By: Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin*
Ever dreamt of graduating from the University and living a financially secured life ever after?
Chances are high you do – it’s a common dream these days.
It’s not unusual to hear students proclaim that they would have a financially viable life as soon as they graduate and get employed by Chevron, Dangote, Microsoft Corporation, Globacom or United Nations. A neighbour of mine became popular for his frequent chanting of “When I begin to work and I start on a salary scale of N450,000, people that mock me now would run after me. My car would attract all those annoying girls that only look down on me and don’t want to marry now.”
While it is good to be optimistic, such wishful thinking and building of castles in the air shows a deep misunderstanding of the mechanics of the Nigerian labour market of today. The misunderstood or neglected truth is that graduation isn’t a guarantee of employment as academic meal ticket called certificate isn’t as important as your skills, versatility, proficiency and diligence. Of course, certificates are marketable commodities and can often get you an invitation for an interview and probably a job, but the real concern of job employers of today is your employability.
You may be lucky to get an enviable job with your meal ticket, but you cannot retain it with same! The prime question isn’t whether you bagged a First Class or a Second Class Upper, it’s whether you’re outgoing, have the most up-to-date skills of the job environment, have potentials you can dish out to your employer and whether bringing you on board can make a difference.
My own life is punctuated with practical instances of securing a job far above my paper qualification. While I was still a mere SSCE holder, I audaciously applied for a teaching job in a ‘big’ primary school which minimum qualification was NCE and 3 years working experience – both of which I lacked. I thought I wasn’t eligible and would most probably not get the job, but trying out doesn’t harm anyone. The headmistress said she invited me for the interview in admiration of my audacity.
The interview – written, classroom and oral – lasted 3 long hours. Although my papers said I wasn’t the right man, my ‘stuff’ landed me the job and saw me rub shoulders, and favourably well, with better qualified and more experienced colleagues.
Also, as an undergraduate, I have worked as a paid freelance writer with IslamOnline, a reputable international media outfit because my editor was only interested in what I could do and not what my papers say I was qualified to do. This should not be seen as an exercise in self-praise. It’s only intended to drive home my point that your proficiency ranks above your paper qualification.
Many a student desires to live a comfortable life after school, but few make preparation for the challenges involved. Those in such situations often get disappointed and learn by hard experience that graduation with good grades isn’t in itself a guarantee of a decent job with a robust pay. There is therefore the need for every student to embark on a voyage of concerted self development: nurturing of the head, training of the hand and building of the mind.
Unemployment keeps snowballing daily. From a modest 5.3% in December, 2005, the unemployed population of Nigeria has quadrupled to 23.9%. Even worse is that youth unemployment rate is 50%. If you’re an undergraduate today, chances are there would be even fewer jobs when you turn a graduate. That’s not pessimism. The skills you’ll need to succeed aren’t taught in school. You must get onto the field and gather them.
Has anyone ever wondered why no single employee ever made the list of the 100 richest men? The reason is simple: the future belongs to entrepreneurs. Head on to Forbes now and see for yourself.
My sincere advice is this: rather than be a from-company-to-company job seeker, you should learn and strive to engage in business ventures to secure financial autonomy, and the best time to start is while in school. University education shouldn’t be a precondition to economic pursuit; both should be complementary.
Learn to make a living from your passion. This model has worked for me. When I was in 200level in the University, I was passionate about phone engineering, and I quickly turned it into a profitable business, with my colleagues as my clients. Currently, I have transformed my passion for writing into a hybrid of business and community development. How? I got a website, post free daily essay contest news and free writing tutorials. Over 10,000 Nigerian youth have, and continue to get inspired and empowered from the initiative. And I also earn a decent income writing for clients I never would have known if I didn’t explore my passion. Managing the website, I learnt website design, and now that’s another legitimate business for me, thanks to my passion for it.
You can do the same – even better. Each person has an innate, unique set of talents and super abilities which he can monetize with ease. Some are creative writers, others are orators, some enjoy bead making, others fancy stage decoration, hand-made cards, private teaching, just name it.
The 2013 UNDP Human Development Index ranks Nigeria as 153 out of 186 countries. Too bad! This won’t change overnight. I must act. You must act. Rather than join the bandwagon of frustrated job seekers, create jobs and save some of them. So start thinking in the –preneur way: ‘penpreneur,’ ‘technopreneur,’ ‘sociopreneur’ and ‘agropreneur.’
Unemployment is real. But it has a potent cure. Seize the day – right now.