Bumped into old classmates? Shocking changes you likely came across

Whether it was secondary school or university, your last few days at school were likely filled with bittersweet partings and promises to keep in touch(which you probably broke after less than a year). At that point in time, you probably couldn’t imagine a life outside your current circle of friends. But, as time went on and everyone pursued their passions, life got in the way and your communication became limited to liking their pictures on Facebook. Pictures in which all was well with the world and they were leading perfect, manicured lives.

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Perhaps they are. Perhaps they’re not. But I can tell you certainly that bumping into an old classmate whether from secondary school or university, is bound to hold a number of surprises for you. Key phrase : bumping into.

We know all about reunions, but everyone gets a period of time to prepare for that. Most want to impress, to show how far they’ve come. Not a bad thing, especially if you were seen as not likely to succeed back in the school days. In preparation, you could always lose a few kilograms, get an expensive weave installed, go for a facial and a full makeover, or get a shiny car to make everyone green with envy.

But it’s a different ball game when you bump into each other. You are unprepared, physically, mentally  and socially, except you had a genuine friendship with the person, or you really are just that kind of happy, open person. Changes are mostly physical (of course, duh) and career/success wise, and they come in  an expectation-versus-reality kind of comparison that leaves us either mightily awed or totally disappointed.

 

I couldn’t end this article without sharing a few experiences.

Physical.

It adds up: the years and the weight. A moderate number of us added a few kilograms here and there(secondary school classmates) which didn’t look bad in most cases, in fact they mostly look really good, while almost all my uni classmates have added obvious weight. I once bumped into an old uni classmate who had become so big(wide, more like), that for a moment I was actually scared of saying hi to him.  Seeing as skinniness is not particularly a desired trait in our society, I do not say this proudly but I am one of the few who remained almost the same. 53kg in my final year of secondary school, 55kg close to a decade after. Oh well.

Some become unrecognizable. I once saw a lady and wondered at how she looked so eerily familiar. By the time I finally realized who she was, I was shocked as well as curiously awed. She had gone from Viola Davis to Halle Berry within 7 years(at the time) and not in a very attractive way. I have always held a strange curiosity and awe for people who effect drastic changes in their physical appearance without feeling guilty or weird about it all. Of course it was normal for everyone to go one to three shades lighter, being that we were now mostly in control of our lives and hardly had reason to walk under the scorching 3 o’clock sun. We all know that Lagos sun has no pity on day students, especially if you walk to and from school everyday. But doing a skin tone overhaul a la Michael Jackson? Left me gobsmacked. So don’t feel bad if you actually don’t recognize an old classmate. I’ve been told this is the least astonishing thing to see. Imagine realizing that a former classmate had become a criminal. Yeah, I thought  so too. (I actually came up with the criminal part).

Expectation versus reality

Most didn’t turn out to be what everyone had expected. This made me realize that school smart doesn’t equate world success.

Some who we had expected some kind of high flying career from, those who had that lethal beauty+brains combo, ended up settling really comfortably into motherhood and family life.

Some who weren’t so pretty and were mostly invisible and shy, somehow went to the market and bought confidence. Yep. I’ve got one foot in this group.

Some who were super smart and who came from families with good pedigree to boot, ended up doing just, well, average.

Some who had been break-neck beautiful turned out really quite average too. Sometimes even below average. Can’t really understand this one.

Some got wild. I mean from religious or average moral young man/woman to promiscuous living-nightclub hopping-body piercing-tattooed-smoking and drinking-half naked pictures on social media-human. Shame.

Some actually turned out as expected and did very well for themselves in their fields. Vera Chika Ani, who always got almost all the prizes on  prize giving day, went on to bag a first class in engineering and is currently working comfortably somewhere in the United States. Ebunoluwa Taiwo, smart and quick witted, is currently a doctor. Modupe Ola, which most Nigerians know by her stage name of Mo ‘Cheddah, began showing what she would be from those days. Even being in a Catholic all-girls school didn’t stop that. There are many others, these are just a few.

