Review of Femi Pedro’s The Formula for Wealth

I bought Femi Pedro’s The Formula for Wealth, My thoughts on Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Leadership because of his background as a co-founder of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), former deputy governor of Lagos State and current chairman of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria. I had hoped the book will teach the reader how to create wealth with particular emphasis on what opportunities currently exist for creating businesses in various sectors in Nigeria.

The book delivered for the most part. Pedro’s story about his own humble beginning will inspire the reader. His insights on real estate investment, equity ownership, starting a company etc. are quite thorough. The many nuggets of wisdom in the book sprinkled with quotes from notable people and self-help authors serve to remind the reader that the path to success is attainable with diligence, persistence and patience.

I loved Pedro’s use of anecdotes to buttress his points. There was the story of Nnamdi Ezeigbo, an electrical engineer who in the 1990’s having failed to secure a job in a multinational company, started repairing computers. Subsequently Ezeigbo started importing computer parts and strategically grew and positioned his business that when GSM was eventually introduced in Nigeria, he partnered with MTN to sell sim cards, recharge cards and phones. Later, identifying the need, he started importing unlocked and dual sim phones directly from China. Today Ezeigbo has built enormous wealth. He worked hard and when the opportunity presented itself, took advantage of it to the fullest. His story shows that chance only favors the prepared and that starting wherever we can, with the little we have, often leads to greater success.

In the book, Pedro also distinguished between the rich, who merely buy expensive cars, houses, etc., and the wealthy, who invest in real estate, equities etc. Pedro also explained that should the rich fail to invest, the money soon vanishes and they become poor where as a person becomes wealthy when they own enough investment to be financially independent without working. Pedro also pointed out that wealth can be only be created through entrepreneurship and not by being employed.

Pedro illustrated how high salary earners can end up in the poverty trap if they fail to build wealth and how relying on one’s salary as the sole source of income is never a good idea. He told the story of four successful Nigerian bankers who were affected by the bank consolidation in the 2000’s and how of the four, only the frugal one who saved for the rainy day and started his own company survived financially when they all lost their jobs.

In the book, Pedro also posited that if you love what you do and the thought of your business gets your juices flowing, you are more likely to succeed. Pedro encourages everyone to save, irrespective of their income level, as money not saved is often used for non-essential things one may not be able to account for.

Pedro also wrote about a survey he commissioned that shows 85% of Nigerian entrepreneurs are struggling financially but also gave examples of young successful Nigerian entrepreneurs who are making it despite the odds like the founders of Jobberman, Bellanaija, Jumai and Konga. He highlighted what they were doing differently that accounts for their success.

Pedro’s book contains numerous valuable advice on how to build wealth including one about how one’s first real estate purchase should be for investment purposes, not to live in.

While I had hoped Pedro wrote more about his work in public service (for example, how he was able to , as deputy governor of Lagos State and chairman of Lagos State Revenue Mobilization committee, increase Lagos State internally generated revenue from from 300 Million Naira per month to a whopping 7 Billion Naira per month in the space of eighteen months) including his current role at Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, and given more insight into what sectors are currently economically viable for investment in Nigeria for small and medium enterprises, overall, I think the book is a good read that will encourage the reader to aspire to do more, be more and build wealth. I recommend this book to anyone looking to build wealth especially in Nigeria. You can buy the book in paperback or hardcover here, or get the ecopy on kindle for less than $4. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment.

For curious readers who may want to know the answer to the question I had hoped Pedro answered, it will appear that in this decade, any business that leverages the power of information technology is more likely to succeed. One can see, for example, that the contemporary Nigerian businesses listed by Pedro as successful are mostly technology or online based companies. In that regard, J. J. Omujuwa’s book, Digital: The New Code of Wealth: New Opportunities for Wealth Creation and Change which I read some months ago does offer insights into how to leverage the power of the internet to create wealth.

I do hope you consider reading one or both books to better understand the unique challenges and triumph of building businesses and creating wealth in Nigeria.

Updated June 8, 2020.

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How Nigerian Lawyers Can Significantly Increase Their Revenue and Improve Access to Justice

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This study by The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (Hiil) shows that Nigerians face 25 million legal problems every year, but only 8% of the legal problems in which resolution was sought were resolved through courts or lawyers. Most Nigerians resolve their legal disputes informally, or not at all. Lack of awareness of legal procedures, financial constraints, and time are some of the reasons people gave for not resolving their issues through the legal system. However, people who resolve their problems through the judicial process report getting the most satisfactory outcome.

If people do not access the justice system because of limited financial resources, and delays in the system, what can lawyers do to see that the more than 90% of cases not resolved through the judicial system (and this does not include the 30% of legal problems for which no resolution is attempted) are resolved through courts and lawyers? The answer lies in exploring cheaper, speedier alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation discussed in this post and in lawyers considering contingency fees for civil wrongs.

Given that Rule 39 of the Nigerian Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners now allows, subject to certain restrictions, lawyers to advertise and promote their practice, an entrepreneurial lawyer in Nigeria will significantly increase his or her revenue by taking the following five steps:

Diligently Promote Their Practice

Lack of awareness of legal rights and remedies is one of the reasons Nigerians don’t attempt to resolve their legal issues. Consequently, a lawyer who educates the public on their rights stands a better chance of being retained by people with legal problems. Femi Falana, SAN, the foremost human rights lawyer in Nigeria is popularly known because he speaks out on matters pertaining to human rights. Professor Itse Sagay is prominent for constitutional law because he has established himself as an authority in that area of law. In like manner, a lawyer who consistently comments on the law and educates the public about the law, even through a forum as basic as Facebook, grows his practice more aggressively than one who relies on old-fashioned word of mouth referral.

Most tenants facing eviction for non-payment, for example, do not know that uninhabitability of a leased apartment may be a valid ground to fight eviction in some states; a truck driver injured in a crash in the course of his employment may not know what rights he may have under workers compensation laws and may settle for peanuts even though he is permanently disabled. Likewise, surviving family members of a deceased in a wrongful death case may be unaware that remedies available may include not just funeral costs, but loss of the deceased future earnings, loss of companionship suffered by the widow, etc. Similarly, female employees sexually harassed by supervisors may not be knowledgeable of the civil remedies available for their employers’ inaction and may choose rather to quit their job rather than address the wrong. The above examples show that to increase the number of cases that go through the legal system, lawyers must do the hard work of educating the public on their rights and the extent of monetary damages recoverable.

The Hiil study previously referred also found that less than 10% of Nigerians receive information about their legal problems online. This, despite the fact that about 50% of Nigerians use the internet. Again, a lawyer who takes proactive step to provide information to the public is likely to attract potential clients. Since there are still some restrictions relating to lawyers advertising in Nigeria, the best way for a lawyer to promote his or her practice is through content marketing which I discussed in detail in this article on Bellanaija. An immigration lawyer I worked with, following the guidelines in the article, has reported generating businesses from all over the world because of her articles and LinkedIn presence.

If you are a lawyer and you do not promote your practice online, you are missing out on potential clients. A simple step like updating your LinkedIn profile and periodically updating the page with timely relevant resources in your practice area will yield result in due time.

Be Open to Contingency Fee Remuneration

A contingency fee is a type of remuneration that is based on outcome. In other words, a lawyers does not charge a client legal fees until a favorable result is obtained.

Most civil cases in the United States are prosecuted by attorneys on a contingency fee basis because the average American cannot finance a lawsuit. Imagine all the wrongs that will go unaddressed if the average working class American were expected to come up with tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees prior to settlement or judgment. Contingency fee remuneration is an ingenious idea that ensures increased access to justice. Keep in mind though, that contingency fee remuneration is appropriate mostly for civil wrongs but not for some practice areas like criminal law. In the U.S., the percentage of the proceeds retained by attorneys are sometimes as much as 45% of the settlement or judgment.

