Last month I entered an Uber, and the driver asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was funemployed and proceeded to share how I have continued to earn throughout the period. We discussed my definition of funemployment and I shared some of the work I do in supporting the job finding process for young people. He seemed interested and began to tell me about his own experiences within the treacherous Nigerian job market. He said that he would love to get help from www.thewritewritingcoach.com but imagines that my support applies only to white collar professionals. I was taken aback and was glad to take the longer route to talk more about how, in principle, the keys to getting your next best job as a CEO might not be so different from securing a semi-skilled labour position.
It is unfortunately true that who you are and the demographic advantages and privileges you possess do matter for the roles you can access. It shouldn’t, but your race, gender, tribe, alma mater and even accent can have huge ramifications on how the job market perceives your value and I will discuss some of these social factors in more detail in the next article. For now, I can confirm that based on the diversity of profiles I have worked with, I have found that regardless of those factors, most people already have within their possession a majority of what is needed for their next job. Aside from the hard skills learnt on the job, the ability to get the next job is about how you handle and solve problems and this skill primarily comes from an archive of experiences you already have. The job hunt is ultimately about leveraging three tools you already have in your possession; your network, your communication and your time.
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Your network is a central piece for not simply finding but keeping and growing in a job. With over 33% of unemployed Nigerians citing lack of information and contacts as their reason for unemployment, according to the National Manpower stock and employment Generation Survey 2010, the power of networking is evident. Yet for many, networking conjures images of awkward smiles, nametags, and repeatedly answering the dreaded question “what do you do?” with different nuances in an effort not to bore oneself. The dread of these scenarios alone, have kept many people in jobs they do not enjoy because they simply are unwilling to invest in networking for something else. While these types of events can be important, equating them in absolute terms to “networking”, paints an incomplete picture of this tool because they focus too much on active networking, while neglecting the passive networking that is core to relationship building.
Passive networking is the networking you do when you are not necessarily exchanging business cards and talking about work. In fact, you can network perfectly well without ever having to discuss work because passive networking is about relationship building- discussing common passions, problems and ways of thinking with those around you- and showing genuine care and interest in them. Passive networking is a sure way to build the kind of network that works for you and is not only for the super intellectual white-collar workers- it is for everyone. As I left the uber driver, I reminded him that “in many ways, driving upwards of 15 people a day from different walks of life can be a great place to begin to passively network.” The result of successful passive networking can be information and insight on an industry to explore, an introduction and connection to another network and more often than people realize – a job.
Communication is the second tool you already have. It is true that like all other tools, we are not equally endowed with the gift of the garb or pen, yet at the most basic level, most young Africans have enough to begin to communicate their objectives. One of my favorite communication mantras is “resist the urge to tell, find a way to show”. In 2017, I helped a young man doing his NYSC, on a resume revamp. The revamp did not particularly require much as I mainly enhanced his resume based on my knowledge of him and his leadership experience. The key change I made though, was to not simply tell his employers that he was great but to show them he was great through his CV. This was easy for me to do because I was essentially writing from experience- from the experience of interacting with him. I was not saying he was hard working, I was telling them about a time he worked so hard that he transformed the outcomes of a project. At the end of the exercise, he said that reading his revamped resume, he had no idea how much he had done. This is a common reaction for many young people who are not used to talking about themselves and their work in detail utilizing numbers and data to support their communication. From writing your resume and cover letters, to interviewing and networking, your ability to clearly articulate your value as well as your ask to the employer is at the crux of job-finding success.
The final tool that has kept many an unfulfilled employee in the wrong job is time. For the newly unemployed, this tool is often in greater abundance than for those in demanding full-time employment but if not meticulously spent in funemployment you might end up feeling like you have less time than you had when employed full-time. Regardless of your employment status today, the time tool is a resource that is fundamentally available to all people at an equal measure of 24 hours per day. Because most people spend more time at work than any activity other than sleeping, we believe somehow that we need not carve additional time to find work. An employee at a Firm I worked in once told me that he interviewed for at least 2 jobs per year, even while he stayed put in the same role for 5 years. He did this to invest in his job finding skills, understand his worth in the job market, stay abreast with the work opportunities in the industry and allow himself the luxury of genuinely asking himself on a regular basis if he would rather do something else. Making time for finding your next job is not reserved for the unemployed, it is an activity for those who are looking to build long term career stability. For many, the COVID-19 crisis was a rude awakening of this fact, but with or without economic crises, investing the time in planning your future is the best service to self because it at the very least, will make you an employee who understands your industry better, can weigh your options more objectively and even refer others to relevant opportunities. At the very best, it makes you ever ready for your next best opportunity.
The ‘Business of Employment’ is a new column by contributor Vivian Ojo who is an avid and honest writer with several years of experience in the “education for employment” sector. The objective of the column is to educate young Africans on the employment market and the basic macroeconomic principles that underpin it. The column also strives to provide candid and helpful insights on how young Africans can find and create opportunities to make both money and impact. Vivian has consulted with some of the largest international development, educational and corporate organizations across the world and with several African Governments focusing on people and capability building. She has worked on business strategy and job placements with McKinsey and Company, MasterCard Foundation and African Leadership Academy. She is a board member of United World Colleges Nigeria and a member of Umsizi Fund’s peer learning network that convenes over 30 employment placement organizations from around the world including Harambee, Generation and Education for Employment. Vivian has a longstanding passion for transforming the African education to employment landscape. She has done work on this as part of her Masters in Public Policy from Oxford University and has been published on the topic in the Harvard Africa Policy Journal among other organizations. Follow thewritewritingcoach on instagram and check out www.thewritewritingcoach.com for more