Dear Passing Out Corp Member,

I am excited to see that you have completed your one year National Youth Service Corps programme as I was in your shoes just three years ago. To be frank, I really did not have so much fun during my first six months of my service year as I was posted to Mopa Muro, a community in Kogi state. However, it was so difficult for me to leave as I had developed an affinity for the community and the people. I had a lot of fun volunteering, taking part in ‘rural rugged’ and working with fellow corp members to organize empowerment events for secondary school students and teachers. My final day in the community was a carnival as lots of people gave me gifts from plates to wall clocks to cups and other household items. It is a poor community but the people were filled with love. It was time to move beyond ‘allawe’ to salary, revamping my curriculum vitae and cover letter to interviews and going through subscribing for job alerts via email and whatsapp groups. The beginning of the journey into the ‘favour market’ or the labour market if you are a realist like me.

I know you have fears as you pass out today amidst the party and social media posts congratulating you for a successful service year. You are concerned about how soon you will get your first job especially with the rising statistics around job availability in Nigeria. Or you want to go for a Masters program immediately and you are hoping you get accepted and funded for the duration of your program. All of this is normal; it shows you are human and living in Nigeria. I had all these fears too and I understand.

If there is any advice I would give to you, this would be this: get skilled up. This is very important. We live in a changing time and technology holds sway. Our educational system has not prepared you adequately for the jobs out there and no, your undergraduate degree does not matter. I read recently that out of 155 countries evaluated, Nigeria had one of the lowest human capacity development index. This means that getting a job will be tougher if you do not have the necessary softs skills like leadership, communication, emotional intelligence, knowing how to use a computer or critical thinking.

Don’t try to keep up with the Jones or fall into the trap that everyone has it altogether. We live in a very social world and it is what people what you to see that they let you see. You need to be able to change. You do not have to work in line with your course of study immediately after your service year. You can choose to volunteer with an organization just to acquire necessary soft skills and work in an environment where you can adequately prepare for the opportunities that will help you become better.

And most of all, realize how lucky you are. Because the truth is, I’m jealous of you. I am jealous at how much you still have to learn. I am jealous that you have the opportunity to reevaluate what you really want out of life and how you want your life to go. I am jealous at how much time you still have, something that I fear is quickly running out for me. Don’t take these things for granted.

You still have so much to learn. So learn it. Explore. Enjoy. Live. Most of all, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I want to urge you to get mentored up and keep an open mind, read books and know more about the world around you. This will be essential when you get your first interview as employers are looking out for problem solvers and innovators.

It has been three years after my service year and I am working in the company of my dream and with a fantastic team. Most of the tips I have shared are what has brought me to where I am today. It is very important that you are deliberate about your life. I want to encourage you to take the next week to ask yourself where you want to be in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years’ time and write down. It will be tough to really articulate everything but as you go, clarity will follow. I wish you the best today and every day.

Happy POP.