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.
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.