Somebody will say I have come again but please just hear me out. I am trying to make a point I keep hacking on, about how skills are responsible for your employment and your earnings. It may seem a long read, but for those looking for extraordinary leaps in their career, you really need to read this.
I have to tell you about my experience yesterday at an event I was asked to speak at.
My topic was on Understanding Your Career Trajectory, Beyond Your Degree.
My talk was about 30 minutes and I took about 15 minutes of questions. Because I had another appointment, I had to leave quickly. When I was leaving, a young man followed me.
He had a career dilemma he needed me to help him solve.
You know I have mentioned how much I love solving problems, so as it were, he immediately had my full attention. By now, he was escorting me out of the building, in a few steps, we were waiting for the elevator.
I was eager to start our coaching conversation, so I prompted him to go ahead, I asked, ‘so what do you do?’
He introduced himself, he said he ran his own business, that he was into technology, sofware development to be precise. Then he added, ‘I am 24 years old.’
I immediately wanted to steal his youth. Remembering myself at 24, I was full of admiration.
‘So how can I help you?’ I further inquired.
He was at cross roads. In fact this type of cross roads I can’t lie, I had never seen. Cross roads are usually two pronged, this guy had 4 options, so let’s say he was at ‘quad roads.’
Because this was a confidential conversation, I won’t name any of the companies involved.
After a brief pause, our conversation went as follows;
He began, ‘I have 4 offers and right now I am confused which one to take.’
Arrrgh I thought, I like this type of problem. So I urged him on, ‘please list them out.’ They reeled out.
Option 1: I run my own business, I developed a product that solves a health challenge via data analytics. I was among 7 selected from Nigeria by a UK funded project. It looks like I am going somewhere with this. I want to continue my business.
Option 2: A microfinance bank wants me to spear-head their digital transformation. It seems like an exciting opportunity. Money isn’t that exciting at about NGN500k a month but I will be the head and I like the whole idea of leading this initiative.
Option 3: On a trip last month I was mistakenly put in business class and I sat next to the MD of this multinational company, long and short, he made me an offer on the spot. I will first of all receive training in South Africa, but the role will be based in the UK. The role is focussed on working on development type projects for international agencies. They are already processing my visa, the salary is £50k a year.
Option 4: I got an offer from a major multinational oil and gas player in Nigeria. It’s a business analyst role. The money is the most exciting, the salary is NGN2.1m a month.
Before I started to probe further, I stopped and asked him, ‘how old did you say you are again?’
’24,’ he laughed.
I coached him through the options. We explored each option on its own merit and in relation to his vision for his career, we picked option 3, but that is not the point of this post.
If you want to know why option 3, I will explain the process in another article and may be you too can experience the benefit of career coaching.
So, what’s my point and the point of this post?
Firstly, this is someone who graduated in 2016 from a Nigerian university.
Please pause, scroll up and read his 4 options again. Have you? Good. Let’s continue.
I just googled him to search his LinkedIn profile, so, let me give you his credentials. He didn’t even tell me all I am about to tell you now, but when I listened to this guy, I knew that his skills could not be ordinary. So please, just listen because his profile starts out very ordinary but as we delve deeper you will understand why he has the options he has.
- He went to a state university, nothing to write home about. Let me not lie, I was expecting that he went to a private university or schooled abroad. Nothing o. Bubble busted!
- He studied Economics, nothing to write home about. Again, I was expecting he studied Computer Science. He didn’t. Not even a master’s degree? Hmmmm. Another bubble busted.
- He graduated in 2016, after 4 years at university, nothing to write home about. Actually, I lie, this is a big deal in Nigeria. Thank God for him, attending a state university and graduating on time, free of strikes, Alleluia!
Now this is where it gets interesting. Please pay attention.
By 2015, before he even graduated, he was a chartered banker. Hmmm.
By 2016, again, before he even graduated, this Oga had completed ICAN. Meaning he was a chartered accountant before he even graduated. Hian!
