I developed this blog post from a recent presentation of mine.
First, what is a career?
According to Google, a career is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
In this definition, we see the importance of a career because we do not want to spend the bulk of our lives doing what we do not like, or stuck at a low level of what we like.
Let’s discuss with a few questions:
HOW DO I CHOOSE MY CAREER?
- By looking at your gifts.
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.
Bezalel slept and woke up and suddenly found that he was enabled to do things he couldn’t do the previous day.
You must know someone who was born to fix electronics or born to play musical instruments, etc.
A look at your gifts could show you the direction to head.
- By looking at your path.
I know a lady who used to play lawn tennis for Nigeria. Later I found that her dad played lawn tennis for Nigeria and trained his children to play tennis right from primary school.
How do you think the Queen of England chose her career? She was simply born into it—her path led her to it!
- By desire.
Some people wake up with a compelling desire to do something.
You just keep pushing in that direction. You can’t help yourself. Other people are submitting CVs but you find that you are exploring with farm work, you are spending time painting, you’d rather gather the youths of the community together to teach them Physics and Mathematics, etc. I know a guy who used the engineering principles he was taught in the university to improve on his card making skills.
When we feel this urge, it is best we push for it even if as a side gig.
- In many cases, we actually stumble on our careers.
Today, I work as a safety person.
When I worked as a banker, I hated the job. In fact, I believed that every worker hated his job! On the other hand, banking is what some people were born to do!
I read Engineering and though I love agriculture, I couldn’t get much going in that line. I applied to every place I could get a job, etc. So I got the banking job. Then I moved to civil engineering consulting. Then I moved to the manufacturing sector. Then I got into the petroleum sector, etc.
When God was sending Moses to Egypt, HE asked him a question: “What is in your hand?” Exodus 4:2. With that rod in his hand, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness and eventually, the rod remained in God’s Ark of the Covenant long after Israel entered into the Promised Land.
But this rod had been in Moses’ hand before God called him. So what is in your own hand today?
ANOTHER QUESTION WE ASK IS THIS:
I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING BUT I CAN’T GET MY CAREER STARTED. WHAT DO I DO?
Once I met a lady who read Broadcasting in the University. She was, however, working as a clerk in the post office. I asked why she wasn’t getting the media industry. She said it would require her to move to the capital city, and she did not want to make that move.
In Nigeria, the options are much fewer. That’s why Engineers are running after bank jobs, and accountants are teaching mathematics in secondary schools. Just grab the one that comes to you. The real issue is that there are not enough jobs to go round. The unemployment rate in Nigeria is put at 13.9%. That means that when 100 students graduate, 14 of them will not get jobs.
What could we do at such a time?
- Pray for God’s favour.
How did I get this job of mine?
– There was an advert, but I did not believe it would be transparent. And since I didn’t know anyone, I ignored it.
– My sister called to ask if I had seen the advert. I told her I wasn’t interested. She decided to apply for me. So I sent her all the requirements by email.
– When we got to the test, it was the same test I wrote a month prior at a different job test. Hence, all the mistakes I made the first time, I did not make them the second time.
– There was a little job I had then. My boss suddenly decided to give me an office line so that the customers would still have a valid number to call if I decided to leave the company. One Sunday afternoon after church, my phone battery went flat. Just in an instant, I decided to put my SIM in the office handset since I wasn’t expecting any official call on a Sunday. Almost immediately, a call came in to invite me for the job interview. I was sceptical because it was a Sunday, but they promised to follow up with a letter in a few days. The interview was Tuesday! Unfortunately, I went down with fever but I managed to come to Lagos for the interview. I did not prepare at all! At the reception, there were several other guys who came for the interview. They had several pages of information printed which we all were reading. Finally, I was called in. I answered many questions correctly (because I just read the materials at the reception). The interviewer was so impressed that even the question whose answer I did not know, he kept telling me that he was sure I knew the answer that I had only forgotten!
Summarily, I got the job. There were thousands of others who did not get it—some of them, I know! I know some who did not pass the test stage; I know some who did not pass the interview stage. It’s not because I’m better, it was God’s favour.
- Develop yourself.