Many, no, A LOT of us ended up practicing in fields as different from what we studied as Biology is different from Economics. Who would have thought?

It helps to know that, you are not alone in the struggle to be something in life. Seeing old classmates makes you realize how far you’ve come, or how far you’ve yet to go. But, never be condescending or overly awed, because in the race of life, overtaking is allowed. The way you look at someone who hasn’t quite achieved as much as you, is the way someone(in your set) higher in accomplishments than you are, will probably look at you. Over and above all, remember that your biggest competition is YOURSELF.

Like I always say, life is one well-spiced pot of jollof rice. 

Feel free to share your own experiences. I can’t wait to hear them all!

Sincerely, Chibugo.

A reader sent this in…. Meanwhile, read to the end.

A reader sent an email to me asking me to publish this as he was scammed via betting. I don’t know how this betting thing works, but it would be foolhardy to trust anyone with your money in these harsh times. Be very careful whom you give your money to, everybody’s eyes are red. I have nothing against gambling, but…. In fact let me stop. Get-rich-quick schemes always leave us vulnerable to predators who feed on our greed. Be warned. Here goes :

“Good morning. Great work you have been doing here I must commend, I was scammed by a wonderful Nigerian claiming to have sure games(betnaija, nairabet and co), he always promises to refund both committed fund and stake fund after two consecutive games didn’t play/Check out. I’m not the only one being scammed by him, I’ll like you to publish this to let other bet livers like me not to fall victim to his scam/tricks. Here are his details Ighodaro Osayende 2086744821 Zenith Bank. 08153528956 BBM channel 214 predictions.

Thanks! ”

Meanwhile, another reader sent me a link to free online courses as published last week by the Financial Times, UK. Online courses are really great ways to learn without having to go to any class. It just needs commitment, a laptop with Internet and a Webcam. Believe me, I tried one at the end of last year and I’m much better for it. I have to confess though,  he sent it to me since last week and on trying to post them today, I found out that the compilation had been removed from the site. So I decided to compile some sites myself and share with you. I have to keep the promise I made. Below are links to 5 sites with free and paid courses you could use to better yourself personally and professionally.
5. EdX
There you have them. Go ahead, knock yourself out. No excuses. Data subscription in Nigeria now is cheaper on all networks. Whether it’s to learn something new, or develop that which we already know, what better way to do it than online? Get started! Don’t hoard information, share with friends too.
Sincerely, Chibugo.
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I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  – Pablo Picasso

Now that NYSC is over, what next? Part 2.

In our last post under this series, we discussed preparatory steps to ensuring that you are employable when eventually you are done with NYSC. Congrats to the newest batch of ex-corps members in the market. I hope your allowee translates into something more tangible in no time.

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Okay, so you have finished NYSC and you’re ready to take the Nigerian employment market by storm, eh? You have edited your resume until it could be edited no more, shoved it in the face of anyone who as much as asked “how are you?”; your applications have been flying out in all directions and now you’ve finally landed an interview, or an exam, at the very least. Read on for tips on how to make sure that you don’t get another degree –  in Jobhunting. 

1. Do your homework well: Every organisation has a system of operation, and this extends into its recruitment process too. Know everything there is to know about the company, and be armed with the kind of information about them, that is useful to your role in the company or industry. Also, know the kind of exam or interview format you’re expecting, so that you don’t go expecting a personality assessment test while the company shortlists using a more detailed approach. If you are in a specific field, be prepared to be tested about anything and everything in your field. You may be asked to make a sales pitch, answer a call in a polite manner, or write a board full of code. Be prepared.

2. Compare what you have to what they’re asking for: While as a fresh graduate, you may not have all the skills listed in your preferred job, check to see that those you do have are in line with what the job description requires. If you are applying for an administrative job and have a problem with keeping records and accounts, or generally being organized, you might want to change careers or adopt a lifestyle change. (The first option may be easier)

3. Prepare responses to all possible questions: when you’re invited to an interview, its usually in a particular field. Check online or brainstorm with any professional in the same field, to find out what kinds of questions you are likely to be asked and prepare adequate responses to them. There are also some questions that are seemingly easy but make people do badly at interviews. For example, “Tell me about yourself”, “What are your interests? “, etc. Good old Google has almost all the answers. Knock yourself out. In addition to this, prepare some questions of your own for them. It shows that you are a candidate who is genuinely interested in the company.

