Everyone wants to get fantastic jobs, with great pay perks when they leave School and join the Labour market. What most people that think like this don’t understand is that there is actually a process that involves internships and volunteering situations for them to cut their teeth before they transit into fully paid employment. I was one of them. Note that for some people, they were among the lucky few that didn’t have to bother with longer processes; they had jobs waiting for them already.
During my University days, I was not enlightened enough to understand the power of internships and volunteering positions in different facets of the Labour market that would have helped me gain experience and learn while on the job. By the time I was done with schooling and entered the job market to flash my well-written CV around, it turned out that I had fabulous grades—both at the University and Nigerian Law School—but little to no experience, save for my stint working in the Registry department of the State-owned Adekunle Ajasin University in Akungba Akoko, Ondo State.
Sadly, everyone knows how things work in the Nigerian environment. Our business environment is extremely competitive and University graduates are usually expected to be 25, with 30 years of experience thrown in for good measure. Without experience, many people will be hard pressed to find Firms and companies that are willing to take chances on them.
Opportunities Disguised as Free Work
Dear (Under) Graduate,
“There are no jobs in Nigeria,” is one of the most common statements you will hear when you leave the University and start to carry your files around, seeking for jobs. The government has that message blaring from all corners. Many people are in tedious job positions they detest, seemingly unable to make a career move away from those positions into better paying opportunities because “there are no jobs”. Fellow job seekers will call you up and complain to you that there are no jobs in Nigeria. Thousands of people show up for small roles in small organizations across the country, leaving you to ponder at the silliness of it all.
In spite of the prevailing mantra of the day, you are going to see people transitioning from one great position to another (greater) position. You will see people in the Media, as part of great teams for leading Firms and companies. You will see those you know working as part of teams on sleek campaigns for large Brands. You will ask: How do some of these people get these positions?
Many of these people started by working in unpaid roles where they volunteered to add value. The watchword here is “Value”. Learn to volunteer for positions and opportunities. Some firms may be unwilling to take you on if you come with the tag “Internship” as the subject matter of your email message to their head of HR. However, many will give you a second glance if you come up and inform them that you wish to volunteer for a specific role. Your willingness to volunteer for such positions will probably give them a pause.
Here are certain benefits of Volunteering:
- Volunteering will give you practical experience: For this discourse, let us assume that you volunteered for a Google tech program which needs young men and women to be a part of their team to run a campaign that targets young African school leavers. Google is one of the world’s leading tech firms and there are numerous opportunities to learn there. You can gain that practical experience, then happily slap that position/role into the pages of your CV and no one on earth will question you to know how much Google paid you for that. All that they will see is that you worked for Google on so-so project. To them, you have that experience, and such may be the type they need someone for in their own organization.
- Positioning: With practical experience gained in your Volunteering efforts, it will be easier for you to transit into paid roles within the organization you volunteered for or another organization. Recall that in the preceding paragraphs I’d mentioned that getting a job in Nigeria without practical experience is difficult. I still maintain that position. many Organizations and companies are usually reluctant to train young people at entry level, so practical experience gathered through volunteering positions may help you to stand out.
Many people have informed me that they are looking for opportunities to volunteer for roles but haven’t been successful because all the companies they checked their websites didn’t have openings for volunteers.
This, right above, is a misconception. No company will issue public notices that they are looking for volunteers. It is up to you to sift through the countless hundreds of companies and Firms out there and make your choice. Companies have problems and pain points; find out which problems your dream companies have and go after them to give you a role where you can do something to address their pain points and gain practical experience.
There are no jobs in Nigeria, however companies recruit top talent everyday from the pages of LinkedIn; some reach out to deserving talent because one decision maker from the company saw their fabulous posts on some technical subject matter which resonated well enough to make them reach out with an offer. Many people have transited from volunteering roles into fully paid employments.
Remember, in your quest for a job, never forget that practical experience can magnet opportunities for you, something your fabulous results may not get you when you are seeking employment at Entry level. Nothing beats having experience in a given role.