Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Dear Nigerian Jobseeker: It's A Jungle Out There But...

 
 


You still have a good chance at landing your dream job, or positioning yourself for that great opportunity.
 

 
 
 
It however won't be easy.

 

 
You've heard the disheartening stories about how many qualified and energetic graduates remained unemployed for months, even years, after their university studies. Those gradually  became disillusioned shells of themselves.
 
 

 
 
You've remained mute when you were bluntly told that without 'connections' you'd never get a decent job. To worsen matters, you've come to realise that unemployed graduates are worse off than semi-literate entrepreneurs, because the latter at least use their knowledge and skills to earn a living, no matter how little.
 


 
You've also been advised to use social media (especially LinkedIn) to form alliances. Indeed, professionals have often lectured you about the need to network tirelessly to tap into 'hidden' job market, because many opportunities are not advertised and are only available via referrals.
 


 
There's some truth to all you've been told.


 
 
In a nutshell, the Nigerian economy has been brutal to your career aspirations, and the effects of the recent inflation are still being felt.
 

 
 
 
But rather than resigning yourself to the 'predictable' fate of becoming jobless, you should take concrete steps  to improve your chances in the corporate jungle.
 
 
 

 
Realise that what will get you through those hallowed corridors of reputable organisations is one indisputable fact:

 
 
 
 
The value you bring.
 

 
Your mindset and actions must be steeped in displaying value to your prospective employer. That perception must govern your thoughts, and should be evident in the application and interview processes for you to stand a chance of being selected.

 

 
The allure of value in the organisation is undeniable, so ensure you address this crucial theme in your profile.

 

 
Recently, I was invited to participate in two events where the notion of value was brought to the fore.



 
Event #1
 

I was a panel judge in mock interviews for soon-to-graduate MBA students. My role was to simulate real scenarios whereby they would face a panel's tough interview questions. I was to comment on their performances, but also decided to assess their communication skills.  Each 'interviewee' endured  five minutes of brutal questioning. Afterwards, their classmates who observed the exchanges highlighted strengths and weaknesses.
 

 
It was interesting to watch the reactions of participants - nervous tics, fumbling explanations and weak eye contact on the one hand; while on the other hand, strong postures, passionate answers and good interpersonal skills.
 
 
 
 
What became clear rather quickly was that the participants who were highly rated by both their classmates and the panel judges were those who articulated the value they would bring to the roles. Those students were confident, likeable and answered questions in a simple manner; they also reiterated what they would do to help the prospective 'employers' (i.e. the panel judges).
 

 
 

 
Value was an attractive trait that made the difference, and that was an eye-opener to all present.
 
 
 
 
 
Value was an attractive trait that made the difference, and that was an eye-opener to all present.




Event #2

 

I was selected to handle a pro bono session for recent graduates, most of whom had completed their mandatory national youth service corps (NYSC) stints. Some had already begun applying for jobs. My 75-minute session tackled writing effective CVs and preparing for interviews.

 



I began by requesting all participants to stand up; I told them to applaud themselves for completing their university studies and for obtaining decent degrees, despite all odds. Initially their eyes widened  in confusion but at further prompting, all 50+ of them erupted in thunderous applause.

 
 
 

 
That move was deliberate. 
 
 
I told them never to underestimate their hard work. I also reassured them that despite whatever difficult processes they might undergo when applying for jobs, they were capable of succeeding.

 
It was crucial for them to first believe in their worth because that would be the motivation to press forward.
 
The session turned out to be engaging with participants asking questions about CVs and sharing their interview experiences. It ended with my suggestion that they should consider the entire application process as an opportunity to allude to the value they would bring to their potential employers. The theme of value should be evident in their CVs, should be explicit in their cover letters, and should be the foundation for their interviews.  
 
I also implored them to the mindful of the importance of the three types of communication in the application process. In particular, I shared the benefits of strong nonverbal communication cues, and highlighted how those increased their chances of being liked - a key to being selected.
 
Since value was the common link in both events, dear graduate, value is what you should prioritise while searching for your next opportunity.

 
So how do you ensure you boost your profile to display value? The actions below will help you stand out from the crowd.

 
1) Get/hone transferable skills


 
 
Transferable skills are skills that could be applied in a wide variety of roles, across different sectors.
 
 
So certain IT skills, (e.g.  practical knowledge of Microsoft office suite), leadership skills, analytical skills, teamwork skills, language skills, time management skills, knowledge of social media, etc. will all be useful to your prospective employer.