4. Be aware of body language, a.k.a non-verbal communication: A huge amount of what you communicate in interpersonal relations comes from your non verbal communication. Knowing the right thing to say means nothing if you don’t communicate it in the right manner. You may not realize it, but people react to what you don’t say as much as what you do say. Slouching in your seat, frowning, crossing your arms, repeatedly doing something like tapping your foot, twirling your hair, etc, all have interpretations that the human mind immediately translates. No matter how fast your heart is beating or how your nerves are fluttering, maintain a calm front and answer every question the best you can. Project confidence, respect their space(no keeping bottles of water on the table or anything silly like that) be attentive and mindful of their reactions to your responses. Above all, be yourself. Your interviewers are human anyway; the worst they could do is turn you down, not have you for lunch.

5. Pay attention to your appearance: I know the power situation of the country is at an all time low; as a matter of fact I haven’t had power at home in days now. Regardless, you, my dear applicant, have no excuse to come to an interview in rumpled clothes. It is unacceptable. For a token fee, you could have your clothes ironed at any laundry shop. Its a really small price to pay to look presentable. If you’re male, keep a clean haircut(no dada please, unless you’re interviewing for some artsy role)  and for the ladies, no overly long weaves or braids all over the place. Keep your hair away from your face so it doesn’t distract from the purpose of the interview. For those of us with natural hair, its no excuse to look untidy. Put it in a neat bun or any other neat protective style, and if the company has an anti natural hair policy, put it in a wig for crying out loud! It’s a shame that many corporate organizations do not want natural haired ladies in their company, but changing their minds about it is not a battle that will be won overnight by aggressiveness. Wig it! Better wigged than jobless, I think.

6. Follow up: While this is not compulsory, it is sometimes a advantage especially in roles that require someone who has good skills in correspondence. Some recruiters may not find it funny though, so it would be nice if you asked them how they would feel if you contacted them to follow up on the interview, before placing any calls or sending any emails.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and while I wish whoever reads this good luck, if you have any bits of advice to add, do add them in the comments section. You may be helping someone.

 

Three lessons you could learn from basketballer Stephen Curry

You don’t need to know basketball to know Stephen Curry. He’s that popular. Lets learn a bit about his background. Born on March 14 1988 into the home of NBA player Wardell Curry, young Steph began playing as soon as he could but his father seeing his many weaknesses, groomed him to be a better player. This was not enough though, because he had the “disadvantage” of being slighter than most athletes in his game. As a matter of fact he was often overlooked in selection because of this when he was younger . This however spurred him on to perfect the skills that have earned him the name “baby faced assassin” today. So, three years ago, he wasn’t even an all star; four years ago he had chronic ankle problems that threatened his career and kept everyone on edge. How did he then go from that to being NBA’s most valuable player of 2015? Here are some lessons I have gathered from Stephen Curry’s journey, which I think everyone could learn a thing or two from

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Be the best version of yourself ;every single day! @stephencurry30 on Instagram

1. Never be regular; exceed your former self: Stephen had his fair share of rejections, especially at the beginning when he was younger. That drove him to look to creative means to work around his lightweight and stature. But that’s one of the things that are great about Steph: his work ethic. He is full of talent, but hear this: he’s always in court long before training begins, and by the time others get in, he would have worked up a sweat and would be ready for whatever. After the session, he would remain behind and wouldn’t leave until he had scored five free throws in a row. If he scored four and missed the fifth, it didn’t qualify. It had to be five in a row. Even in this time of great fame, he spends much of his off season time honing his skills so that he’s in excellent form. Now that’s what I call commitment to improvement. Having a disadvantage turned into a blessing can only come from commitment to making it so. He is in the same league now as much bigger and heavier guys like LeBron James (250 pounds, 6 ft 8, and Kevin Durant, 240 pounds, 6 ft 9 ; both great champions in their own right. On a good day, Stephen weighs 185 pounds and his height is at 6 ft 3. Therefore he knows that every throw matters, every dribble, every back pass, every single move has to be honed to perfection so that he’s a lithe monster on the court.