In Nigeria, Rule 50 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners allows contingency fee remuneration as follows:

  1. (1) A lawyer may enter into a contract with his client for a contingent fee in
    respect of a civil matter undertaken for a client whether contentious or noncontentious: Provided that –
    (a) the contract is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case including the risk
    and uncertainty of the compensation;
    (b) the contract is not –
    (i) vitiated by fraud, mistake or undue influence; or
    (ii) contrary to public policy; and
    (c) if the employment involved litigation, it is reasonably obvious that there is a
    bonafide cause of action.
    (2) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement to charge or collect, a contingent
    fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case.
    (3) Except as provided in sub-rule (1) of this rule, a lawyer shall not purchase or
    otherwise acquire directly or indirectly an interest in the subject matter of the
    litigation which he or his firm is conducting; but he may acquire a lien granted by law
    to secure his fees and expenses.
    (4) A lawyer shall not enter into a contingent fee arrangement without first having
    advised the client of the effect of the arrangement and afforded the client an
    opportunity to retain him under an arrangement whereby he would be compensated
    on the basis of a reasonable value of his services.
    (5) In this rule, “contingent fee” means fee paid or agreed to be paid for the lawyer’s
    legal services under an arrangement whereby compensation, contingent in whole or
    in part upon the successful accomplishment or deposition of the subject matter of
    the agreement, is to be of an amount which is either fixed or is to be determined
    under a formula.

Contigency fee remuneration ensures lawyers take up only cases that have the greatest chance of success, and since they have a stake in the outcome, lawyers tend to prosecute such cases diligently with an aim to obtain a resolution as quickly as possible. Contrast this with the current practice, as I experienced when I practiced in Eastern Nigeria, where even plaintiff attorneys have no sense of urgency in prosecuting cases and ask for adjournments without valid reason so they can collect more legal fees for appearances, etc. Therefore, incorporating contingency fee remuneration into one’s practice may potentially make one a better lawyer.

Go After Defendants Who Have the Means to Remedy the Wrong

A lawyer considering taking up cases on a contingency basis must evaluate every case not just for possible liability but for potential for recovery. Cases against defendants with insurance coverage, corporate entities, employers, landlords, licensed professionals, etc. are more likely to yield results than cases against less buoyant persons including people who have declared bankruptcy. A good case to take on a contingency basis will be, for example, one against Dangote Cement for this crash that killed six people this past April amidst the lock down. Therefore, to start out, a lawyer who wants to use content marketing as a promotional strategy may choose to educate the public about wrongs most likely to be committed by defendants with deep pockets. Obtaining monetary judgment against an impoverished defendant, except judgment is obtained as a matter of principle or to prove a point, is often futile and tantamount to winning a battle but losing the war.

Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods for Civil Recovery

In the U.S, most civil cases settle prior to trial, about 95% for automobile cases. Parties settle because it is better for them to have a say in the outcome, than to have a third party, or parties in case of jury trial, decide their fate. They keep in mind that however clear the issue of liability may seem at first in any given case, judges’ individual biases, contributory negligence, act of God, failure to mitigate damages are factors that may weaken an otherwise strong case. Moreover, settling a case as soon as a reasonable offer is made spares both sides from spending time and money on litigation cost.

Therefore, before filing a lawsuit, a lawyer should brainstorm what alternatives to litigation may exist to obtain recovery. For example, in a previous post I mentioned how  Lagos Citizens Mediation Center, from January to December 2015, mediated 20, 966 cases, resolved 19, 464 and collected N752, 974, 217  on behalf of parties. Mediation services offer low-cost, speedy resolutions and should be considered for civil wrongs. Mediation is beneficial for the additional reason that defendants readily comply with settlements but would appeal judgments to frustrate execution of judgment.

Utilize Enforcement Power of Government Agencies

Government agencies in Nigeria are often associated with inefficiency and corruption, but from my experience, they can prove quite effective. In this post, I wrote about how I applied for my certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court via email and without any payment from me whatsoever, yet the registrar had it promptly sent to California.

Whenever possible, attorneys should consider using services provided by the government to enforce their clients’ rights. For example, besides the mediation service by Lagos State government previously mentioned, the state Ministry of Justice’s website also shows they help people illegally disposed of their land and represent free of charge people who are unlawfully detained or arrested. Using these government services, in addition to pursuing civil remedies, often guarantee speedier resolution than litigation alone.

Another instance where use of government enforcement action would come in handy is in cases against licensed professionals like doctors and lawyers in malpractice cases and in complaints against regulated institutions. Sometimes, a licensed professional or entity clearly in the wrong may settle a case not out of a desire to right their wrong but to avoid a possible enforcement action by a licensing entity. Some of the licensing agencies in Nigeria which receive complaints against professionals include Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria , the Nigerian Bar Association. Complaints against banks can also be filed with the Central Bank of Nigeria via their email cpd@cbn.gov.ng.

With increasing online presence, most of these agencies are now responsive. Using the enforcement power of these agencies can be one more tool lawyers may use to advance their clients’ interest for speedier resolution of disputes.

Increasing access to justice is an honorable goal every lawyer should aim for. It becomes more appealing when that also leads to increased earnings for lawyers. As a lawyer is first and foremost an advocate – one who pleads the cause of another, every lawyer’s primary goal should be to represent their clients’ interest in the most effective and efficient way possible. Even where a lawyer is unable to help a prospective client, they should consider referring the client to other alternatives that may provide some sort of remedy, yes, even when the referral does not benefit the lawyer. I hope this article encourages more lawyers to play their parts towards achieving a more egalitarian society.

Anne Mmeje is a lawyer with an interest in alternative dispute resolution and digital marketing. To contact her, email annemmeje@yahoo.com.

Lagos State Government Mediation Programs Show the Importance of Mediation As an Alternative to Litigation

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I learned about the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse as part of my curriculum in Nigerian Law School between 2007 and 2008. For the first time, I was introduced to alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation. Years later, I would establish a career in mediation.

Having seen how effective mediation is in resolving disputes at minimal cost, and in increasing access to justice where I currently practice, I did some research on the status of mediation practice in Nigeria. I was impressed with what I found in Lagos State.

From an article on Medium which is an interview granted by Director Adeyinka Aroyewun and Deputy Director Achere Cole of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse, I gathered as follows:

 Nigerians face an estimated 25 million new legal problems each year. Only two out of ten will engage with formal institutions.

The average court case in Nigeria takes four to ten years to conclude, but cases before the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse are disposed of between three to five months.

Fourteen Nigerian states have since duplicated the model, and many other countries in the region have piloted similar initiatives.

In Lagos today, any suitable case will be automatically routed to the multi-door courthouse for an assessment and if not suitable for alternative dispute resolution, will be tracked to the formal court process.

The program faced some initial challenges including having to train the mediators and enlightening lawyers who were not thrilled about an alternative to litigation that will lead to a perceived decrease in revenue. The public and legal practitioners had to be educated of the benefits of meditation before the program became widely accepted.

Despite the initial challenges, the multi-door courthouse has helped facilitate the resolution of about 14,000 cases.

A case between a  former Vice President and a Managing Director of a Bank that had been in court for seventeen years was resolved in just one day through the help of the mediation program.

Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse’s website shows the Muti-Door Courthouse team includes neutrals, case managers, lawyers and clerks. There is also an opportunity to apply to work with the agency by submitting an email to info@lagosmultidoor.org.

Besides the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse discussed above, Lagos State Ministry of Justice also runs a Citizens Mediation Center, a separate mediation program. According to the Ministry of Justice’s website, from January to December 2015, a total number of 34, 511 new cases were received; 20, 966 were mediated; 19, 464 matters were resolved; 3, 622 matters were adjourned while 1, 351 matters were unresolved and the center collected N752, 974, 217  on behalf of parties. The center’s website also list more than ten locations in Lagos including Lekki and Ikotun where the programs are located.

With these models established by Lagos State, justice is now more accessible than ever in the state. Where before, a wronged party may hesitate from going to court because of litigation’s propensity to drag out for years, now, with mediation services provided by the government, citizens can now seek redress through mediation channels which are often cheaper and faster. States and jurisdictions who have yet to adopt mediation programs must look to the Lagos State model to reap the benefits it offers in terms of job creation, reducing backlog of court cases, improving consumer confidence, and its improvement of access to justice.

