… Letter To Nigeria Youths

Let me start with some bad news. One out of every two Nigerians aged between 15 and 35 years is unemployed. As of 2018, 350,000 students graduated from Nigeria’s tertiary institutions to join about 30 million others who were still unemployed. In that year, Nigeria’s economy created only 450,000 new jobs. This was a drop from the 700,000 new jobs created in 2017. The downward trend may have continued in 2019 and definitely in 2020 (given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic).

Some good-ish news. Most professional services firms in Nigeria have some capacity to recruit a few more people. However, the challenge is that the cost of finding good quality candidates is high especially as it is becoming like looking for a needle in a haystack. Many of the firms have made some bad hires and those costs exert too much pressure especially as they are already struggling to survive in an economy that is not growing.

Here is the real good news. You can become that elusive top-quality candidate the firms are looking for. Your probability of securing a job is higher if you can set yourself apart from the crowd based on what you know. Your quality will shine through in your application cover note, your resume, and the interview proper.

Technology has helped to democratize the opportunities. The internet provides you with a world of tools that can help you differentiate yourself. From free tutorials to free magazines to free books. Do you know that there are millions of books that you can download for free from sites such as www.pdfdrive.net? Have you read any of these guys: Acemoglu and Robinson, Collier, Sachs, Pinker, Nye, Friedman, Gladwell, Christensen, Isaacson? Many of their books are free on the internet. Imagine the quality of your interviewer after you have engaged with these authors!

Here is what you may wish to do:
1. Decide what you are really interested in. What is that thing you find yourself always drawn to? You know what it is. If you don’t know, you can find out through some soul-searching. Note that I am not talking about what you studied in school. Most recruiters know that what you studied may not have any bearing to your interest. Indeed, all your Bachelor’s degree tells me is that you are now ready to start learning.

2. Learn all up can about your subject of interest. Seek out all the publications in your area of interest and read all your eyes can find. Many of the magazines are almost free online. In a bid to compete, they offer a lot of their content free. In our days (with no internet), the best we could hope for was for the old magazine spread out on the ground at Ojuelegba Roundabout or on racks at CMS Bus Stop.

3. Figure out what the people in your industry (of interest) are reading and read the same thing. This will set you apart from the other interviewees who have been watching Big Brother Naija.

4. Reach out to people in your area of interests and seek mentorship or internships. Don’t be scared. The worst that can happen is rejection. Most people will give you a listening ear.

5. Seek out industry events and show up. Many of these events are free online now. Get on the Zoom calls and learn the language of your industry.
My young friend, while Nigeria’s economy is not producing enough jobs, companies are still seeking exceptional candidates. Trust me, I am seeking and can’t find.

Be bold. Reach out. Hustle. Knock on the door. Keep knocking. However, when the door opens and you are allowed into the room, be sure that you have learnt enough to show that you are the one they have been looking for.

*** Patrick Okigbo is the founder and principal partner at Nextier, an Abuja-based advisory firm.