Out of a labour force of 80.2 million people, 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians are currently unemployed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics’ recent data of Q2 2020. A significant highlight of the unemployment report also showed that one out of every two Nigerians is either unemployed or underemployed.
My jaw dropped the day I read that and I couldn’t help but blame the Nigerian government. But blaming institutions or other people doesn’t do you much good. If there’s anything it does, it gives someone else power over you. Realizing that, I said to myself, “It’s time every unemployed person stopped waiting on the government before they can take charge of their careers.”
But how can an unemployed person take charge of his/her career?
By getting ahead
In a country where a communications firm once posted an intern position and received 1,300 applications in a few days, getting ahead means doing what other people are not doing. Since you’re competing against a sea of candidates, the need to try alternative methods is more important than ever. You need to do the ‘abnormal.’
Here’s what ‘normal’ means for the average job searcher in Nigeria:
- Create a CV from a template on the internet
- Custom a cover letter
- Tweak it a bit
- Send a couple of applications
- Depend on fasting and prayers
If that approach isn’t working for you anymore, then it’s time to switch up. Really. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect positive results.
Decide what is important to you
Intentionality is a trait that every job seeker should possess. Surprisingly, only a few candidates are intentional. The majority apply to any job that comes their way. After all, all at all na im bad pass. But for you to stand apart and land your dream job, you need to be intentional.
Think deeply about what you need to guide you through the job search process. Ask the following questions to get started:
- Why am I searching for a job?
- What kind of company do I want to work for? Why?
- What are my goals?
- What kind of work culture am I looking for?
Start a newsletter to promote your skills and portfolio
Companies don’t want cliche job applications. Instead, they want you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills. One way to do that is to discover a pressing problem in your desired industry, analyze how you can solve this problem, and create a newsletter around the solutions. Make a real effort to understand the struggles of people in your chosen industry and prove your innovativeness through a newsletter.
The newsletter can be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, comprising useful infographics, quotes, and curated blog posts. You might decide to use your newsletter as a selling point in your interview and say, “Here’s how passionate I am about these subjects and this is how the things I do can help your business.”
Curate and distribute a useful piece of information
Curate relevant and inspiring information related to your targeted company in a PDF. Afterward, distribute it (for free) to those who will find it relevant. Automatically, the curated content will become your unofficial CV, proving that you’re knowledgeable and interested in your prospective employer’s history. You might also want to offer the PDF to an employee in the department by sending a pitch on why they’ll find it useful.
Start freelancing and use it as a leverage
It is difficult to land a job when you lack any professional evidence supporting your credibility for the desired role. You can make up for your lack of experience by freelancing one of your existing skills. Not only will freelancing generate an extra income, but you’ll also have a diverse portfolio that you can use when applying for a job in the future. Stop waiting for a job before you have work experience. Make an experience for yourself.
Connect with moderators
Getting creative with industry events will expose you to incredible opportunities. For instance, rather than sucking up to speakers at events, go to the moderators instead. Everyone always focuses on the speakers, but the moderators are less disturbed and hyper-connected. Exploit that to your advantage. Tell them about your career interests and ask them to connect with people at the event who can help you.
Go past HR – if you can
Try to bypass the HR and get someone in your desired department to notice you. If you’re not directly connected to such people, start attending conferences, panel sessions, and luncheons where these people attend.
Introduce yourself and connect on LinkedIn. Once you connect on LinkedIn, send a follow-up message and indicate your interest in the company after establishing some level of familiarity. While doing all these, don’t forget this principle: Give before you ask. You want to position yourself as a valuable person, not that “unemployed person who wouldn’t stop constituting a nuisance and beggar in the inbox.”
Build your relationships
The saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is valid as people hire who they like. I’m a testimony to that fact as I owe the bulk of my career progression to my network.
To get ahead in the labor market, stop trying to apply for every job opening. Instead, leverage what you have. Examine your present network: who do you know? Do they have direct connections with people who can get you your desired job?
If you don’t have such people, it’s not too late to grow your personal network. Use platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to your advantage. The more relationships you have, the higher your chances of getting referrals and landing your dream job.
These are ways you can get ahead while job searching. But in all you do, be patient, keep your head in the game and be kind to yourself. You’re doing great.