I couldn’t see from his profile where he learned his software development skills formally. It is apparent that this Oga was self-taught and that he also has strong problem solving skills. So Oga here learned software development on his own. He then combined his obviously strong problem solving skills with technology skills to create a product.
His product solves an SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) type of problem, so he was one of 7 people selected from Nigeria on a UK funded project. Impressive.
Why am I telling you all this?
Notice, no connections, no godfather, no rich family, no schooled abroad, no private university, no masters.
🎶🎶 Him papa no be Dangote or Adeleke but he dey ok ooo 🎶🎶🎶🎵🎵🎼🎼
Only, focus, grit and skills.
This is a simple case of skills and perfecting skills at work.
Watch how money follows skills.
If this guy did not have these uncommon skills, he would be unemployed now or earning 80k and jumping up. 80k is not bad right? I mean for a fresh graduate.
Listen, read this slowly, ‘a 24 year old in Nigeria can earn NGN2.1 million naira a month.’
Again, this is not about money, this is just emphasising like I always do, that a fat salary is possible when you have the right skills.
I say it all the time. There are jobs, every company I know has vacancies, but our biggest problem in Nigeria is a skills mismatch.
The skills of the unemployed and even the employed do not match the vacancies out there. People are not equipping themselves with the skills that the job market needs.
My advise. Find out what skills are required in the world not even Nigeria, study it, perfect it. Stop wasting your time doing petty trading and sending out cvs. Go and learn and perfect a skill that the market needs.
Be so good at it, that you get noticed. Eat it, breath it, sleep it, just focus on it. Nothing beats grit. Talent is not enough.
I know many accountants that are still giving excuses over not completing ICAN after 10 years, some still saying they don’t have money. Continue. I know many HR Professionals still dancing about their HR certification. Continue. Many fresh graduates are finishing school with ICAN in their pocket. Don’t get upset when they are your bosses. It is skills not just experience that increases value. Precisely, it is experience in a valuable skill that commands value and dictates pay.
It’s simple market forces. If you have common skill you will earn common salary. If you want uncommon salary you need to have uncommon skills.
While you are at it, be sure to network, it is not in your room, posting pictures for the GRAM that the MD of a company will meet you and you will impress him to offer you a job on the spot.
I left this 24 year old inspired and asked him to be my mentor. I explained to him the concept of reverse mentoring and told him that it’s a concept where older people are mentored by younger people in an area that the younger person is more experienced.
Notice how I referred to him as Oga? These are the real Ogas.
I needed him to help me with understanding how to get into the development space and work on SDG goals. He accepted. Now I am excited. I have a mentor!
What a refreshing experience. God bless you as you find your path.
Adora Ikwuemesi has spoken, I hope you learned a thing or 2?
Now go out there and get busy being awesome!
I am Adora Ikwuemesi, I speak, I write and I advise on HR and Careers.
You can buy my book Change Your Career via my website www.adoraikwuemesi.com or on Amazon
#adoraikwuemesi #Ithrive #WeThrive
I’m greatly delighted to have read this through. One of the or probably the most inspiring piece I’ve read this year.
It’s amazing to know that there are young Nigerians doing amazingly and awesomely well, who do not blame the government for all their problems, who purposefully and intentionally work out their own successes.
I won’t be left out of this company of amazing people. I will give myself to learning and do well to ensure I’m an inspiration to someone elsewhere as this has done to me. I’m greatly inspired.
Really, this came just at the right time. It’s time to get back to the drawing board.
Thanks for sharing, Ma.🙇
This is very mind blowing and impressive to say the least. Recently I started speaking to undergrads about internships during the holidays or strike to learn new useful skills that will set them apart in the future. It’s alarming when you see graduates that have never worked one day on their lives, meaning no skill has been acquired.
Also reverse mentoring is the new “it”, we all must keep an open mind and be humble when it comes to learning.
This is mind blowing I also have issue making up my mind on what to do, I would really like to speak to someone about career selection. Thanks for sharing
Such an inspiring read. It challenged me to stretch more!
Thanks for the piece ma.
Truly money follows skill.