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Ruth Zubairu: 5 Reasons Why Getting a Job is Almost Impossible

In Nigeria, the necessary infrastructure needed to facilitate job applications are either broken down or completely non-existent. The job applicant who doesn’t have ₦2000 to load every month for internet access will automatically be cut off from most opportunities. This is where the government comes in, as it is responsible for creating policies and access to funding that will encourage the industries to supply these services at little or no cost to the everyday Nigerian.



Go to school.
Graduate with a good grade.
You will get a good job.
And live happily ever after.

The above has been consistently sold to every child growing up, but it’s been proven to be untrue.

Here’s why:

Lack of Infrastructure
Maro completed his NYSC in Ekiti State and had to return home to Minna. He was hopeful that his second class upper degree in engineering would get him a good job.

The cyber café became his new home, applying for jobs almost daily despite the terrible internet service. He could use his phone, but attaching his CV or cover letter from his phone was always difficult, and his data always ran out even with night plans.

His friend told him that he was invited for an interview. He remembered that he applied for the same position and rushed to check his email. No data on his phone. He rushed to the cyber café to check his emails. There it was. An invitation had been sent to him.

His joy was shortlived as he realized he was far away in Minna and would need a full day of travel to reach Lagos. He heaved a sigh. He had missed that opportunity. Others would come. He consoled himself.

Sounds familiar?

Many graduates miss chances because of circumstances beyond their control. In developed countries, internet access is almost free if you have a phone, and they certainly have no issues with power supply.

In Nigeria, the necessary infrastructure needed to facilitate job applications are either broken down or completely non-existent. The job applicant who doesn’t have 2000 to load every month for internet access will automatically be cut off from most opportunities. This is where the government comes in, as it is responsible for creating policies and access to funding that will encourage the industries to supply these services at little or no cost to the everyday Nigerian.

This is not to mention the deplorable road conditions that can turn a journey of 45-minute within a state to three hours, or an inter-state journey of eight hours to two days.

Employers will interpret your absence or tardiness on arrival as an indication of your unsuitability for the role, and hence an elimination tool.

Low Productivity Employments
These refer to those jobs that are mainly routine in nature with very little specialization. For example, some cashier roles in the banks.

Tunde got employed as a graduate trainee by one of the new generation banks. He put in late hours and was dedicated to his job. He was rewarded with some sort of promotion in title without commensurate compensation every three years. But he hoped that when he became a supervisor or assistant manager, things would get better

After eight years, he was passed over for a supervisor position. A new person was brought in to head their department. Still disappointed, the news broke. His bank was being bought over. He suddenly was unemployed.

He tried applying for jobs using his years of experience but the requirements always included some technical skills he didn’t have. He couldn’t easily change industries as his job role was routine and specific to the bank sector. He was past the age for any entry level job. The jobs available wanted younger applicants and it came with less pay than what he earned at his last job.

This is very common.

People find themselves stranded after they’ve given the better part of their years to an organization, and one policy changes things for the worse for them. They are brought back to the unemployed pool, but with grim prospects.

Unrealistic Expectations of Employers
Some job adverts ask for individuals with four years of experience and an age limit of 26 years. Haha.

Okay, that’s a stretch, but you get what I mean.

All those who attended public universities are at a disadvantage because the average age at graduation will be relatively higher than that of those who attended private universities. In those institutions, there is no break in the academic calendar for things like ASUU strike.

Also, many students typically gain admission after two or three years. So even if you left secondary school at sixteen, you spend three years trying to gain admission, you eventually begin at nineteen. A course that should be four years takes five or six because of strike. You end up graduating at 24.

With the one year of NYSC, you’d be 25 when it’s time to apply for a job, giving you a window of one year before you become ineligible for some jobs. This is automatic disqualification for a lot of graduates. Unfair, but hey …

Type of Degree
“All degree na degree.”

Statistics gotten from the 2018 Graduate Report by Stutern shows that there are more unemployed Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) degree holders (40.52% and 39.40%) than any other degree holder.

The type of “paper” you carry matters.

If you’re seeking a job, the first thing you should consider is: what kind of certificate do I carry? This is the sad reality of things, and you need to take the necessary steps to increase your job hunting advantage.

Instead of being eager to escape JAMB and get into a higher institution, students should be more deliberate about what and where they study, otherwise they might just put themselves in the disadvantage after graduation.

We look forward to a time when all graduates/certificates will be regarded in the same light, and OND/HND graduates will have an equal standing with BSc graduates. But we are not there yet in Nigeria.

So the doors remain shut (albeit unfairly) against these graduates.

Trends, Times and the Evolution of Work
The world is fast becoming a global village as a result of technology and digitalization. This has a commensurate impact of the reality of job availability.

Jobs that are mainly routine in nature and require little or no specialization will no longer exist, as automation/artificial intelligence will take over most of these jobs. This will save employers money, as their overhead cost will be reduced and job efficiency will be increased.

Don’t think this is a new phenomenon and that it will get better soon. It might not.

In 2012 the news broke that Dangote was hiring graduates as trailer drivers. There was a mad rush of 13,000 applicants. Out of these, six were PhD holders, 704 had a Masters Degree, and over 8460 were Bachelors degree holders.

How on earth did that happen?

Trailer driving was supposed to be unattractive and reserved for the unschooled. But why would a highly educated person apply for that?