Also, for legal practitioners, there has never been a better time to practice law in Nigeria. Where previously the Nigeria Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners prohibited contingency fee remuneration and lawyers had no incentive to timely resolve cases as billable hours increased in proportion to how long cases drag on, the new Rules of Professional Conduct permitting Nigerian lawyers to charge contingency fees should encourage lawyers to take up cases they would have previously declined because of a client’s inability to pay. And given that with the mediation programs discussed above, cases can now be resolved more quickly without affecting an attorney’s remuneration, lawyers should be excited at the prospect of generating more businesses with quicker results and without the delay, cost and uncertainty of litigation. Cases not worth the hassle of litigation may now be quickly filed with the mediation programs.

In subsequent posts, I will write about how lawyers can take advantage of these changes in Nigeria legal landscape to improve their practices, increase their revenue, and ensure that justice is accessible to people who need it most. A lot of money is left on the table when eight out of ten legal problems are left unaddressed.

If you love this post, you may also love my previous post on how to mediate cases arising from COVID-19 disputes.

Anne Mmeje is a lawyer, licensed in Nigeria and California. She currently works as a mediator in California and having seen the usefulness of alternative dispute resolution methods, spreads the word . To contact her, email annemmeje@yahoo.com.

For COVID-19 Disputes, Consider Mediation, Not Litigation

As governments across the world shut down cities and businesses, lawyers are poring over contracts, researching case laws and statutes to advise their clients whether they can legally excuse performance of their contractual obligations on grounds of force majeure – a common clause in contracts that frees parties from obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as war, strike, epidemic etc. occurs. These circumstances are sometimes described as Acts of God.

Just this week, New York Post reported that a Brooklyn Jewish school sued a hotel for refusing to refund a $2.3 million deposit for a Passover trip that was canceled over coronavirus concerns. The hotel declined to make the full refund despite a clause in the contract that provides for 100% refund in the event of cancellation for disease outbreak.

Many other lawsuits will follow as a result of the pandemic . For example, as many commercial properties have fallen into disuse because of state and local orders mandating closure of non-essential businesses, landlords may have to resort to litigation to get rents from tenants who will argue that they did not use the property during the emergency order and are therefore not obligated to pay rent. Even essential services that remain open will struggle to pay rent as revenue has decreased, in some cases, by as much as 95%. Cheesecake Factory, one of the biggest restaurant chains in the U.S., foreshadowed what is to come when it made headlines last months by announcing it has written to its landlords that it will not be paying rent for any of its 294 restaurant locations in the month of April due to “tremendous financial blow” to revenue dealt by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

Some local governments have taken steps to mitigate the fallout and hardship caused by the pandemic on its citizens. Los Angeles City, for example, approved a temporary ban on evictions, and for renters who are unable to pay because of the pandemic, waived late fees allowing them to make up late payments for up to a year after the expiration of the emergency order.

Small businesses that do not have the clout of Cheesecake Factory to negotiate a release from their contractual obligation, and people who live in cities that have not offered protections like the one ordered by the city of Los Angeles, may find themselves facing lawsuits for contracts breached during the pandemic.

While our first impulse when there is a breach of contract is to file a lawsuit, this may not be the time to do so. Because we live in an ever-increasing connected world, a delay by a supplier of raw materials from China -where the outbreak first occurred – could cause a delay by a manufacturer of summer wears in Los Angeles who has a contract to supply the apparel by May 1 to a store in Canada. The ripple effect caused by the delay from China will inevitably cause delay in delivery of the finished product in Canada. That is where mediation comes in. Recognizing the timeline and effect of the crisis on businesses all over the world, considering the need to continue business relationships with long-time partners once this is over, and the need to avoid legal costs are factors that should motivate people and businesses to consider mediation. Another factor to consider before filing a lawsuit is that winning a lawsuit can sometimes be like winning the battle and losing the war as 80% of judgments in the U.S. are not enforced. Losing parties either hide their assets, appeal cases – sometimes as a delay tactics – or declare bankruptcy denying the victors the “spoils of war.”

This article is timely because sometimes parties do not know other alternatives to litigation. Once, both parties whose case settled within two weeks of coming to the agency I work, which offers free mediation services for a particular industry, told me they wished they had come to the agency first before wasting over a year and hefty attorney fees in lawsuit. It has also been my experience that sometimes parties are reluctant to settle after a protracted lawsuit as whatever concession they may have agreed to make in the beginning have been expended on attorney fees. So the earlier one takes advantage of mediation, the better.

Mediation is better than litigation in that in mediation both parties emerge winners as a mediator often acts as a facilitator, helping parties brainstorm creative solutions to crisis by assisting parties understand the other’s concern which can easily be addressed through a mutually beneficial solution.

For example, in a mediation session, a commercial renter whose business was shut down as a non-essential service may explain to the landlord that paying three months rent for a period when there was zero revenue will lead to the business’s bankruptcy or eventual closure. The landlord, on his own part, may explain that he stands the risk of losing the property if he defaults in his mortgage payment three months straight. In this scenario, if the landlord pays utilities for the business and did not have to do so for three months thus saving on maintenance cost, parties can agree that the tenant pays only the equivalent of the landlord’s mortgage which may be less than half of the actual rent. A solution like this is a win-win for parties.

The above solution contrasts with what will happen in court where a judge will be saddled with the difficult task of interpreting the parties’ contract and reaching a decision that may be biased based on whether the judge himself is a renter or a landlord in his personal life. Unlike in mediation, in Law, there seems to be no middle ground – except when equitable principles are applied – and one party must be declared winner over the other. Even judges do realize this shortcoming of the judicial process. During one settlement conference I attended in the midst of a lawsuit, a very experienced judge, encouraging parties to settle prior to trial, pointed out the unpleasant truth that the end of the judicial system is not necessarily justice but to bring finality to a dispute. In essence, a judgment issued by the court, may not in fact be just.

It is more important now than ever to use the services of a mediator to resolve disputes because courts, closed during the pandemic, will be faced with backlog and slew of new filings once they resume hearing. Also consider this: Most attorneys charge a 40% contingency fee. So even if you win a COVID-19 lawsuit and are among the lucky 20% able to enforce the judgment, except attorney fees is awarded, you may still end up with only about half of your damages which you may have well received timely if you settled your claim with the other party without involving a lawyer.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and wants to consider mediation, please contact Office of the Los Angeles’ City Attorney Office for their free mediation service. Please note that I do not work for this particular agency but benefited from their mediation training several years ago.

Anne Mmeje, an attorney, works as a mediator in public service.

New Immigrant to the United States? Here are Ten Tips to Establish and Accelerate Your Career

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Last month, a co-worker, an immigrant to United States like myself, got a promotion. It was her second promotion since joining the organization two years prior and each promotion came with significant salary increase. Before joining the organization, she suffered the garden-variety challenges immigrants face due to language barrier and accent including underemployment. Her promotion reminded me again of why people flock to America from all over the world to pursue the American dream. Indeed United States in one of the few countries that give people equal opportunity regardless of their background.

This post is for immigrants who are in the U.S. legally and are eligible to work. If you have a non-immigrant status, you may consider studying these STEM courses that may qualify you for a 24-month extension of your post-completion Optional Practical Training employment.

If you are eligible to work in the U.S., below are tips I and others have used to get professional level jobs in the U.S. These are things I wish I knew earlier and now happily share with friends. Also keep in mind I am in California and will use mostly examples from here. If you are in another state, do well to find comparable opportunities in your state.

1. Get Your Social Security Number, Drivers License and Establish a Credit History

This may sound like common knowledge but you would be surprised at how many people delay getting these timely in a way that impacts their career. Almost every job application requires a social security number and drivers license number. The common pitfall here is applying for a drivers license first when you are not ready for the behind the wheel driving test. It may take as much as two years to get a drivers license, depending on how soon one passes the test. Why wait two years when you get an ID card within weeks of arrival to the United States? So I will recommend that since an ID card costs less than $40, in California for example, to apply for an ID card the same time you apply for a drivers license as it requires no test, This will help you apply for jobs without much hassle while wait to get your drivers license. In the same vein, apply for a credit card as soon as you qualify. Having a credit history will come in handy not only when you are applying to sensitive jobs that require a credit check, but also in housing.