A friend of mine relocated to London to join her husband. For months, she couldn’t get a job; she was getting frustrated. She would complain and wonder if she shouldn’t just return to Nigeria. One day, I told her that the situation was temporary. She should consider it as a compulsory leave. “Read, take courses, visit friends, etc because when work starts, you will look for this season and you will not find it.” Today, she’s working and lamenting that she needs a break.
If you can’t get work started, begin to read; take free courses online; attend meetings of relevant professional bodies as a visitor. Everything you learn prepares you for a test, an interview, or a job. These things will set you apart someday.
3. Be patient.
- Take the job available while expecting the job you desire.
One day, my salary was N20k. I was marketing water well drilling components. After 6 months on the job, a friend got a job in the telecoms sector, and his starting salary was N120k per month i.e. all the money I earned in 6 months, he earned in one month.
Let’s look at this story closely.
– If he gave up in those 5 months when I was working and he was sitting at home, he could have lost out; we need patience.
– If I gave up because he got far ahead of me with just one step, I could have given up and left my job, or I could have lost hope and stayed on a little job forever!
I am happy he moved, and I am happy I moved.
The temporary job we get will help us to finance transport, internet expenses etc. that are associated with job applications. It will also provide us with networks that could get us the job we desire.
- Find something handy to do.
I have friends who were doing laundry while they were waiting for engineering jobs. I know those who have worked as drivers while waiting for the real job. I know those who do home lessons for secondary school students. The point is this:
Fly if you can, or else run. If you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving!
WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD YOU DEVELOP TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER?
Everybody wants to work with people that can be trained…not people that already know everything. That is why you are expected to always be under 26 years of age if you are looking for a job in Nigeria.
However, age is not the key point of youthfulness; it is the openness and willingness to learn. So if you are 30, remain open and willing to learn. If you are 40, remain open and willing to learn. Even beyond 40, you can be open and willing to learn.
- Be current (be up-to-date)
During my MSc. dissertation, I read extensively but I could not impress my supervisor. The guy just seemed to know everything. Then I took interest in one journal and I became addicted. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Suddenly, I began to win arguments against my supervisor. He would tell me to use a piece of legislation and I would tell him it was obsolete. And I would tell him when a new law was published. The first time it happened, I was surprised to see him surprised!
That was what gave me victory—reading technical news that was less than a month old!
In the same vein, be current. Go beyond Microsoft word tables, use Excel. Try your hands on Access. Use cloud applications. Know cutting edge technology. Know things for knowing’s sake; one day they could differentiate you.
- Believe in yourself.
Self-esteem is critical for every facet of our lives. How do you see yourself?
One day about 10 years ago, my boss was out of town and he called me to attend a review meeting in the MD’s office. I was just a little boy and my heart skipped a beat. The MD was going to make a presentation and he wanted all departments to hear and critique his presentation.
As he was presenting to us, I saw something strange on his slide: the word GLOCALIZATION. I raised my timid voice and said that there was an error. The word should be GLOBALISATION. The MD looked up, noticed me, and ignored me. He continued his presentation. I thought I was finished! In the next slide he defined Glocalisation as Globalisation + Localisation!
I was terribly ashamed of my ignorance. But guess what? The MD liked me from then on. He was always happy to see me in his meetings. I bet he knew there were many people who thought glocalisation was wrong, but they would rather keep quiet than correct the MD!
You have to believe in yourself; if you have come this far, you can go further!
- Overcome insecurity
Don’t consider the progress of others as a threat to you. Be happy to see others succeed. Lend a hand, share a thought. Teach; show the way!
People who hoard knowledge are soon schemed out. The idea is that what you know is not helping anybody anyway, so why not go. But those who keep sharing appear to be indispensable; everybody needs your contribution to succeed. So they will ensure you remain for as long as possible.
Finally, Career is important, but career is not everything. It is important to give what is Caesar’s to Caesar. Don’t advance your career at the expense of family or health or your walk with God.
In his book, WINNING, Jack Welch, the CEO of the 20th Century, says that the success and happiness in the homes of his children have more to do with their mum (his ex-wife) than with him. Make sure you play your part at home.
There is another saying that young men give their health to make money, then later in life they want to spend all their money to get their health back. Why lose the health in the first place??
As we advance in our careers, work-life balance is very important.
I pray that God gives us the grace to do our bit in this world.