First, this was a response to survival. Imagine a PhD graduate with a family of three, unable to provide a comfortable accommodation for them, constantly watching them deprived of food, without access to proper healthcare, all because he cannot afford it. And he sees an opportunity to earn a living honorably, why won’t he grab it like a drowning man clutches a lifeline. PhD ko!

Also, the offer was too good to resist.

Statistics show that 60% of graduates earn below 50,000 as salary. This is often without allowances for travel or health insurance.

Dangote’s offer promised that the drivers would get allowances on each trip, along with their salaries. There was also the guarantee that they would own the trucks at no interests/repayments after a set distance was covered.

The applicants had hopes of eventually becoming self-employed with time. The conditions have not changed much in 2019. And so, unless you have adequately prepared yourself against each of these reasons, your chances of getting a job are next to none.

But There’s a Way Out
With the advent of continuous learning brought to you by an assortment of options online, you can unlearn, learn and relearn anything you set your mind to.

Your certificate must not be the determinant of your economic status.

Your school must not place a limit on what you can achieve and who you can become.

Better adult learning opportunities enable those who have graduated from different schools/disciplines to learn new skills and adapt positively to changing labor market demands.

What other reason do you think is responsible for the unemployment status of many Nigerian graduates? Please share in the comments.

Ruth Zubairu is a Communications Consultant and helps individual brands and businesses amplify their message, impact lives and monetize their knowledge/experience. With a Human Anatomy background, she has been able to change careers leveraging on her passion for writing. Download for free How to excel at interviews without being rejected every time.  For more information about Ruth, click HERE


  1. Busayo

    March 29, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Nigeria has an increasing level of unemployment due to the negligence on the part of job seekers to do their homework, improve their skills and get extra certifications and training. Thank you Bella Naija for an insightful write-up, we would surely do look into it.

    • Ruth Zubairu

      March 29, 2019 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you Busayo for sharing your thoughts and I totally agree with you. More needs to be done by job seekers to prepare themselves for the workplace.

    • Pst Destiny Aleru

      March 30, 2019 at 5:07 pm

      Ruth my sister am proud of you

  2. Teey

    March 29, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Another beautifully written article. BN is on a roll today! This article raises so many valid points. I had never before thought about what those residing outside Lagos or Abuja go through to apply for jobs and attend interviews. I think another factor is the fact that the University Curriculum does not reflect the realities of the labor market. I graduated from Unilag in 2008 with a degree in Elect/Elect Engineering and we were taught FORTRAN programming language – a programming language that has been extinct since the 90s. That was also the only programming language that I was taught meanwhile my counterparts in developed countries were learning at least 2 currently viable programming languages. Another factor I think is the fact that there are no mentoring opportunities available in the Universities for undergraduates. A lot of undergraduates are not aware of the skills, certifications and experiences needed to succeed in their chosen career fields. I know many people will say they can google that information but it’s not the same as having someone who works in the industry to which you aspire to work guide you on all the requirements to meet in order to get the job. I think it’s the responsibility of a lot of the companies to go to universities and offer mentor ship opportunities to undergraduates. I believe if these issues are nipped in the bud, a lot of our graduates will become more employable. However, all these are for naught if the said jobs don’t exist in the first place.

    • Ruth Zubairu

      March 31, 2019 at 1:29 am

      Thank you Teey!

      I can certainly relate with the learning deficiency of our universities and it’s not just in computer-related subjects.
      I’d like to see more Alumni bodies take up mentoring in their respective schools. This will help prepare these students/future job seekers for the realities that exist outside the four walls of the University.

      Do have a great day.


  3. Useful

    March 29, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    All that has been said are all correct and wake up call for a general change of mindset as a student, employer and government. I have lost a scholarship as a student because I had no data to check my mail. I get annoyed with the stereotypes of reading just to pass exam and get good grades for a better job in future. Beyond reading for exam to pass, read extensively and widely for knowledge, for practicality and better mindset. Readers are leaders. Thanks for this post. It very relative

  4. Emmanuel David Nwobodo

    March 29, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Wowww… This is really profound and amazing. I hope that the young people of Nigeria will get to see and understand these things. Thank you so much MRS. RUTH ZUBAIRU for this rich content.

    Greater heights…!

  5. shehu

    March 30, 2019 at 5:18 am

    All that have been said, absolutely correct. This is a wake up call. Stop playing the victim, take responsibility.

    The reality is that, the way to success, especially in Naija is very rough so HARDWORK with PRAYERS are inevitable. We now have prayer warriors without skills. We all need both in this country.

    According to Alvin Toffler, the Illiterates of the 21st century are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot unlearn, learn and relearn.

    It doesn’t matter your current state (unemployed, underemployed or employed or gainfully employed). The only guarantee you have for success, is to keep improving yourself with the relevant skills at the right proficiency level.

    Great write-up Ruth. Thanks Bella Naija…

  6. Godwin

    March 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    One of the main message here is that, we should unlearn what we have been thought in school and learn about new ways to earn a living. Read books authored by Robert Kiyosaki like “The Cash Flow Quadrant”, you will understand the deep meaning of Ruth’s message. Discover yourself, your passion and work towards developing it. If you have something to offer to the world, the world will look for you. Let’s create value. We need more employers of labour than employees.
    Thanks Ruth for this message.

  7. Rufai Adjei

    March 31, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    The educational structure in subsaharan Africa is the main reason for high unemployment rates. Technical education is not given the needed attention.

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