2. Evaluate Your Credentials

One of the reasons immigrants have difficulty penetrating the job market in the U.S. is employers’ inability to assess foreign credentials to determine their U.S. equivalence. You can eliminate this challenge by having your foreign transcript evaluated by reputable organizations like World Education Services and use it in your job applications alongside your original certificate from your home country. While I was able to get my law license in California within one year of migrating to the U.S., my delay in timely getting my transcript evaluated (which was not required for my bar exam) set me back several years in accessing non-attorney opportunities. So I encourage you to get your transcript evaluated within the first few months of coming to the U.S as that may be all you need to get that entry level job that requires only a college degree.

3. Get Re-certified

If you are in a profession that required a license in your home country, you may find that you will need to get re-certified to be able to practice in the U.S. If you are not particular about living in a specific U.S. state, you may want to research which U.S. state has the least barrier to re-certification. For example, when I moved to California in 2011 and I was already licensed in Nigeria, all I needed to get licensed in California was to submit a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the California bar and pass the bar exam. That means I did not have to enroll in Law school again or incur tens of thousands of dollars in student loan to get a Juris Doctor. But most other states require enrolling in a U.S. school to be eligible to take the bar exam. Once you determine the state that is most favorable to you, take immediate steps to Get your U.S License. Once you do, you may be able to compete with your peers who studied in the U.S.

4. Prepare Your Resume and Apply to Whatever Job You Can Find

Because you are new to the U.S. and have no U.S. education or work experience, many employers will not be too enthusiastic to hire you. They worry that you may not quite understand how things work in the U.S. and may commit a blunder in the course of your work. Imagine mistaking New Mexico, a state in the U.S., for Mexico, U.S. southern neighbor when your job requires you to determine eligibility for a public benefit based on nationality. So, there’s good reasons for employers to be hesitant about hiring you. However, within those few months of your arrival, there are opportunities that require more brawn than brain. Employers with these opportunities hire in volume and always have vacancies. Their hiring needs increases more when they operate 24/7 and need to fill three or four shifts per day. Retails, airline catering companies like Gate Gourmet, restaurants, security (mostly guards) etc. are just some of the industries that require minimal skill. More recently, Amazon has entered the game. Its warehouse jobs most times do not even require interviews, only online applications, and still pay a minimum of $15 per hour. The key to getting these jobs even though you don’t have a U.S. job experience is to indicate you are available to work any shift, if you are. These jobs are just stepping stones to where you want to be but will in the meantime provide you U.S. work experience and references. It also acquaints you with how things work in the U.S. thereby preparing you for future jobs.

While you may engage in gigs like driving Uber and Lyft, I recommend you find a job even for a few hours a week in a structured environment so you would have people to give you references when you are ready for professional level jobs.

Another job I will encourage you to look into at this time is substitute teaching. Substitute teachers fill in for regular teachers in public, charter and private schools and pay about $140 a day for less than eight hours of work. And there is always need for substitutes. I have friends who have done substitute teaching without a prior U.S work experience. In California, all you have to do is pass the CBEST, a one-day exam that tests basic skills, and I think do a live scan. Then you apply with agencies like DirectEd Educational services and get assignments for everyday of the week you are available and wiling to work. DirectEd, for example, treats its teachers as employees and even offer them benefits after some time with them. I love substitute teaching for the additional reason that its flexibility will help you pursue your other goals.

5. Immerse Yourself in U.S. Culture

During the first months of your immigration to the U.S., in addition to doing all over the above, try getting yourself acquainted with as much information about the U.S. as you can. Remember, job applicants who have lived all their lives in the U.S. most likely know all the fifty states and will not commit the Mexico mistake referred above, know the difference between a personal and cashier’s check, and all the nitty-gritty of how the system works which gives them an advantage and make employers perceive them as more competent. You can bring yourself up to par by watching talk shows, movies etc. and by making daily conscious effort to assimilate as much information as possible. Also take advantage of training introducing immigrants to U.S culture by provided by non-profits .

6.Network with Professionals From Your Home Country Who Have Successful Careers in the U.S.

Making conscious effort to network with other immigrants from your home country who have smoothly transitioned into the U.S. workforce will get you miles ahead in your quest to establish a career in the U.S. You can achieve this by requesting informational interviews, reaching out to them to prepare you for interviews, and simply applying to work with them. I have done all three in the past and all the people, all attorneys, I reached out to were gracious, kind and helpful even though I was a stranger to them at a time. Because they have been there, done that, they understand the challenges immigrants face and are often more than willing to share their time, wisdom and experience . People from your home country are also more likely than others to give you opportunity because they understand how your credentials from your home country compares to ones obtainable in the U.S. So go ahead and google “Japanese attorneys in Los Angeles”, “Nigerian accountants in Houston” or whatever applies to you and reach out to these professionals who understand your unique experience and life journey. The worst they could do in not respond to you, but that does you no harm, but prepares you for the many more rejections that await. Also consider Upwardly Global, a non-profit that helps immigrant professionals transition to careers in the U.S. One of my friends benefited from their service.

7. Volunteer

Because volunteer opportunities are unpaid, non-profits are more likely to view your application favorably than for-profits. Volunteering with non-profits in your field gives you a relevant U.S. job experience and references for your future job applications. If you are in the legal field for example, courts, bar associations, legal aid clinics, religion based non-profits providing basic legal services in immigration, eviction, accessing government benefits etc. are just some of the organizations to consider. If you are in the medical field, you may find volunteer opportunities in hospitals. If you stay long enough with these organizations and get your re-certification in the U.S., these non-profits may eventually offer you a paid position as they will prefer you to an outsider who will have to learn the ropes.

8. Government Jobs

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this: government jobs are relatively easier for qualified immigrant professionals to get because the process is often fair and not tainted by implicit biases present in private sector. Government jobs often require written exams first, guaranteeing a fair process. And some positions require only a high school diploma. Some people are surprised when I tell them they can get a job in public sector without a U.S. education. Except for a few sensitive positions that require citizenship, most positions are open to anyone with a permit to work in the U.S., of course with the relevant qualification. For example, as of time of writing, the State of California’s job website. Jobs.ca.gov had 3,493 vacancies available across the state. The positions available range from entry-level positions to jobs that pay six-figures. All you may need to apply is your evaluated transcript showing your foreign education is comparable to the one required for the position. If the job requires only a high school diploma, taking your GED instead of evaluating the foreign equivalence may be cheaper and faster.

9. Get a Degree or Masters in a high-demand Field

If rather than do all the above you would rather get a U.S. education, I will encourage you to consider financial aids, scholarships and community colleges to reduce the cost. Also be sure to check Bureau of Labor Statistics to ensure the degree you are going for is growing faster than average. As of October 2019, when this article is written, STEM, IT and healthcare are in high demand. Do not get a degree in a field with high unemployment rate as that will leave you saddled with student loan debt without corresponding job to pay it off. Again, I recommend using your foreign degree to get a job in the U.S. first, test the waters and determine if another degree will be worth your while.

10. Start a Business

Immigrants have a unique opportunity to develop business ideas because of the advantage they have of knowing how things are done elsewhere, in their home country, and the potential for them to exchange products and services between two countries based on demand on supply. Indeed, studies have shown that immigrant-owned businesses engage in more international activity than their counterparts. For example, an immigrant from a third world country where labor is ten times cheaper than in the U.S. can start an outsourcing business in the home country. They can also in turn export consumer goods which tend to be cheaper in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries to their home countries.

The tips above helped me and other people I know further our careers in the U.S. I hope they help you too. Whatever your immigrant story is, whether joining a spouse, fleeing from a war or just simply looking for a greener pasture, I wish you success and encourage you not to be deterred by the initial challenges you may face. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. If you have any question, please email me at annemmeje@yahoo.com. I am not there yet as I am still climbing the rungs of the career ladder but I will be happy to, from my little experience, help you get started on this exhilarating, but sometimes bumpy journey. Ciao!

Amazon Ships to Nigeria. Here’s a Real Time Test to See the Restrictions and Shipping Rates

Amazon is my second most favorite brand. The first is Google: personal assistant, map, dictionary, teacher etc.

