By Funmi Wale-Adegbite
Do you know any graduate currently “looking” for a job? Chances are 9 out of 10 people will answer “Yes” to that question.
From my experience as a recruitment consultant, looking is hardly a way to describe the approach most Nigerian graduates adopt towards their job search “siddon look” is probably a better way to describe the typical graduate’s strategy.
On speaking to countless graduates in my 11 years of practicing recruitment in Nigeria, I am compelled to write this piece.
Let’s do a simple exercise. Ask any graduate who is looking for a job how many jobs they have actually applied for. The highest figure I have so far received as an answer is 6! On close inspection, the figure is more like 2, because the other four applications were made through 3rd parties (agencies, parents and friends).
I was moved to tears a week ago when my own cousin came to me for careers advice. Her lack of job search knowledge was simply mind boggling. It was at that point that I realised what an epidemic this graduate job search issue was. I guess you could say, my cousin’s situation finally drove the message home for me.
Having schooled and worked in the UK, I fully understand the concept of graduate job search, both first hand and from friends and family.
Let’s take my sister’s case as an example. Tope studied insurance at university and in her 1st year at university and my own 3rd, we spent the entire month of July walking the streets of London searching for holiday jobs. We knew that no employer would take any graduate seriously if they had never worked before.
After a month of serious searching, we both found jobs, me at one of British telecom’s offices in the city of London and Tope at Oasis, a retail shop near London’s Tottenham Court Road as a shop assistant. A job she worked at every holiday until graduation.
On graduation, Tope had to search for work in London’s insurance industry. She must have written at least 1000 applications. And of course, employer replies came back with the same ferocity with which the applications were sent – in the UK , every company was statutorily obliged to respond to every graduate application.
I recall with so much pride, one cold winter evening as I returned to the house I shared with my sister. Tope must have sent in at least 500 job applications to all the insurance companies listed in the business directory, the week before, because on getting to the house, I had to push the door open with all my strength. The postman had obviously visited and managed to stuff a very high number of application responses through the letter hole in the door. Of course most of them started with “ Dear Temitope, thank you for your application to our company, however we regret…”
Painfully, to find out if any company had indeed invited her for an interview, she had to open each and every letter. You can imagine the valuable life lessons she learnt going through the application process itself.
As graduates then, we were fully aware that we needed to make about 20 – 30 applications to stand a chance of getting one interview! The insurance industry being a peculiar one, Tope’s application to interview ratio was more like 200 – 1! Furthermore, you needed an average of 3-5 interviews to get a job offer!
So let’s do the math! 1 interview from 20 job applications is a 5% positive response rate! As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, most Nigerian graduates only ever apply for 2 jobs directly!
That will earn them 0.1 of an interview…
For some reason, Nigerian universities, both private and public don’t seem to understand the importance of career guidance for their undergraduates. Education is a means to an end, but it appears as if they treat it as an end in itself.
Every university should have a properly equipped careers service for her undergraduates. Every parent needs to ensure that they get proper careers advice for their child/ward from age 16 years onwards. Good news is, it’s not too late to get proper careers advice even at 35 years of age, but the earlier, the better.
Over the years, it has been very encouraging for me to see the transformation in the lives of a good number of the graduates after a heart to heart conversation about changing their beliefs and hence, approach, to job search. The usual response I get is heartfelt thanks and a confession “ma’am, nobody has actually ever spoken to me like this before…”
In a bid to end the Graduate Unemployment malaise in Nigeria, I will be running a Free Graduate Job Search Clinic every Friday (2.00pm – 4.00pm) in Lagos. To book a spot, please call 01 774 8645.
Funmi Wale-Adegbite is Managing Partner of the Nigerian Practice of Antal International, an executive search firm with over 70 offices in countries, specialising in headhunting outstanding talent into mid-senior executive level positions within Africa and the rest of the world.