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Like the saying goes “the only room that is never full, is the room for improvement”.

2. When success comes, do not forget what drove you at the beginning: Stephen has always been outspoken about his faith, and used to write 4:13 on his sneakers when he played in his college team. (Philipians 4:13 –  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me). When he got a deal with Under Armour who makes his shoes now, he had it printed on it. After every winning shot, he often beats his chest and points to heaven, as a reminder that he’s playing for God. He’s 28, but is married to his college sweetheart, Ayesha Curry, whom he met in church years ago, and they have two daughters. How does he do it? You may ask. His value system. I don’t know the details of how he balances pro basketball with a family, but he’s doing it, and doing great at it! He has an example in his father Dell, who played pro basketball for 16 seasons but was blessed with a family that stayed together. He says he wasn’t afraid to take the plunge! That’s what faith and a good family will do for you. I believe it would be the same even if he wasn’t famous. Do not forget what drove you at the beginning.

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3. Give back to society: Stephen has been involved with the UN’s nothing but nets campaign, which they use as a platform to provide aid to countries still battling with malaria. Stephen pledged that for every three pointer he makes, he would donate three nets to the cause. He is involved in many other charities. We could learn from this, since here in Nigeria, it seems to be the unspoken rule to succeed alone. You can read more about Stephen Curry here, here, and Here.

I hope this inspires you to go beyond the discouragements and obstacles. Number one lesson is probably the most important advice us young people need today. Here’s to the success of the dreams we’re working hard at. May we all succeed.

Now that NYSC is over, what next? Part 1.(Long post!)

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At a certain career conference I attended 2 months after I passed out of NYSC (to be precise, it was Sterling bank’s Get Ready For Work event) , I met a fellow jobseeker. As expected, we got talking and I asked her about the challenges she had faced in the job hunting process. To which she replied that there were just no jobs. I laughed it off, saying it was still too early to say so. I then asked her how many steps she had taken towards securing a job and she replied that she had been submitting her CV at some firms but was yet to be called for an interview. I then asked her how many job websites she was subscribed to and she said none. You can imagine my surprise when she drew out her phone and it was an android device! What then was her excuse for not being subscribed to a job site?

Have you just been applying for jobs, and have never been invited for an interview? If this is you, I believe I have a few tips that should make 2016 your “testimony year”. (You might want to fill your email into the subscription box on the right so you can get updates on this post)

Now, at the time of this exchange, I was also unemployed(Okay not really. I was working at an unpaid job. Pretty much the same, no?) Anyway, I knew something was definitely not right. I’d been home for barely 2 months after NYSC but I had already attended a couple interviews and even declined some. I didn’t have anything special, I was just armed with my degree, my ancient blackberry and laptop. As a matter of fact I didn’t even have Internet connection on the laptop but I was the number one Customer at a nearby internet cafe. I know that a new batch of corps members will soon be sent out into the same overcrowded employment market, and so this is timely. Better for you if you’re still in uni or still actively serving. Its never too early to plan your life.

WHILE STILL SEARCHING FOR A JOB
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1. I don’t know it all, but I would advice that you begin putting out your CV as soon as you’re in your final year at University. I wish someone had told me this then. It only occured to me that this was really a good move, when I came across an old school mate who was a year below me and worked at a multinational organization before NYSC. It was a paid internship and she was earning six figures every month(in naira, of course). I was envious. While in final year, most of us were concerned with getting our GPAs set in time for graduation, without really knowing what was waiting for us out there. The national internship body SIWES doesn’t work out great for most undergrads because time isn’t really provided for the exercise and so an internship immediately after graduation would be a very good way to find your feet in the professional world. You may not be paid much, if you’re paid at all, but as long as it is an industry relevant to your career path, you will not regret making the move. Relevant experience is priceless. Where you don’t have such an opportunity, begin sending out applications as soon as your service year begins.