I love the two brands because they are reliable and most helpful. With just a click of a button, Amazon literally brings any item I need to my door step saving me what could have been several futile trips to multiple stores or months-long wait. Here are two examples. I live in Los Angeles. Once, I was invited to be part of a panel to discuss cultural considerations in divorce proceedings in California. I got on Google, then Amazon and ordered a Family law text book I used in Nigeria during my law school days. It was the primary resource I used to prepare for that presentation. Imagine there was no Amazon, I don’t believe I could have found a store in Los Angeles that sold a textbook on Nigerian Family Law. My only recourse would have probably been to have family in Nigeria buy it for me while I endure a wait time ranging from weeks to months all the while praying it arrives in time for my presentation.

Consider also my back to school shopping for tens of items on my kids’ lists this past summer. What’s an easier way to find a “white 1-inch 3-ring binder” than Amazon. I ordered all the items on the lists, except one, from Amazon . My first grader’s list included this “green Plastic 2 Pocket School POP Folders with Metal Prongs Fastener Clasps”. When I tried to order it on Amazon, I saw it came in a pack of six. I needed only one. I saw a cheaper option that came with multiple colors in a pack. I went for it since my kindergartner needed a color other than green. But the cheaper pack had no green folder needed by my first grader. I figured the color did not matter. On the first day of school, I sent my first grader with a color, other than green, from the cheaper pack I bought. She came home that day with a sticky note from the teacher that stated they required a green folder. How do I pay $16 for six green plastic folders when I needed just one that should not cost more than a dollar? I am Nigerian. I am smart, the Abishola (of CBS’s Bob Hearts Abishola) way, who would rather go to work sick than use her sick leave so she could cash out her sick leave at the end of the year. So the next day, I sent my daughter to school with a $2 or so green folder that had no prongs but had pockets. Surely, the pockets would secure loose sheets as good as the prongs. The sticky note came again. The green folder had to have prongs. The teacher, a lovely lady, recommended I go to Staples, among other stores, to find the exact one she needed. I went to Staples and found a folder that met most of the specifications but was slightly bigger mostly for office, not school, use. It was back to school season and Staples had run out of the exact one I needed. I bought the office one anyway and figured the teacher would not complain because she referred me to Staples. I made sure to include a note it was from Staples. She did not complain. I will cut the long story short but must mention I eventually ordered the $16 “green Plastic 2 Pocket School POP Folders with Metal Prongs Fastener Clasps” from Amazon and have them sitting somewhere in the house as I write. The moral of the story is that Amazon has proven to be my best recourse when I want to order a unique item.

I love Amazon also because of the reviews. Oh the reviews! The same way I don’t order a book without checking it out on Goodreads, I don’t order anything from Amazon without reading the reviews, not just glancing at the stars rating. I also read the questions and answers for tips on sizing, etc.

Because of how enamored I am of Amazon, when I learned they ship to Nigeria, I was elated because I figured my friends and relatives in Nigeria will now discover the awesomeness that is Amazon. I have had to order a laptop from Amazon U.S for shipping to a Nigerian relative in South Africa. I figured that now that Amazon ships to Nigeria, it will be easier for Nigerians to buy quality products directly from Amazon to Nigeria. I had in mind not to recommend buying garden-variety products from Amazon, but slightly expensive ones and one-of-a-kind products that justify the shipping cost. But first I decided to attempt ordering in real time before recommending.

So how much does it cost to ship to Nigeria? It’s about 9 pm October 25, 2019 Los Angeles time. Let me try ordering this currently discounted $900 Apple laptop to see what the shipping fee is… It’s now in my cart. I am shipping to Festac, Lagos Nigeria…..nine minutes later: while trying to check out, I received a notification the item could not be shipped to Nigeria at the address I provided. I was also prompted to provide a phone number, an identification number for recipient and tips, if any, that will help locate the address. Hmmm… did Amazon find it too risky to ship a $900 Mac air to Nigeria? I tried a $329 Apple Ipad and three minutes later got the same notification and upon clicking on “See More” link saw the following

Can’t Ship to this Address

This may be because:

  • Dimensional shipping limits – standard shipping to these regions are limited by the overall shipping size which include a maximum length or girth of 108 inches and maximum weight of 70 lbs.
  • Large and/or oddly shaped items may not be eligible for shipping.
  • Hazmat – certain hazmat items (including but not limited to lithium batteries) are restricted from shipping to these areas.
  • Restricted Product – Products offered for sale on Amazon.com must comply with all laws and regulations and with Amazon’s policies. For more information see Restricted Products.
  • Address type – certain address types preclude shipping speeds, due to carrier capabilities.
  • Amazon may be restricted from shipping to your country due to government import/export requirements.
  • You are shipping to a U.S. freight forwarder but your order contains items that are restricted from exportation.
  • Amazon may be restricted from shipping to your country or location due to manufacturer restrictions or warranty issues.
  • You may have chosen an offer from a seller who doesn’t offer international shipping. Try looking for another seller.
  • You may have chosen an offer from a seller who doesn’t offer shipping to your address due to the nature of the product (Perishable, Heavy/Bulky, Hazmat). Try looking for another seller or a similar product.

I don’t know which of the above reasons led to Amazon’s decision not to ship the Apple products. I tried to ship Omojuwa’s Digital: The New Wealth Code, which I have also ordered myself and hope to review soon and ..got estimated delivery date ranging from five to 38 days with corresponding ships fees. I proceeded and the shipping and handling fee came up to $13.98 for the $30 book, the cheapest shipping rate, with delivery date estimated from November 21 to December 2nd. I checked it all the way out and got the notification that it had been ordered. I cancelled the order. This was only a test. The ID was also required and the order would be cancelled if the ID is not provided within forty eight hours of the order.

Now that we have seen Amazon delivers some items to Nigeria, and for relatively reasonable shipping fee in my opinion, (I also heard Nigeria Vlogger Dimma Umeh, who frequently orders from Amazon, say in one of her videos that Amazon usually refunds part of the shipping fees after delivery as they overestimate the fees at check out to be safe, so it is safe to assume one may get a partial refund from the $13 shipping fee), what items could one reasonably order from Amazon to Nigeria. I will recommend items that are not readily available in Nigeria or you worry about getting a knock off version of in Nigeria. Attempt placing any order you would like and Amazon will notify you, before you make payment, if they can’t deliver it to Nigeria. I will also suggest ordering as many items as possible at one time as that significantly reduces the overall shipping fee. This Africa shipping rate from Amazon below makes it clearer.

Product CategoryPer ShipmentPer Item
Books, VHS videotapes$6.99$6.99*
CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, Music Cassettes, Vinyl$6.99$4.99*
**Jewelry, Watches, Clothing Items$6.99$3.49/lb
**Baby, Toys$6.99$3.49/lb
**Automotive, Computers, Electronics, Home, Personal Care, Kitchen, Outdoor Living, Sports, Tools, Shoes$6.99$3.49/lb
Video Games Consoles$6.99$3.49/lb
**Luggage$9.99$4.99/lb
Any combination of the above itemsHighest applicable per-shipment chargeAs above

The link above also provides additional information for expedited shipping and priority courier shipping.

For Nigerians in the U.S, also know you can order your African food stuffs like this African Abacha from Amazon. You can also order top quality laces like this $50 5-yard lace for your weddings from Amazon. Same goes for books from your favorite Nigerian authors including Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart . Some of the items qualify for two-day shipping with Amazon.

I hope you found this blog useful. If you have ever ordered from Amazon in Nigeria, I will like to know what your experience was. See you in my next post.

PS: Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. All prices listed were current as of the time of the report.

Easiest Way to Wash Bitterleaf – Updated 2019

In 2014, I wrote about the time-consuming drudgery of washing bitterleaf. In that post, I expressed hope that a machine will be invented for that purpose.

It’s October 2019 and to my knowledge, there’s still no commercially available machine dedicated for washing bitterleaf. But there are indications people are working on it. For example, recently I got an email from a student in a U.S. university saying they were working on designing a bitterleaf washing machine. There was also news a few years ago of two brothers in Nigeria who came up with a rather crude one. I commend the brothers’ ingenuity and hope that soon they will get resources to help them refine their invention and make it commercially available.

While we wait for that to happen, I will share with you two machines people are already adapting to wash bitter leaves.

