. I hope you know helps in the West earn a lot. People can live on their salary because they are also mostly live in and no one is measuring the quantity of food they eat unlike in Naija where average pay is like 30-40k (though foreign helps earn more I hear). and madam will ration your food.
    3. There is dignity in labor in the West so you can confidently put all your work in your CV. Try doing that in Naija, putting your ‘househelp’ experience in your CV.??

    • www.thelmathinks.com

      May 23, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Nah. In Nigeria average pay is 15-25k for househelps and I notice that you’re referring to Lagos and not just Lagos, the Island specifically. Most helps who work on the mainland are still paid 10-15k. Then, outside Lagos it’s even worse. I know people in (PH) that pay their maids 10k or less. Only very few pay 10-15k. And job description includes cleaner, cook, washerman, nanny.

      That said I strongly believe that there is a market in Nigeria for educated househelps, it may take some getting used to for both sides but I think the poster is on to something. She’s going to need patience and persistence though.

    • caramel chic

      May 23, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      @YESS I have a feeling you don’t live in Lagos. You sound like you still live abroad. Personally I think this will work in Lagos. I cant speak for the rest of Nigeria. Never lived there. But there is definitely space in Lagos for this. Finding reliable staff is the biggest issue ever!!! So if you can complete a cleaning job in hour and half for a pay of roughly 2k. You could make around 12k over 6 hours. x5 = 60k a week. Thats 240k a month. And remember Lagos is the city of word of mouth. Recurring customers will come if you do your job well. Trust me even your average house help struggles with the mop.. Also not everyone who is wealthy in Lagos has a househellp. So anyone reading this, give it a shot. Even if you start on just the weekend.

  4. Tutu

    May 23, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    To say the truth( ka so too to) Yoruba English. Lol. Just saying. Well…I dunno. This your idea might need some getting used to. It all boils down to the pay sha. If the employer is paying 400k and above monthly I can be a personal assistant on home affairs 🙂

  5. Dontknowabtthat

    May 23, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Nice way of selling ur firm,but no thanks.
    How do u address the issue of maids with good intentions being harassed by the madam husband to get some cookies.
    It’s true most people travel out of the country to work as a nanny ,at least in US,they earn 1000dollars monthly.The question is how much are they being paid here in naija.

  6. Interesting

    May 23, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    I like the concept proposed here, but I find the author a little contradictory. I read some of her articles on her blog and I find that the advice she provides to maid employers on how to treat their maids is not how a degree holder would want to be treated if they were in a professional setting. If we are to be encouraging degree holders to go into the house keeping industry, then we should also be advising the employers in the industry to adapt professional practices in hiring and management.

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