No doubt, good jobs are hard to get in Nigeria. The recent Nigerian Immigration job test in which over 700,000 graduates were jostling for about 4,500 average paying job openings is a glaring example of the alarming employment situation. Tens of thousands of graduates are churned out yearly from the NYSC programme, adding to the already overburdened labour MARKET.
The bloated job market notwithstanding, many graduates still get absorbed into good organizations on a yearly basis, with some getting well paying jobs in less than a year after NYSC service. There are many factors that contribute to this. This details a list of the top 10 qualities that enhance employability in Nigeria, in order of significance. Despite the prevailing adverse employment situation, it’s almost an absolute guarantee a graduate will land a good quality job within a short period if he or she has 7 or 8 of the top 10 qualities mentioned below. There are many other enhancers such as tribe / region (e.g. oil companies favour host communities in job placements), sex (there are many jobs that favour a particular sex), talent, alma mater (some schools simply carry more weight than others), leadership experience etc. However this is my compilation of the 10 most sought after qualities in ascending order of impact. The list is solely based on my observation of vacancy requirements, job specification, personal experiences and the experiences of others over the last 5 years. And the scope is limited to Nigeria only.
10 Valuable Internship/ Volunteer Experience – Having relevant internship or volunteer experience can potentially give you a competitive edge over others in sectors such as oil/gas, construction, advertising, banking etc. Many graduates get chosen above others as a result of applicable experience garnered from a few months of internship. However, it is not a prerequisite for success in job hunting and therefore will be at number 10.
9 Masters / Professional Certification – There are simply some discipline that having a masters degree, especially in a top school will brighten your chances of landing a dream job. Examples are geology, architecture, lecturing and petroleum (reservoir) engineering. There are certain kind of jobs (e.g. business and HR consulting) that having an MBA will be very valuable. Also, the importance of certification in disciplines such as accounting, Information Technology, Safety, HR, investment, stock broking, etc. cannot be overstated. However, many still get good jobs without having an extra degree or certification. Most jobs do not require an additional degree. Simply put, the importance of having a complementary degree or certification is highly exaggerated in Nigeria. Thus, it stays at No. 9 in the list.
8 Knowledge of Business / Corporate World – Having a knowledge of the corporate can be a big advantage, especially in interviews. Many employers search for this understanding amongst graduates, even the technically inclined ones. Employers are business units and naturally lean toward graduate with knowledge of how business runs and how to make business decisions, irrespective of academic background. This is akin to business leadership qualities. It is always advisable for graduates to have basic understanding of business issues such as personnel management, leave, branding, advertisement, finance, investment, labour issues, community issues, workplace safety, managing your boss, etc
7 Basic Computer Skill – The corporate world revolves around information technology. Almost all entry level job positions require graduates to have basic MS Office skills (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). Most job vacancies are advertised and applied online. Many job tests are computer based. CV’s and cover letters are designed using computers. Job hunting is all about information gathering and most information including books, interview and test materials are now in electronic forms. The benefits are endless.
6 Networking / Interpersonal skills – Nigerians call this different names (such as recommendation, building contacts, connections, man-know-man, pressing buttons, favouristism, etc. ) depending on individual perception and perspective. Many jobs are gotten through networking worldwide and Nigeria is certainly not excluded. Networking is not bad if not abused and can be used to further one’s career. But the influence of networking in Nigeria is blown out of proportion. You do not need to know anyone to get a good job, especially in the private sector where most of the well paying jobs can be found. Countless number of people get good jobs in Nigeria without knowing anyone. Hence, networking is not in the top 5 and will remain at number 6.
5 Marketability of course – The more MARKETABLE your course of study is, the brighter your chances of getting a good job. All courses are good, but some courses appear more marketable than others. Just go through job vacancies in the last 5 years and you will not disagree with me that courses such as accounting, engineering, medicine, etc. are more in demand. Take a rough statistics of the number of graduates that get good jobs within a short time and you will also acknowledge the importance of course of study.
4 Age – Like it or not, age is a critical factor in the Nigerian labour market. Many jobs have age restrictions. As you grow older, the number of jobs you will be eligible to apply for would become progressively lesser. The younger you are, the more jobs you can pursue and the higher the probability of landing of one or more of the jobs
3 Analytical Skill – This is one of the most essential skills highly sought after by companies. It is usually tested in the job aptitude exams. I have seen many graduates with good grades and marketable courses who flunk job tests simply because they have poor analytical/mathematical skills. They simply can’t handle the mathematics / quantitative section of the tests. Analytical skill also involves problem solving and this is rigorously tested during interview sessions. You need a job? Work on your analytical ability. It is no excuse even if you read a non-science course (like English, law, history, etc.).
2 Good grade – It is almost needless to say that one of the basic requirement for most vacancies is a good grade (minimum of 2.1). You stand a better chance with a first class degree. A few job vacancies even demand only first class graduates. Having a good grade automatically means that you can apply for most jobs that require your area of expertise. However, having a good grade is not an end to itself. This brings me to #1.
1 Communication skill – You can never underestimate the importance of COMMUNICATION – the ability to express oneself coherently and adequately both in writing and speaking. The difference between two equally good graduates usually boils down to the person who has superior articulation ability. Communication skill is critical to success both in the test and oral interview stage of a recruitment process. Writing skill is also essential in CV and cover letter writing. At the end of the day, it is not often the ‘best’ that gets the job; it is the candidate who is able to sell him/herself more than the rest that most frequently gets the job. This is also referred to as packaging. It is therefore #1.
In conclusion, it must be reiterated that the above qualities can only improve greatly your chances of landing a good job in Nigeria. You don’t need to have all qualities mentioned to get good jobs in Nigeria. There is also an element of luck that cannot be disregarded in job hunting.