Food processor

Who knew? To wash bitterleaf with a food processor, I recommend this $45 Amazon Choice processor. First, boil the bitterleaf for about eight minutes. If you have ever washed bitterleaf manually, you know that boiling bitterleaf is always a backup plan for improperly washed bitterleaf as it takes away the last traces of bitterness. For the food processor method, boiling comes first. After boiling the leaves, attach the dough blade, instead of the knife blade, to prevent shredding. Then put the bitterleaf in the processor bowl, add just enough water to cover the leaves, and turn the knob to max. Watch the processor do its thing. Bring out the leaves when you think it’s done and rinse. And you have your perfectly washed leaves. This video from Dooney’s Kitchen will make it clearer.

Portable Washing Machine

I will vouch for this method because I have eaten bitterleaf washed with a portable washing machine and in my opinion, it came out perfectly fine. I will recommend this $70 Costway mini portable machine similar to the one I was gifted. The only recommendation is to to use the machine’s delicate wash setting and only do the rinse and spin cycle to reduce shredding. Do as many cycles as you feel necessary and since we are being creative anyway, it may not hurt to boil the leaf first to reduce the washing time.

The above methods reduce the stress of washing bitterleaf by at least 80%. Do give them a try and let me know what you think.

Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Also note that Amazon now ships to Nigeria.

How Nigerian Universities Can Guarantee 90% Graduate Employment Rate

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This 2016 report from Stutern, the most recent report I found on Nigerian graduates employment rate, reveals as follows: only 50% of Nigerian graduates are employed full time; 3 out of 4 employed graduates earn less than N50,000 ($125) on their first job; more than 80% of Nigerian graduates cannot buy a car from their first salary – only 12% can; and the average first year salary of a graduate of University of Ilorin equals fifteen times their total tuition.

Before now, Nigerian universities, which were mostly public universities, had no incentive to improve their graduates’ employability because demands for their programs far exceeded the supply. However, as more private universities spring up, 79, according to National Universities Commission’s website as of the time of writing, which charge students millions of Naira for tuition, there’s urgent need, more than ever, for institutions to prove an academic program with them is worth the investment. And what better way to prove that than to show that a high percentage of their graduates get employed in their field of study soon after graduation?

Given the large loans students obtain for studies, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, schools in the United States already appreciate the need to prove enrolling with them yield a high ROI (Return on Investment). A friend who got admission into a U.S. Law school, and had yet to start his academic program, was already connected to future employers by his Law school. Contrast this with my experience at a private university in Nigeria where the school never once prepared me for job hunting.

As the competition intensifies among Nigerian private schools to retain students from wealthy homes who can afford the luxury of a private university education, Below are five ways schools can improve their graduate employment rate.

  1. Run School-Owned Businesses and  Non-Profits

Schools are supposed to be catalyst for innovation and development and are charged with conducting researches to benefit their host communities. Nigeria’s high unemployment is due to insufficient economic activity. A university that starts a for-profit business could use student labor at a cheap or no cost, try ideas and develop knowledge that can be patented and transferred to the community. As Nigeria tries to boost agriculture production for example, and schools are knows to own large acres of arable land, a school could charge its Engineering Faculty with inventing mechanized equipment for farming, its Agriculture Economics department with managing the farm , Marketing Department with advertising the proceeds for sale and requesting grants from government, Accounting Department with managing the finances and its Biochemistry Department with manufacturing fertilizers and pest control. This may sound utopian but is doable.  And is being done. A Senior Catholic Seminary in Eastern Nigeria has a productive piggery, poultry and produce farm run by seminarians.

To benefit their host communities, schools can also run non-profits. This not only help students gain valuable work experience, but improves a school’s reputatoion. For example, rather than doing mock trials, Law students can run non-profit clinics tasked with providing minimal legal services, for example, applying for bail for indigent inmates, reducing or fulfilling stringent bail conditions etc. Law clinics can also have dispute resolution sections that settle disputes between members of the community. Law schools can partner with the state and courts in this regard as the courts have interest in decongesting prisons and managing caseloads. And you would be surprised at how much, with the benefit of exuberant optimism –even if irrational — of youths, students can accomplish with little guidance . For example, my proudest moment till date as an attorney was about nine years ago, when as second year lawyer I got a criminal case against an accused person, who had been detained for months, dismissed pro bono, without any assistance from a senior attorney.

To support the point above, Best Value Schools has this to say about University of Munich in this article about schools with high employment rates: The key to the Technical University of Munich’s graduate employment success is that many of its jobs are homegrown. What does this mean? Well, as TUM’s facts and figures page points out, TUM has directly generated over 800 start-ups, providing over 14,500 jobs, with many positions going to graduate students. In fact, TUM has been supporting it students’ businesses for 130 years. 

2 Hold  Career Fairs

A school usually needs so many professional services like accounting, banking, legal, IT etc. to function. My undergraduate private university in Nigeria never held a career day for us. A school intentional about improving its students’ employability can start its first career fair by having businesses and firms it patronize, hold fairs in the school to interview and employ the best talents in the school. It becomes a win-win both for the businesses, which gains top talents, and the school, which places its students in gainful employment. A school that gives a business hundreds of millions of Naira worth of business a year should not hesitate to ask the firm to return the favor by employing one of its own. Having career fairs also prepare students for real world interviews.

3. Mandate Internships

I never did an internship during  my undergraduate days. I did, however, in Law School and shortly, I will tell you how the Law school internship benefited me. Internships benefit businesses who get students’ services, with the fresh ideas that come with it, for free, as most are unpaid. In return, students get practical experience in their field of study, make valuable network, and if they distinguish themselves, get employment offer from the employer in time for graduation. For example, after I finished Law school, I went back to work with the law firm I interned with during Law school. As I already had a relationship with the firm, no interviews were required. While I did not make much money working there, my experience there prepared me for a successful career. Here’s another example from the Best Value Schools article previously mentioned, this time, about MIT: “Even among other world-leading universities, MIT stands out. This is due to the way students get full-time jobs through MIT’s support. MIT has a few not so secret weapons that students can leverage. One such tool is MISTI, MIT’s award-winning international internship program. This ensures that all of its students have the opportunity to find intern work across 25 countries. MISTI covers all expenses, including flights, which means students can stop worrying about money and start focusing on achievement. But what impact do internships really have on employment? The answer is lots. In fact, the leading means of an MIT student finding full-time work after completing their studies was a direct result of an internship.”

The same Best Value Schools article also said of University of Oxford: 95% of graduates are in employment or further study within six months of completing their degrees. One of the innovative features of the University of Oxford is its micro internship program, which runs for one week in every term of study, allowing students to quickly gain some useful experience.

4. Develop School Curriculum In Partnership With, and  With Business Communities in Mind

Churning out graduates in fields that are not in high demand perpetuates the cycle of unemployment. Schools who partner with big employers determine what their labor needs are and develop curriculum to fit the business’ needs. This enables the school to feed its graduates into these businesses with little competition from graduates from other schools who may not be knowledgeable about the unique needs of the businesses. For example, most top schools in the U.S. are producing more IT students to meet the business needs of the four tech giants Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apples. For our purpose in Nigeria, Stutern report also found that Computer Science, Economics and Electrical Engineering are the most employable degrees in the country. A school intentional about getting its graduates employed will conducts its own research, promote, and encourage its students to enroll in fields of studies that are in higher demand.

5. Nurture their Alumni

I know a Nigerian university that charges over N50,000 for each transcript application by its alumni (keep in mind less than 25% of Nigerian graduates make this much in a month in their first jobs), water mark same transcripts with the receiving institution’s name and indicate in the cover letter that it is only to be used for the institution, so alums pay the school each time they need a transcript. I know someone who applied to this school four different times for different purposes including employment and graduate studies. Did I mention this school did not have a working email on its website for the institutions and employers to verify the transcripts, causing their alums to lose opportunities? Meanwhile, this school, to the best of my knowledge, has no program whatsoever intentionally geared at ensuring its graduates find employment after leaving school. Not only should a school actively seek to find job for its graduate to increase its ranking, it should offer all support necessary including offering recommendation letters and references to alumni with as little hassle as possible. Moreover, the alum over time become wealth creators themselves and a school that treats its alum well will know when they are capable of hiring other alums and encourage them to do so.

