Modupe Ogunyemi: Dear Young (Nigerian) Graduate
Each time I sit on an interview panel, I see the dire need for guidance and mentoring of young graduates. Many struggle with getting, keeping jobs and generally building a career not because they aren’t skilled but because they lack requisite insight. I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way in the hope that it helps to make the path easier for those coming behind.
Bear in mind that this insight is derived from my own personal experiences, including mistakes I’ve made and learnt from in the last 12 years. Having worked in nearly 10 companies in and outside Nigeria, I can tell you that these principles hold true regardless of sector, industry or geography.
Don’t Oppose Your Boss Publicly
In any organisation, bosses close ranks, always and without fail. Bosses will never go against themselves in favour of a junior colleague, ever. So even if your boss is doing something wrong, it’s not in your place to call him out. Sooner or later, management will find out and deal with him but till then, keep your head down and just do your work. Unless of course, you have found another job or you are smoking something like weed.
Work on Your Human Relations
It’s not enough to be skilled or talented. If you are the most skilled person but your interpersonal relationships stink, you will not go far. Being personable and friendly trounce talent all the time. Be diligent in your job, yes, but don’t make enemies in the process. That is not to say you should go about kissing people’s asses, hell no. Only people who don’t know their jobs do that. And they too don’t go far. Know your job, do your job, be friendly about it. Relate well with both the people above and the people below you. And remember it’s an office, not a family gathering.
Invest in Yourself
Your self development is entirely your responsibility, not that of the company you work for. Please read the last sentence again and let it sink in. If the company you work for has training schemes in place, take full advantage of it. If not, dip your hands inside your pocket and train yourself. Yes, pay for your own training. When I look at people’s CVs and in 5 years, they haven’t added anything to themselves, it raises a huge red flag. 5 years, no training, no conference, no seminar? And you want to get to the top? How na? Even entrepreneurs, the Dangotes & Otedolas, go to places like Harvard & Crotonville for trainings every year. You think getting to the top and staying there is by praying and fasting? Hian!
Bad Bosses Are Good
Since 2004 when I graduated and joined corporate Nigeria, I’ve had my fair share of bad bosses. I’ve had good, bad and downright nasty. I firmly believe that 80% of the time, people change jobs because of their bosses and not so much the company itself. Bad bosses are good for your growth. They strengthen you. They teach how not to behave when you become a boss. They challenge you to either sink or swim. It’s not a pleasant experience and can even break your spirit if you let it. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of crying in the office. But if you don’t break, you will soar. If you find yourself in a bad boss situation, take it as a challenge to learn the don’ts of leadership and when the opportunity to soar comes, seize it!
Never Badmouth A Boss/ Company Publicly Or At Interviews
When you’ve been around long enough, you will realise that corporate Nigeria is a very small place. We all know ourselves, really. Somebody will know somebody that knows your boss. And that somebody might just be the one interviewing you for your new job. Never, ever, badmouth a place you’ve worked for or a boss you’ve worked with in public. If you’re asked about it in an interview, find something else to say, seriously. Na you wan talk say teacher mama die?
Choose a Career Path
Stop throwing CVs around anyhow. Decide what it is you want to do. As simple as it sounds, many young graduates just don’t get it. And I understand, at that stage you just want to be earning a salary sha, so any way na way. But you see, the sooner you streamline all your job searching efforts to a particular line, the quicker your growth will be. This is something I sincerely wish I’d known when I was starting out too. It takes time and effort to build a successful career, the sooner you start, the faster you’ll grow. And you have to start for the love of it, not for the money. I don’t know how else to say this. It is easy to see when people apply for a job because of the money and not because of the passion. You can’t cover that up in an interview. Of course passion can and usually meets money even in a paid job but be sure to start from passion. The other way round will burn you out eventually.
Be Prepared To Sacrifice
The truth is, there is no shortcut to the top. You just have to pay your dues. Every success has a story. This is why it is important to let passion be the motivator of your career and not money. It is the passion that will sustain you before the money starts rolling in. When I tell people some salaries I have collected in the past, they don’t believe it. I just smile. There is a period of sacrifice, for everybody, in every discipline. The more you work on yourself, the more your propensity to earn. But it will not happen in one day. When I see young graduates today telling an interview panel they want to collect X amount, I wonder who their advisors are. I’ve had a guy say well, my salary must be X because that’s what my parents gave me when I was in school and I can’t take less than that. Do you think I hired him? I wished him well and hoped for his sake that his dad had a conglomerate he could work in. Until and unless you have valuable work experience, your ability to negotiate pay is next to nil.
After all said and done, there is no end to learning and I am still learning too. I have merely outlined lessons I’ve learnt over the years and may differ from another person’s experience. In all, I wish all job seekers and career builders out there the very best. God bless everyone’s hustles.