Ever since ASUU (the Academic Staff Union of Universities) called for the just suspended industrial action, life became somewhat boring and uneventful for me – a university student. The union went on a strike to get the attention of the Federal Government regarding very important issues. Although I must confess, their timing was just too wrong for me. Examinations were just about to start in the University of Lagos, what if I forget everything I have learned by the end of this indefinite strike? While I worried about that, my friend declared (during the strike) that she was now officially unemployed. “I am no longer a student” she said, “I am in the labour market in search of employment”. There was some serious sense in what she said.
If you are ambitious and you have plans for your life, then you know that staying idle is probably not a good idea. Idleness is an absolute waste of time, but you know what a good idea is? Venturing into the job market. Getting a job will help improve your skills, it will help you to acquire knowledge of the business world while also making you money. These days, being gainfully employed can be a herculean task. So with knowledge gained from my friend, lots of employers and of course, the internet, I am going to walk you through the process of getting a job.
The first step is to accept your reality. If you’re applying for entry-level positions, most people aren’t expecting you to come in with a resume filled with experience. Instead, embrace your inexperience and leverage it as motivation to learn. Highlight examples of your dedication, curiosity, and commitment to learning and growth. People who are hiring are looking for people who are willing to work hard and want to learn.
The second step is to recognize your skill or talent. Since you are still in the process of attaining a degree, you will need to rely heavily on a skill or a talent. Make a list of all the skills listed in postings for the role you’re looking to get: computer skills, technical skills, communication skills, research skills, problem-solving skills. What do people come to you for help with? The world is quickly shifting from what degree a person has to what a person can do very well. Skills and talents are of great importance. So, if you do not have a skill, I suggest you acquire one as soon as possible, enroll in professional development or special training courses, or just do a lot of reading in your fields of interest.
The third thing to do is to make the link. When you decide to apply for a given position, you must have a reason to believe you can do the job well. Spend some time analyzing that link. What formal or informal experience do you have, or what personal traits, that make the job a good fit? Be analytical and creative in this process. Decide whether or not you are up to the task. Once you establish the link for yourself, you can explain it to a potential employer. While applying for your selected job, you need to determine and emphasize your soft skills. What will make you stand out from the rest? Remember to showcase qualities like friendliness, professionalism, responsiveness, and follow-through. Strong soft skills can go a long way because they can’t really be taught. Another important thing is to know your worth. You might not have years of work experience, but what else in your background can demonstrate your worth to an employer? Experience doesn’t have to just come from traditional jobs; market any skills you’ve developed in other areas of your life.
Also, you need to balance confidence with a beginner’s mind. Confidence is important, but it has to be laced with humility and modesty–the hallmarks of “beginner’s mind.” Show that you can do the job, but also show that you’re willing to learn. Remember, getting this job isn’t just about making money but about gaining knowledge. If you can’t find a job, work for free. A volunteer position can be easier to find than an internship. Volunteer for as much relevant service as you can. You’ll not only gain valuable experience but will also be able to build a network and get a foot in the door.
The next step is to build your personal network. This is a reliable path to a great job at any stage of life. Connect with everyone you know–and in turn with everyone they know–through social media, community and professional events, setting up lunch or coffee dates to stay in touch, any way you can find. Let everyone know what you can do, you need publicity. You cannot sit inside your house and wait for the opportunities to come pay you a visit at home; you need to go in search of it. As a writer I have gotten many opportunities because I put my work up for people to see, thereby making the public aware of what I can do. Also, you need to keep abreast of information about your field of career interest.
The last thing is to be realistic. Even though you are making the most of your skills and experience, make sure you’re applying for positions that are appropriate for you. In a tight job market where employers are flooded with highly qualified applicants, there’s less incentive to take a chance on a marginally qualified candidate. Carefully target jobs you truly can prove you can succeed in–not just those where you think, “I could do that,” but those where you can excel with the strength and skills you already have.
The more defeated you allow yourself to feel, the more defeatist this experience will be. Every day, do something to find a job and do it with the mindset that it is not a futile undertaking but an adventure, a chance to learn and explore.
Along the way, remember to put yourself in the shoes of those who will be hiring you. What should make them excited about you? The answer to that question needs to be reflected in everything you do–from your responses on job searches to your cover letter, your résumé and your interview. Make a compelling case for yourself, take your life into your own hands, and make this work.