Sometime in 2009, a few months after I finished the National Youth Service, I was preparing dinner in the kitchen when a call came into my phone. The caller was from Globacom, a leading telecommunication company in Nigeria. The caller was inviting me to interview for an attorney position with the company. At first, I thought it was my sister Amara, ever the teaser, pulling a prank on me and I kept telling the caller, whom I thought was Amara, to stop the prank. She patiently explained to me that it was real and gave me an address in Victoria Island, an upscale area of Lagos –I was in Aba — to come for the interview. I never imagined Globacom would invite me for an interview. But then I remembered that weeks prior to that, I had applied for an attorney position to a generic email in response to a job advert that did not disclose the employer. After talking to family members and determining the invitation was genuine, I traveled to Lagos for the screening test at Glo’s shiny tower and went back home to Aba.
A few weeks later, I got another call that I had to be in Abuja the following day for a second interview. I think it was late afternoon and the only way to get to Lagos in time for the interview the next day was to take a flight. My father generously paid for my flight – my first ever experience flying – that evening.
When I got to Globacom office the next day, I learned I was to be interviewed by Bella Adenuga, the CEO’s daughter. When I met Bella, her first question was, “what name do you go by?” I didn’t grow up with English as I first language. The lady next to her explained that Bella was inquiring if I wanted to be addressed by Anne or Oluchi as I had both names on my resume. I answered that question. Next, Bella asked me “Tell me about yourself.” Before that time, I had never been to or prepared for a job interview. I wish I knew then what I know now. Rather than tell her about my academic and professional qualifications, I prattled on about how I was the fourth of eight children and how I attended a Catholic secondary school. Bella did not go past that question before she dismissed me. And just like that, I wasted the hard-earned flight fare my dad, who I don’t think had ever flown at that time, gave me. Mission unaccomplished.
Fast forward to 2017, I had moved to another country and had been targeting to get a job in a particular sector without success, when I got an invitation for an opening in the sector. I looked on LinkedIn and elsewhere, thank you Google, and recognized an Igbo name from a list of attorneys who work at the establishment. I found a phone number for the attorney online and sent him a long text message, apologized I could not find his email address, hence the text. I introduced myself as a fellow Nigerian trying to interview with his agency. We have not seen till date but the attorney did text me back and scheduled a time to prepare me for the interview over the phone. His tips were invaluable. I eventually did not get that job, but I have been to other successful interviews in that sector because of the graciousness of that attorney.
Here are some of the tips he gave me, which you also can use. Other candidates have similar qualifications as you so there is no need to rehash the content of your resume at an interview. Your job is to stand out. Besides competence, interviewers want to know you will fit into the company culture, essentially you will be easy to work with. Also you want the interviewers to remember you long after the interview. So tell something memorable hat will set you apart from other interviewees. For example, the attorney said he runs marathon and in interviews, he uses that to show he has stamina, discipline, and persistence, which are necessary for success on the job. At the end of an interview, ask the interviewers about themselves, their background, why they like the company. etc. It helps them know you are relatable. My friends, these tips work!Without the attorney’s guidance, I may have still been telling stories about coming from a family of eight.
Before getting a university degree became the norm, our parents used the apprenticeship system to set up young people to succeed, something youths today don’t get. In this TedTalk Roberet Neuwirth said “I can say with almost certainty that the Igbo apprenticeship system that governs Alaba International Market is the largest business incubator platform in the world.” Our generation tend to be employees ourselves and don’t have opportunity to replicate this system. But we have to look around to see other ways we can help and that is why I started this project.
In a few posts from now, I will be announcing the first set of opportunities we will be providing on this platform. We will use the little fund we have raised so far to kickstart the process; we can’t make an impact if we keep waiting until we have million dollar resources. We are thinking of offering monthly stipend, not much, to five youths who can find a place to learn a trade for six months. Priority will be given to youths who choose trades they can set up themselves with no capital after six months. From our previous survey on Facebook, it appears braiding hair, barbing, painting, driving uber, appear to be clear winners. If you are a business owner and will like to mentor or train someone in a trade for six months, we will like to hear from you. You won’t be required to pay wages. Please send an email to Nigerianintern@gmail.com.
From the Facebook Survey, there were also very valuable suggestions on certifications that can increase employability. That may require some resources and we are still researching on that.
If you are unemployed and have zero income, start looking around in your area to see what trade you may learn. The stipend that will be given is minimal (not more than N5,000 a month); the donors hope it can at least help towards transportation. If you have someone looking for opportunities in Nigeria, Please have them join the Facebook Group Intern Nigeria. We will be posting updates there.
Thank you all for your positive Feedback on the Facebook Survey. Let’s all work together for a Nigeria we can be proud of.