Looking Past That Degree — My Personal Career Journey
If you are reading this, you were probably fascinated and drawn to this article because you could relate to the post. I promise you that this read will be worth your time and internet
In this article, I will be sharing my story after school, what I learned, and how I used negative experiences as a driving force to scale up in the job market.
As a final year student at the university, I believed so much in myself, I even had my job all planned out in my head that I was going to end up working in a big multinational, you will agree that everyone wants a taste of the good stuff! However, life happened and I was hit with the worst news. Nneka was graduating with a 3rd class degree!!!
Who would have thought that this would be the case? It felt as though all my dreams just got shattered at the time. I remember talking about job hunting with family and friends. They didn’t sugarcoat the hard fact and said right to my face that I would never get a job that would pay me above N50,000 ($150) with my degree.
I cried bitterly. I started looking up schools again, even enrolled in National Open University to take up another degree. Then one day, I stumbled on this article talking about successful college dropouts. I began asking myself if a degree should limit how far I could go.
I jumped on all the career sites and applied for everything and anything, asked friends and foes for referrals with the goal to succeed. The rejections and failed promises made me realize one important thing — I had to shift my mindset from getting a great job to just getting the chance to put a leg through the door and prove myself.
I finally landed my first job in a microfinance bank as an Operations Assistant and worked for a year until my NYSC came to an end. Afterward, I got a gig in marketing, it was different and tasking but my focus never shifted. That was not the end, your girl worked in sales too. It was definitely a huge scare but I did not relent.
The opportunity came to work with an NGO and I jumped at it but even jumped higher when I saw the pay scale. I was running to the bank like “I just made my first million” but hey, a couple of hundreds of thousands felt like a million to me. After two years of catching my breath from revenue targets, my contract came to an end. However, I was faithful enough to get another job in the health insurance sector. Hint: This was me trying to tell myself that I studied Microbiology so I ought to be here.
I worked in the insurance company for a while but that feeling of fulfillment just wasn’t there for me. I was just working but was not overly excited about seeing and smelling medications. Then, I got an offer to work in Human Resources and at that time I was confused. But, with a little bit of deep thinking and a preference check, I decided to jump on it and I must tell you — this was by far the best decision made. I found genuine joy in doing what I do.
I currently work as the Human Resource Manager at a premium media/tech organization while consulting for other organizations on the side.
That scared girl who never thought she would land a job, or worst case earn anything above N50,000, is now sitting at the opposite end of the table reviewing CVs and applications.
My Advice to You
1. Channel your frustration into motivation: At some point in our job hunt struggle, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. For some, it might be relatively minor while others are quite disastrous. How we deal with these problems play a significant role in not only the outcome but also the long-term psychological consequences. Instead of letting these experiences overwhelm you, kick your job search back into gear as quickly as possible. Give yourself a day to feel bad but no more than that.
2. Do not limit yourself: Invest in certification courses, workshops, and learning a trade. I did not always have a job, you know. While waiting and applying, I invested in businesses no matter how small. It’s never too late to acquire a new skill or business expertise. No harm in making extra money. You just might be best shaped for entrepreneurship and not a 9–5.
3. Be open to anything: “I want to specialize in XYZ and nothing else”! This kind of mindset will not take you so far. Yes, it is okay to have standards but did you know that no professional has a perfect record? Careers occur in steps and stages and there are usually interim positions before you get to that one you absolutely love. Learn and grow during those interims — that’s the key.
4. Don’t just ask for feedback! Implement that feedback: Some candidates know to follow up on a rejection letter/email with a quick thank you note and sometimes ask for suggestions for improvement. Unfortunately, few do nothing with those suggestions. Chances are, another job opportunity will emerge again but you won’t be any more of a fit, unless you actually work to correct past mistakes.
At some point in life, I applied for what seemed like my dream job and got rejected a couple of times. After a few years of working in operations, marketing, admin, and human resources, I can boldly say that I did not just land jobs but the well-paid jobs. I have not hit my six-figure target yet but I am getting there. Don’t give up on your dreams. Find ways to shake off the negative effect of past experiences and turn it into something positive. Take a step back, re-evaluate your experiences, improve your portfolio and keep telling yourself that you cannot be stagnant. And, push, push, push!
“Chase your dreams until you catch them…and then dream, catch, and dream again! ”