The Pressing Issue of Acquiring Job Experience ~ Welcome to Obinna Onyenali's Blog Welcome to Obinna Onyenali's Blog: The Pressing Issue of Acquiring Job Experience

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pressing Issue of Acquiring Job Experience

Sydney Smith
Majority of job vacancies in the country today are ‘no-go’ area for graduates seeking employment due to the heavy work-experience tag placed on them. A lot of companies are looking for ready-made graduates who will hit the ground running once given their employment letters, instead of newbies that would require some time to mature in a given position.

However, the question that remains thick in the hearts of many is ‘How and where do you expect me to get 2 years, 3 years or more working experience since there are fewer job opportunities around and I’m just coming out of school?’ Continue...

This stance taken by companies might even be seen as a sign of insensibility on their part concerning the plight of unemployed graduates in the country. One can’t really blame them because business comes first and companies go for candidates they think have the needed experience and expertise to steer them forward in a certain direction.

I haven’t attended too many interviews since graduating, but I discovered in the few I attended that one of the most clueless answers one could give his/her interviewer as a response to the question “What have you been doing since you graduated” is the word “Nothing”. That response makes one look irresponsible, nonchalant and unprepared to handle the tasks that lie ahead.

Between 2010 and 2012, I had no formal employment status; I employed myself. So I did my art thing, a translation project for a US-based company, which lasted for about a month and other things. At the end of the day, I managed to sieve these ‘informal activities’ into my CV. The ‘minor minor’ experiences were the stories I told my interviewers when asked ‘What have you been doing since you left school?’

To be a bit precise, when asked the aforementioned question I told my interviewers that I made portraits for people and went about marketing them, I was a translator cum consultant for a US-based Translation agency and was part of an English – Igbo language translation project that lasted for about a month, etc.

Giving them similar answers based on your own experience tells your interviewer that you have something to offer even though you have not had the opportunity to rack up years of working experience in one big hi-tech company. You have given them something to think about. No knowledge is a waste.

Looking for internship openings is another veritable means of tackling the challenge of lack of work experience. The experience you garner as an intern will go a long way in helping you in your quest to secure a permanent position. Too many skillful unemployed persons are going about the streets today without work, who only need little opportunities to prove their mettle. I would appeal to companies to at least open their doors to graduates for internship or volunteerism to help them acquire the needed job experience so as to compete favourably in the ever competitive labour market.

In the same vein, I will like to commend the Lagos State Government for its foresight in partnering with the Afterschool Graduate Development Center (AGDC) on the Ignite Programme, which has been organized since 2011 to motivate graduates in the state, especially job seekers, to look beyond inhibiting factors and make most of their lives.

A lot of graduates in the state have been duly employed via this programme. AGDC through this programme gathers graduates in Lagos and in a couple of weeks re-orientates them on the prerequisites of succeeding in a contemporary work environment, whether as an employee or self-employed person. They then liaise with companies that have internship/job openings and make the information available to interested persons to apply. Many have been employed via this arrangement. I wish other states in the federation will come to Lagos and learn this module to provide employment opportunities for their graduates.

‘Ria ria ka njo’ is an adage in Igbo Language, which means that the worst thing for one is to have nothing. Instead of whiling away your time or waiting endlessly for them to call you, set up a small business, volunteer your services to organizations, you can even take up the role of a school teacher handling kids. No experience is insignificant because at the long run you will be happy you did so.

The things I’m telling you I did myself and they eventually paid off, so this is not a story from Jupiter. It’s not going to be easy. Some folks will think you are wasting your time or even look down on you as a temporary failure because your mates are riding ‘six wheels’ and you’re still going about looking for a job. Let your attitude prove them wrong. Let them know you know where you are going and will definitely get there; it’s only a matter of time.

So don’t contemplate giving up because once there is life there is hope; continue praying for opportunities, step up your search and apply the tips given here. Success is a journey, not a destination.

See you at the top!

If you have additional suggestions on how a graduate can overcome the ‘job experience’ barrier, feel free to use the comment section to express your views.

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