 
How to get transferable skills 
 
a) Via volunteering.
 
b) Via formal work experience, placements or internships.
 
c) Via entrepreneurial activities.
 
Even if you have limited 'formal' work experience,  become actively involved in some volunteer work, no matter how humble the activity. So lead that community outreach programme that aims to teach literacy skills to children in low-income neighbourhoods. Offer to help out in a relative's auto shop, or  manage the staff of your friend's food store. Do whatever you can to gain some 'life experience' while job hunting. 
 
Not only do these skills make your CV attractive when relevant to the positions that you're applying for, they also highlight the potential value you could bring to any organisation.
 
 
2) Improve your communication skills
 
 
 
 
These skills are increasingly demanded in corporateville, and it won't matter what role you'd be assigned; you'd be required to display such skills on a daily basis.
 
Communication skills, which are also transferable skills, should be continually honed to be useful. Note that even seasoned professionals with decades of experience, are regularly challenged to display advanced levels of these skills. Therefore, the sooner you begin to improve your skill levels, the more prepared you'd become when the date for that assessment-cum-interview process approaches.
 
There are three types of communication: oral, nonverbal and written. Proving that you could use these skills effectively will make you very desirable to many companies.
 
 
How to update your communication skills

 
A) Oral and nonverbal skills
 
Ample advice on how to polish these two skills is available on the internet. Nonetheless, this  article highlights some habits that will strengthen your speaking ability, as well sharpen your awareness of body language cues.
 
I) Oral skills
 
You’d need these skills when giving speeches, talks or presentations. You could easily learn tips and begin implementing practical actions to increase your competence. Numerous resources online give valuable information - from blogs, articles and YouTube videos, to TED talks and advice from the Toastmasters organisation. The information is out there, so do your research.
 
However, note that for you to become an effective speaker/presenter, you'd need to consistently practise whatever you learn. With continued practice comes the ease of execution, as well as the mastery of this skill.
 
And despite your phobia of public speaking—for you're not alone in this—or the constant dread you'd feel when facing an unfamiliar crowd, go ahead and do it anyway.
 
Over time, it becomes easier.
 
I promise.

 
II) Nonverbal skills/body language cues
 
These skills cover everything you do with your body without speaking.
 
Therefore, gesturing, smiling, and maintaining eye contact, are all positive nonverbal signs when used appropriately. Similarly, a confident pose, a firm handshake and mirroring techniques make you a candidate of interest. Finally, your facial expressions, as well as your use of movement and pauses to connect with your audience, will strengthen perceptions of your credibility.
 
Nonverbal communication is often underestimated but becomes invaluable in interviews and in other tense interactions where speech is limited.

 
Learn how to use it wisely.

 
B) Business writing skills
 
These skills are arguably the most difficult to master, but with regular practice, you'd tremendously improve your ability.
 
 
Strong writing skills are one of the surest ways for you to stand out from the gaggle of intelligent, talented candidates.
 
 
For practical advice and useful resources to help you perfect this skill, read this informative article on business writing.
 
 
If you're desirous of becoming a persuasive writer, you must seek opportunities to write. If all fails, then start a personal blog. Choose free blog templates online such as those from Blogger, WordPress, Wix and Medium. Be disciplined in this quest and your efforts will soon pay off.

 
Conclusion
 
 

So dear new jobseeker - even though it's a jungle out there, and you know how tough it will be to land a decent job, keep your head up.

 
Concentrate on what you can control, and ignore how the odds are stacked against you.
 
 
In addition to other valuable advice you receive about networking, use this 'free' period in your job search to update your transferable skills. Also take concrete steps to sharpen your communication skills, so that you get quicker results. If you do these things, you’d provide value in the application process.

 
As a result, doors will open for you because of your qualifications, knowledge and dogged efforts at self-improvement.

 
Then tell me all about your experiences when you receive multiple offers.

 
Over to you:

 
What other advice can you give fresh graduates to land good jobs?

 
Kindly post your comments below.


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Need help with improving your communication skills?


Hire me for:
 

v  Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;


v   Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.); 


v   Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.


 


Let me help you get results.



Contact me:


A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.



B) Call for a free consultation: 


Nigeria:           0704 631 0592.


International: +234 704 631 0592.  


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N.B:   First image and fifth images are courtesy of Jscreationzs via freedigitalphotos.net. Second and third images are courtesy of Stuart Miles, via freedigitalphotos.net. Fourth image is courtesy of Arztsamui, via freedigitalphotos.net.

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