“An entry-level job is not for people without connections.”
If you have ever searched for a job as a fresh graduate, you must have heard the above statement repeated more times than you can remember.
In fact, it is a sentiment shared by most Nigerians, including experienced employees.
Although having connections does help you land some jobs, it’s not true that you can’t get any entry-level job without connections.
To get an entry-level job, you don’t need to know “somebody who knows somebody.” You only need the intellect and charisma to pass a chain of tests and interviews.
Passing entry-level tests and interviews is tough.
But it is not impossible.
I have seen many recent graduates get into top firms – Oil and Gas, Big 4 Accounting Firms, First-generation banks, Multinational FMCGs, and so on …
Aside from the stories of my friends who got good entry-level jobs, I got myself into the audit arm of a Big 4 accounting firm. With zero connections.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, you made a first class and probably studied accounting.”
Far from that, I didn’t make a first class. And I studied Biochemistry for my undergraduate degree.
How did I pull this off?
I used a combination of strategies.
This is what I try to summarize below.
Read the strategies, digest them, and apply them to your situation.
Let’s get started …
1) Change Your Mindset
Nigeria is full of problems, but also full of opportunities.
You won’t see these opportunities if you believe any or all of these three myths.
- Nigeria is a hopeless place where corruption rules and jobs are scarce
- My fate is controlled by dark, supernatural forces that want to harm me, and only a religious leader can protect me.
- The only way to land an entry-level job is to have connections with influential people.
These are excuses, not reasons. They make you feel powerless and helpless.
You need to get rid of these false beliefs and adopt a new mindset, what Carol Dweck calls a Growth Mindset in her best-selling book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
A Growth Mindset makes you hard-working, open to feedback, and believe in self-transformation.
Changing your mindset is, therefore, the first and most important step to landing your dream job.
2) Start Your Homemade Education
In his book, The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley, Malcolm X talks about how he learned to read and write in his prison cell.
Malcolm taught himself how to read by consuming books in the prison library during the day and on his prison bunk bed at night.
Even after his release, Malcolm continued to educate himself through books. He emphasizes the benefits of reading in the book,
You might be wondering, “What do I need a homemade education for?”
“I have been to a university, and here is my certificate showing I have been found worthy in character and learning.”
A University education in today’s Nigeria is designed for utility – to help you land a job where you can do stuff related to what you studied.
On the other hand, a homemade education helps you become a well-rounded Nigerian capable of interdisciplinary expertise.
It makes you capable of engaging with the leading ideas in any field of study, rejecting what is false and accepting what is true.
Such ability is the key to transcending your current discipline, helping you move, for example, from engineering to accounting, marketing, or management.
So, like Malcolm, you must design your home-made education today.
Not sure what to master or what to read?
You can’t go wrong with the ideas in Naval Ravikant’s How To Get Rich Without Getting Lucky Podcast
Why do you need to go down and study the fundamentals over again?
It’s what will stand you out from the competition.
Mastering these fundamentals will help you ace any entry-level test or interview.
This is important because passing those tests is the only way to show you can think critically.
3) Leave Your Comfort Zone
One mistake I see most graduates make is assuming they can find decent entry-level jobs in any state in Nigeria.
Aside from Lagos, most other Nigerian cities are over-rated.
Abuja is home to civil service jobs (you don’t want to get near these jobs as the racketeering in the service will depress you).
Port Harcourt is for hustlers. If your heart is set towards a corporate career, you have no business in Port Harcourt.
There are so many issues with Lagos – the traffic, the population, the high cost of living, and the stress.
But to win in the struggle to land a job, you need to look beyond that. You must focus on what you stand to gain if you make that leap instead.
Don’t have a relative in Lagos? Talk to friends. Talk to classmates from University. You can always find somewhere to crash for 2 – 3 months as you find your feet.
This is the path I walked, leaving a comfy 3-bedroom apartment in Aba to squat with a friend in a self-contained apartment at Ikeja.
I reflect on the experience today and am glad I took that bold step.
4) Apply to Every Entry-Level Job
So, you have changed your mindset. You have developed yourself through self-education. And you have also left your comfort zone behind.
Now is the time to take action.
You need to apply to every entry-level job you see online to learn how to interview.
Interviewing is a skill that grows with practice.
Applying to every job doesn’t mean you’ll get offer letters for each.
It only means you’ll have lots of tests and interviews to use for practice.
I remember when I was job hunting.
I attended over twelve tests and interviews monthly. I passed most of the tests, but bungled the interviews. I always knew I had poor interviewing skills. So those interviews I bungled prepared me for the interviews I passed to join one of the Big 4 accounting firms.
If there’s one statement everyone agrees with, it’s this:
“Deliberate practice makes perfect.”
5) Land Your Dream Job
When I was in school, I had dreams of the kind of company I’d love to work for and the salary I’d love to earn.
At the time, it looked like tall, impossible goals. But after I achieved those goals, I have come to realize that most job goals are reachable.
All you need is to stand out from the competition.
So if you’re like me, you want to start your career with a decent entry-level job.
Then you must change your mindset today, start your homemade education program, go where the jobs are, apply vigorously and certainly you’ll land your dream job.