Most of the schools listed in that Best Value School’s List of 30 Colleges Most Likely to Land You an Enjoyable Career have over 90% employment rate within six months of graduation and some have over 70% of graduates with job offer at the time of graduation.

Covenant University Ota – A Nigeria Case Study

The Stutern article lists Covenant University as the school in Nigeria with the highest employment rate at 90%. A look at the school’s website shows the following

A. The school has a center for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (EDS) “a custom-built programme in Covenant University. The programme is an all semester programme and compulsory for all students of the University irrespective of the student’s chosen field of study. It involves both theory and practical. The operations of the programme are housed in the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (CEDS). The Vision of the Centre is to empower Covenant University graduates entrepreneurially in a bid to make them productive and contribute significantly toward national socio-economic and human development. To develop an entrepreneurial spirit, skills and knowledge in the students of Covenant University and others in the external context so as to empower them to become wealth creators. To empower the entire community in a bid to alleviate poverty in its entire ramification.”

B. The school holds career fairs, and have an Alumni Career Services that help the school’s alum find jobs.

C. The school has Hebron startup lab, an initiative created to help student entrepreneurs successfully launch their startup into the market.

In conclusion, as Nigerians increasingly have more options for graduate and undergraduate studies, universities that yield high ROI will continue to be sought-after, and they can in turn charge premium tuition. A school must be intentional about its graduates’ employability to charge premium fees. It makes business sense then to employ the tools discussed above. With the proliferation of schools, both online and in campus programs, a school that is not intentional about proving its worth will inevitably slip into oblivion.

For consultations contact: Anne Mmeje (annemmeje@yahoo.com)

Intern or Learn a Skill to Earn N5,000 Per Month for Six Months – Application Open

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Our goal at Intern Nigeria is to prepare unemployed youths for the labor market by providing them resources and encouraging them to create opportunities for themselves. You can read previous posts on the website to learn how we are doing that.

In light of this goal, we are seeking applications from unemployed youths who we will give a  stipend of N5,000 per  month for Six months to learn a skill, or intern with an organization that  will lead to employment.  Application will close on March 27, 2019. Maximum of five winners will be announced on March 30, 2019 and the first payment will go out on April 1, 2019. Keep in mind that to continue receiving payment for the following five months, recipients will be required to show progress and prove that they are on track to meeting the goal of earning a living by the end of six months. Priority will be given to applicants who choose trades/skills they can easily master and set up themselves within six months. Braiding hair, tailoring, painting, teaching in a school, etc. are some suggested skills.

Please note applicants are responsible for finding a place to intern or learn a skill. Applicants are encouraged to approach as many businesses as possible to secure an opportunity for the program.
To qualify, applicants must be following Intern Nigeria on Facebook and must provide answers to the following questions via email to Nigerianintern@gmail.com. All inquiries should be sent to that address as well. Also note that all information provided will be verified by Intern Nigeria before an award can be made.

  1. Your name
  2. Age
  3. Highest education attained
  4. Current  monthly income
  5. Skill you intend to learn
  6. Employer or person who will teach you the  trade/skill; their name, phone number, and  address
  7. Your  city of residence and  address
  8. Your email address
  9. Why you think this program  will help you earn a living at the end of six months
  10. Any other reason why you think you should be granted an opportunity to be part of the program

Please share this opportunity with people who may need it. Good luck.

Anne

How These Six Nigerian Professionals Landed Their Dream Jobs (Culled from Kacheetee.com)

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I have been reading Kacheetee.com, a lifestyle blog run by Kachi, a first-class graduate Nigerian lawyer who also happens to be a Cambridge graduate. One of my favorite categories in her blog is one that features a day in the work Life of different professionals. In the features, the subjects write about how they start their day, how they get to work (by train, bus etc), what their job duties are,  how they got the  job, their typical day at work, the perks of the job etc. The subjects also share  what a person looking for a similar job should do to get into the field. I have provided links for each full feature underneath each excerpt.

Because the goal of our current project Intern Nigeria is to help job seekers, I have culled sections of the features relating  to how these professionals got their jobs. I encourage you to check out the full features because they are inspiring and show us where we can get to if we put our minds to our goals. I hope you enjoy the excerpts below as I did when I first read  them on Kachi’s blog.

The Automation Engineer: Osemhen Akhibi

I got the job by interning with the company when I was in school. They came to the university of Lagos (UNILAG) to advertise their assessed internship program. I completed a project in six months that I presented to HR and business representatives. I must’ve done a good job; I was literally recruited straight out of university. No exams. No interviews. I was pretty lucky. See the full interview here.

Program Analyst (Eliminating  Malaria) – Tiese Etim-Inyang

In college, I flip-flopped between economics and international relations as my degree choices, but finally settled on Psychology.

Then in 2013, three and a half years into my college, I went on my first service trip in the Dominican Republic. It was focused on health (specifically malaria and other mosquito-related diseases) education. I remember returning and thinking “I want to help prevent the spread of disease. I want to help so that fewer people need to go to a doctor for curative reasons.” That September, I signed up to add public health classes to my already tedious college schedule. Later, I studied Global Public Health for a master’s degree. It took eight months of searching after graduation but I eventually found a job in the same field.

I used LinkedIn to search for jobs and it’s how I applied for my current position. It was helpful that I was able to email my resume and cover letter to an actual person not just xyzcompanyhr.net. I noticed that this was when I was more likely to get interviews. For this job, I emailed my resume to my current supervisor and went through two stages of interviews via Skype where I was asked a lot of behavioural questions such as “what would you do in X job-related situation?” but also questions about my public health background and experience—which I always enjoy talking about. I don’t know if my passion, experience, or a combination of both got me the job but I’m still grateful for it. For the full interview click here.

Business/Communications Manager – Ufuoma Okumagba 

I got the job by being a sharp-shooter. I started out in the banking industry in Nigeria. I had completed an undergraduate degree in Banking and Finance from Covenant University so a career in the bank seemed like a logical path to follow. I actually really loved working in Finance for the two years I was in Nigeria until I moved to Canada to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Business. After the program was done, I had to do an internship as it was a requirement for graduation and so the job search began.

Canada was a totally new environment for me and as an immigrant, I struggled at first to adapt to the new landscape. Even the “little” things like resume structures mattered a lot and as you can imagine, it was totally different from what was accepted in Nigeria. Once I got the hang of it all though, the interviews started coming in. A well written resume can really do wonders in the job market anywhere.

Anyway, one day I decided to sign up for a free trial of LinkedIn premium which lets you contact pretty much anyone on LinkedIn via Inmails. Of course there are etiquettes to using the Inmail and I knew all of those. After applying for the internship on the company site, I sent out a well-written message to the recruiter on LinkedIn (read: slid in the DMs). I found her name just by doing a simple LinkedIn search. It was pretty much hit or miss but at that point, there was really nothing to lose.

I sent a very enthusiastic message without coming across as desperate or creepy and it worked. The next day, she replied my message and booked me for an interview spot. I prepared for it, gave it my best shot and voila, I got the job.

A month after my internship was over, I got hired full time and fast forward to two years later, I was promoted to head the team I was working in. So, cheers to small beginnings, being faithful with the “little” tasks, staying grounded, and working hard. And of course, a big shout out to Linkedin’s premium feature, even though I canceled my free trial because it had already served its purpose. Click here for the  full interview. 

University Lecturer (& PhD Student) – Tega Ogbuigwe 

I studied International Business for both my bachelors and masters degree, at the United States International University Nairobi Kenya and the University of Surrey UK respectively. I had a first class in both degrees so it’s no surprise that I am a lecturer and pursing a PhD in the same field right?Seems like I perfectly crafted my career path right? NOPE! To be honest, after high school, I went on vacation then chilled around the house for a few months crafting plans on how to become a dancer and a model SERIOUSLY – in my defence I was 16. And then one day my dad said to me, “you’ve been accepted into this school to study international business”. I was like okay. Apparently while I thought I had been chilling doing A levels in some school, he had organised the entire admission process with them. I had no clue what it was or what it involved or what I could use it for afterwards. I was just happy to be in university.