2. Have a well written CV, tailored to every application you send: I cannot stress this enough. Nothing puts a HR officer off more than a shoddily written resume. As to the finer points of CV writing, that will be the subject of another post. These days, its not enough to just write one “banging” CV and keep firing it in all directions, expecting something wonderful to happen. You have a first class, great! But here’s bad news: No One will be interested in your first class if you don’t put it to them in a way that will make them interested. In fact, let me cut down to the chase. These days, HR officers have found a way to get around the massive numbers of applications they receive each time they put out a job ad. Now listen, and listen well. I’m not a tech person, but I’m going to explain this the best way I can. In the HR department of most medium to large organizations, there’s a software called ATS(Applicant Tracking System) which is usually attached to the email into which you, the applicant, send your application. This software works by sieving and grading the emails which come in, and checking them for matching key words. You may note that in every job description, there are usually specific words used in describing the kind of employee they want. So if the system recognises the phrase “good team player”, but you put “I work well within a group”, you might just be ignored, and your resume sent into trash. The resumes that are graded well by the software get to be viewed by the HR. Keep it simple and ask for help if you need to. Use formal expressions. Check the key words in the job ad, and tailor your application to fit into the requirements of that position. This also goes for skills. If the skills you have in anyway match what is required, please put it in. Yes, searching for a job is a job itself. If you want to win, you gotta put in the time. It helps if you already have two or three CVs for different kinds of job industries you fit into. That means that for any application into each group, you just have to edit and click “send”. Be very meticulous about this, if you actually want your application to be viewed by human eyes and not sent to trash by the robot called ATS. Please ensure you check before sending, so that you don’t submit a CV for a secretarial role to an ad asking for a business development officer.

3. For every application you send, include a cover letter: The presence of a well written cover letter (written with what I said in number 2 in mind), shows your level of interest in the job, written by your own hand. It is definitely a plus. Focus on your strong points and highlight how your skills can be helpful to their company. If possible, show how you have successfully utilized these skills in the past.

4. Proof read, proof read, and proof read again: whether it be your edited CV, a cover letter, or whatever, this pretty much explains itself. Proof read, my people. There’s no such thing as being over correct.

5. Learn a skill: While waiting for a call or email, or while still serving, learn a skill relevant to the industry you have interest in. Please don’t follow the crowd. The fact that everyone is doing a project management course doesn’t mean that you have to.

6. Account for every time space on your CV : Make sure there are no extended empty time spaces on your CV. No one wants someone who is content with inactivity on their payroll. If you spent 2 months for computer training, or a year to have a baby, or something like that that you may not be able to put on your CV, have the info handy for your interviewers when the time comes. Its nothing to be ashamed of.

7. Have email courtesy: know whom you are applying to and address him/her accordingly. Use formal language. Presentation is key at this stage.

8. Make sure that your referees/references are aware: it will be a very painful thing if you manage to go through the rigors of exams and interviews only for your company to call your references and they reply “Who is Frank Donga? I have no idea whom you’re talking about!”. Inform them before hand. At the beginning its allowed for you to use a lecturer from school or any academic reference until you establish more professional contacts.

9. Network! : Wherever you go, be ready to sell yourself. You never know, your job may come from someone you meet at the next event you attend. Also, extend your connections to online forums like LinkedIn,( I’m still guilty of this one), Facebook and Twitter.

10. Get rid of all your scandalous pictures on social media: Your undergraduate and NYSC days were turnt, I know. Just make sure you remove every pictorial evidence that might stand in the way of your favourable employment or even future political ambitions. I hope I’m talking with smart people. Let it not be said that history repeated itself in you. Enough said.

11. This may seem like a no-brainer but you would be surprised at the number of young unemployed graduates who have smartphones but are not subscribed to any job website. I wonder what the function of the device is then? You could start with jobberman.com, hotnigerianjobs.com, myjobmag.com, and ngcareers.com. I can at least vouch for these four.

These posts will come sequentially in a series. Part 2 coming right up.