A lot of emphasis have been placed on the need for students to graduate with stellar grades. I will continue to advise same. It’s common knowledge that most big firms in Nigeria don’t recruit graduates with less than a 2.1. Many graduates with 2.2 or lower are not even given the chance to prove themselves, eventhough some of them may be better than some graduates with higher grades. This is exacerbated by the high unemployment rate in Nigeria. It won’t be a shocking news to know that there are still a few organizations that aren’t even accepting corps members (before the recent policy on posting), graduate interns and contract staff with grades lower than 2.1.
But that truth remains that students will continue to graduate with such grades, whether we want it or not. Many finish with such grades for reasons that are entirely avoidable while others are caused by factors seemingly beyond their control. But whatever the reason, they still deserve to live a fulfilled and responsible life. A few have sought my advice as they appear confused after graduating with 2.2. or third class. I have therefore decided to provide some general tips that can help graduates with 2.2 and lower. This is based on personal observation and experiences of others, some of whom I know to have made remarkable successes despite their low grades. Adapt them to your peculiar situation.
1. Work on your mindset – This is the first step towards overcoming the challenge of having a low grade. Accept the reality that it is likely going to be tougher for you out there compared to other graduates and start preparing for it. Know that you will most likely have to prove yourself and work harder than others. Don’t sit and whine peevishly about how life has been unfair to you. Life itself is a challenge. Realize the challenges on time and brace up for it. Don’t waste precious time on regrets and don’t fall into the trap of inferiority complex.
2. Network – Let’s face the facts and not deceive ourselves. Graduating with a 2.2 means that chances of joining the one of the big companies as an entry level staff in Nigeria in an open recruitment process is lower than others with better grades. Very few companies give 2.2 graduates the even the slightest opportunity to prove themselves. It is therefore very essential for you to learn to network. Improve your interpersonal skills and hone your networking skills. From observation, more than 70% of the graduates I know that graduated with 2.2 or less in the last 5 years got their jobs through networking. Strengthen your networking skills. Go to conferences, professional associations, etc. Get reliable contacts and industry informants. Polish your linkedin profile. Don’t ignore religious and ethnic gatherings too. Friends can also be very helpful.
3. Improve your communication skill and confidence – This cannot be overemphasized. Communication skills (speaking and writing) can greatly enhance your chances of getting a job. The difference between 2 equally smart graduates may boil down to the ability of one being to express himself more than the other. Communication and confidence go together. Confidence in speaking can even make falsehood appear true. Have you ever wondered why con artists are able to swindle people? They talk and write displaying great poise and confidence. This is not to say that you need to lie arrogantly to get a job. I’m simply reiterating the need for you to sell yourself suitably because no one else will. You stand a better chance if you can.
4. Go for a masters or professional certification as soon as possible- While a masters or certification will not entirely take away the drawback caused by having a 2.2, it might ameliorate the effect. Believe me, there is a big difference between a BSc (2.2) in Accounting and a BSc (2.2) in Accounting + ICAN certification. Same goes for a BSc (2.2) in electrical engineering and a BSc (2.2) electrical engineering + MSc (distinction) in software engineering. Some companies are willing to consider 2.2 backed with a masters degree. The last NNPC advert for entry level positions considered 2.2 but with Masters degree. Besides, one can pursue an academic career depending on how good your postgraduate results are. It is good to consider a good postgraduate programme.
5. Learn new skills – Your skills can enhance your employability. Search for suitable skills that can complement your BSc degree or help you build a career for which you are interested. I have seen graduates learn programming, graphic designs, web design, etc and making a whole lot of money from them. Some learn useful engineering softwares. Some are simply astounding when it comes to database management. Others have great marketing ability. Quite a few are good writers and bloggers. The list goes on and on.
6. Don’t be discouraged to start small – While it is not impossible that you land the big dream job in a top organization on your first trial, the chances may not be very high. Fortunately, the significance of grades diminish gradually as you acquire relevant job experience. Never feel discouraged if you have to start from a humbling work background. You do need that relevant job experience. It may come from an internship or volunteer experience. It may be a frustrating one-man business. The pay may appear too little for your comfort. The employment may be on contract basis. It doesn’t matter. Squeeze out as much experience as you can. All those experiences from the so-called ‘dirty’ jobs can add significant weight to your resume in your next big job hunt.
7. Practice hard copy CV circulation – We all know that there are very few openly advertised vacancies that require 2.2. for entry level positions. You might wait endlessly as a 2.2 graduate if you are seeking only publicly advertised jobs. Common! Quit waiting! Clean up your CV and cover letter, and pursue the unadvertised jobs. Go for unsolicited job applications. You will be positively surprised by how much success you can achieve by that singular but potent act of dropping CV’s.
8. Get mentors – There is nothing more inspiring than seeing others who have passed through the same struggles and have overcome. You should try and get one or two mentors that can share their experiences and guide you appropriately in your career pursuits.
9. Consider other available options – You may need to do some critical thinking about options that are open for you. In some cases, students finish with low grades because they chose the wrong course . And in such situations, it may be very difficult to compete against other motivated graduates of same or similar courses. Like a Nigerian adage says ‘ there is more than one route to the marketplace’. Are there other career options available for you to delve into? Have you considered entrepreneurship, multi-level marketing, sales job, etc? Do you love fashion designing, estate management, information technology, etc? Are there ‘menial’ jobs you have handled in the past that can fetch you big money if you decide to go fully into it – like maintenance jobs, food services, dry cleaning jobs, etc.
10. Exercise patience and pray – Don’t expect a sudden breakthrough immediately. If it happens, rejoice. If it does not, keep developing yourself. Exercise some patience and continue to work hard. I sincerely believe in the powers of miracle. We all need some elements of luck (some call it favour) in the labour market. That’s where the power of prayer comes.