A survey conducted by recruiting service Jobberman in January 2016 showed that 45% of Nigerian graduates were unemployed. While this is a statistic that calls for urgent action, it’s hardly news that the unemployment situation in Nigeria is dire. As a fresh graduate, or a final year university student, these statistics could be daunting, seeing as they will be soon joining the labour market, and the vast majority of them will fall into the unfavorable side of this statistic. While it’s everybody’s dream to land the job of their dreams immediately after graduation, it helps to prepare as much as you can to be ready when a desirable job opportunity eventually comes. These steps will help you kickstart your graduate career and prepare you for when you eventually get it.
1. Decide what you want: As a young school leaver looking to start your graduate career, you will definitely have a lot of interests which can leave you paralyzed, undecided and aimless. If you’re multi-passionate, pick one field on which to focus your attention – for now at least. You may be into programming, graphic design and content production, but what you choose to start your graduate career with doesn’t matter as much as getting yourself into the job market. Keep in mind that you can and will change jobs four to five times before you turn 30. You don’t need to figure out the dream job immediately, you just need some experience and a paycheck. If you’re still undecided, make a random choice from your interests, and begin from there.
2. Schedule interviews: Once you’ve decided on a particular graduate career, make a list of all the people you know in that field and contact them via email, text message or call. Try to schedule a meeting or interview depending. If you don’t know anyone, try to find and attend events in the field you’re interested in. Do not try to network from behind a computer, you need to go out, to see and be seen. Let people know who you are and that you’re looking for a job in that field. A lot of people know they should take this step, especially when trying to kickstart a graduate career, but never actually get out there and meet anyone face-to-face. Try to schedule as many meets as possible. Attend at least one event, meeting or gathering every week.
3. Be intentional: The choices you make early in your graduate career create momentum and develop a knowledge and expertise that can help or hurt you in future career transitions. Many new graduates like to extend their university experience and place priority more on fun, leisure and parties than in developing a graduate career in their mid to late twenties. It’s important to balance work and life, but making choices for your graduate career based on leisure is making a mistake. Choose your boss wisely as well, because the first few bosses you have can really shape your graduate career. Ask yourself if you will enjoy working for them, what you will learn from them, and if they show a desire to help with your career. Good bosses can help you get a lot of momentum in your graduate career, especially when you’re just starting off. Finally, don’t just be a bystander, involved only in your job, try to be a student of the industry in which you find yourself. People who know the big picture and how everything in their field connects will rise to leadership positions faster than those who only know how to do their job.
4. Learn to network: All businesses are built on relationships, which makes networking a critical part of progress. Like the saying “Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know”, most leadership positions are filled from personal referrals. It’s never too early in your graduate career to start networking. While still in university, find internships at places where you hope to work when you graduate, and and build positive relationships with the people in the company. If you have a target company you wish to work for, find ways to engage in activities they support, in order to build relationships with their managers. Networking is a critical part of your graduate career and is all about building a lot of relationships inside and outside your industry. A Harvard business professor said “There will come a time in your career when your greatest currency will be the relationships you have.” To build a varied and valuable network of relationships, always remember to give before you ask. Don’t look at networking as a way to get something from others to advance your graduate career, instead find ways to provide value to others and assist them with their needs. When you do this, your network will grow quickly and will be very valuable when you need it.
5. Build a new resume: The traditional resume you knew is becoming obsolete. Today, 75% of searches for candidates by companies and search firms start in LinkedIn. One placement CEO said “If you’re not on LinkedIn, you don’t exist.” LinkedIn is not just a social media platform, but your online resume and prospective graduate career platform. It’s a CV that needs to be developed and continually curated over time. As jobs become more scarce and the cost of hiring and training new employees keeps going up, businesses will be looking for more ways to see an applicant’s achievements and results. LinkedIn gives you a competitive advantage over those who do not use that platform. Lastly, a paper resume will almost always be required for a final interview. When writing this one, keep in mind that this is not just a list of dates and achievements about you. Craft a convincing narrative about you so far – who you are, what you’ve learnt, how you can add value to an organization, what your competitive advantage over others is and how you hope to keep developing your graduate career as you grow. Keep in mind that this is a document marketing yourself and take the time needed to develop it correctly. If done correctly, your resume could be a catalyst to kickstart your graduate career and land you your first job. If required, seek professional help to do this right, because it’s worth the investment to get a great resume that markets you and shows your skills in the best light.
6. Commit to continuing your education: “Software is eating the world” – said a silicon valley venture capitalist. Rapid changes in technology are impacting every segment of economies worldwide, so to advance in your graduate career, it’s important to continuously adapt to stay relevant. These technological changes are revolutionizing education and allowing virtually everyone receive an Ivy League education, or learn how to program from their home. MOOCs (Massive open online courses) are online courses from top universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford and MIT to mention a few. These courses have every course to advance your graduate career – from business management to finance and programming. The courses are taught by the same professors, but are free to the public. Upon completion, you can receive a certificate to show you completed the course. You can then post this on your resume to show your continued development after the university. Use this means to gain a free education in your spare time and advance your graduate career, instead of keeping up with the latest movie series. Believe it or not, most of what we have learnt will become obsolete if we do not keep ourselves plugged in, update our education and stay current in our field. Adapt to the advancements in your industry and invest in your graduate career – no matter how comfortable you are currently.
It’s likely you’ll experience some setbacks and disappointments on the way to kickstarting your graduate career, but remaining positive and striving to improve every step of the way will only make you stronger.