Anyways fast forward to final year in University and I had just totally fallen in love with the concept of businesses investing in different countries and how the price of a product for instance, was not just determined by the cost of producing the product plus profit on top it. Things like cultural differences, regulations and polices became more significant and I was just intrigued. I had to know more and discover more and it was a no brainer to get a masters degree in the field.

After my masters in the UK I came back to Nigeria for my NYSC and shortly after that I got a job in a large agrochemical company working in HR. Though it wasn’t directly my field, it was related and I had a very good understanding on how things worked. To be honest, I could have easily built a career path, a very good one too, in that field but I just never felt quite settled in there. You know when you feel like, this is good but it’s not right? Yeah… that’s how I felt.

And then there was an advertisement for lecturers at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria. After talking to my dad and boyfriend (now husband) they thought it was a good fit for me, so I applied and interviewed for the position. That was the beginning of my journey as an academic and it truly is a good fit for me. 4 years into lecturing at the university, it was time to take the next step in my career which of course required a PhD so I was starting to write PhD research proposals and fill in applications.

When I tell people I am a Nigerian based in New Zealand they always ask why? Why did you choose New Zealand? My response is always the opposite; New Zealand chose me.

While I was planning to get a doctorate, my default search was Canada and the United States (I didn’t even bother with the UK because I had a bad experience during my masters research). I completed all the requirements, GMAT, ridiculous application fees, countless skype interviews and all the hops with these schools.

While I was waiting to hear back a friend of mine told about how NZ universities were more straightforward and “relaxed”. I think what got me interested was the word “relaxed”. Everything I had read about doing a PhD seemed like it was the end of the world so being in a generally relaxed environment seemed nicely different.

I did a quick google search on New Zealand and I was just hooked to my PC screen for the rest of the day. It was a beautiful place, nice people, beautiful weather. If I am going to spend the next 3 to 4 years reading and researching I might as well do it in a beautiful place right? Then I did a quick search for PhD’s in my field and my university popped up. It was a really nice surprise because in all my search for a PhD, I had never seen an actual PhD in International Business degree; most of them were either in management or something different with an international business component. So I was like “Oh God is this a sign“?

And then I opened the link – there was an advertisement for intending PhD students with lecturing experience and research interest in foreign direct investment to work with Victoria University and the government on policy implementation (almost like they had me in mind really).

They required a 7000 word proposal and the deadline was in 2 days. I don’t think I even read anymore after that. I closed the page opened Microsoft word and typed away without stopping until I reached the word limit (yo the hype was real). Sent in my application and forgot about it. To be honest I didn’t invest my heart in it because I knew my proposal was substandard. Anyways, 6 weeks later, I got an email inviting me for a skype interview and I was like OMG!!!!

I will tell you a funny secret. For the skype interview I wore a really nice work shirt and my hubby’s boxers (trust me it made me less nervous) and it wasn’t really an interview in my opinion, it was more like a chat between old colleagues. New Zealanders are indeed nice. From the interview I kind of had a feeling they were really interested in me. And one-week letter I got the offer. Research with the University and the government with lecturing hours included. PERFECT! The rest they say is history

Click here for the full interview

Audit Senior Manager – Dee Olateru

I started my career in the US with the same firm and I got the job when they came to recruit on campus at the University of Illinois where I was in the Master Program. Sounds easy right? No.

Allow me to digress a bit and give you the back-story.

So I finished my undergraduate degree and graduated with the equivalent of a first class but could not get a job that would sponsor me for an employment visa in the US. I had bills to pay and I don’t have time to cry so I took a job working in a factory making light fixtures. I was the most educated person on the floor and it took a while for my colleagues to warm up to the new ‘college kid’ but they did. Let me tell you, I got so strong physically my arms were #goals (move over Michelle Obama!). Normally, I’m the slowest eater you’ll ever meet but those days, I’d get home from work and demolish a huge serving of eba while my roommates would stare at me like… “who is this?” It was a lot of hard work but I know a thing or two about using tools and putting things together… don’t let the heels and suits fool you. In that time, I continued to apply to jobs, more than 500 applications later… nothing.

Then plan B kicked in: I’d apply to a Masters of Accountancy program (which I didn’t need) but I’d only apply to top 3 programs in the US (because, why not?). These schools had access to top employers and programs lasted one year. I applied, and thankfully got accepted with two offering scholarships. I was now in a place to choose but I’ll never forget how it felt receiving those letters/phone calls. Thank the Lord; because the kind of money the schools were asking for was way outside my economic bandwidth. I ended up at University of Illinois for my masters.

So, my current firm came to the University of Illinois campus to recruit. I attended their events, as did other students. This time, it was ‘get a job to head back to Nigeria’ for me. Good grades were not enough of a differentiator as there were lots of intelligent people in my class; it was like a brain convention. I attended the firm’s events and engaged with representatives. I did my homework in advance and followed up promptly. I also ate all the free food they offered at these events – no shame in my student budget game! I finally got the chance for an interview and three rounds later, while I was in my friends car leaving the last interview, I got the call with the offer.

It took a year at a factory plus an additional year in school to get there. This goes to say… stay the path. Some things take longer than you want or than you think you deserve. Others may seem to have it easier but everyone’s path is unique and there’s often a beauty to our struggles that we only see in retrospect. Cry, whine, sulk, but get up and ‘kick the sh*t out of Plan B!

My firm won a large global client – one of the largest in this industry in decades and there was a call for nominations for 4 people in the US with a specific skill set. I had no clue about this call for nominations. Thankfully, this was discussed at a regional partner meeting where three people (sponsors, God bless them!) thought about me and decided to see if I was interested for both personal and professional reasons. For me, this came out of the blue as it was at a point where I was considering other options within and outside the firm. I thought through it, talked with family and close friends and I said yes. I had one phone ‘interview’ and three months later on my birthday, I hopped on a flight to the U.K. Click here for the full feature.

Editor & Content Producer – Nicole Asinugo

I couldn’t quite articulate but always knew I wanted. I studied Law at University and I think I knew it wasn’t for me during my first Land Law lecture. I was genuinely paying attention but I couldn’t keep up with what the lecturer was talking about. I found all the terminologies exhausting and boring and I instantly wanted to change my course to something else. I was really good at English and Literature and History in my secondary school and A Levels but Law just felt really… bland.

After University, I knew I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know where to start. So, I went for a course at London School of Journalism. However, that too didn’t feel like the right fit because it was very much about serious journalism and investigative reporting. I tried to like it but it didn’t do it for me. I came back to Nigeria and worked as a news writer at Channels Television for a year. It was an interesting experience but again in terms of my writing, I felt very limited. When you are writing about the news you can’t say ‘An eerie silence swept the room as the President addressed the crowd’. You have to say ‘The President addressed the crowd’. Done. No drama, no fun, no me.

And then, I watched Mad Men. And I saw that people created ads for a living and I thought ‘Oh my God, I can do that – that’s what I want to do’. My sister found out the agency that Mad Men was based off – DDB – had an office in Lagos. And the rest was history. After three years of copy writing at DDB, I had started blogging on the side. Being exposed to art directors, graphic designers and photographers really lit up a creative flare in me and I started creating cool content. I would send emails to magazines like Guardian Life and just give them content which they always happily published.

Then one day, my former boss at DDB told me Ndani TV was looking to start a lifestyle blog and asked me if I would like to interview for the role. My first interview was with the Head of Production and Creative Director of Ndani TV. The second and scarier interview was with the then Head of Corporate Affairs at GTBank and after a few days, I got a call, that I got the job.

It was really life changing for me because it was a management role (a major step up from my DDB days) and it was everything I felt like I was interested in on the side, but now I was getting paid to do it for real. Click here for the full future.

Comment: It’s amazing how technology: LinkedIn, Skype, Google etc helped these professionals get their dream jobs. These features also highlight how interning can help one get their foot in the door. Finally what can we do without family? Fathers and husbands in this  case. I hope you were inspired by these professionals like I was. I appreciate the hard work Kachi and these  professionals put into getting these features out. These excerpts are reproduced under the doctrine of fair use. The copyright  belongs to (c) Kacheetee.com.