Some people say, “you only need one opportunity to blow.” Yes, it may take only one opportunity, but how do you get this opportunity? Also, will you be ready when the opportunity presents itself? These are the questions I ask myself these days. This is an attempt to explore the life of an average graduate in Nigeria.
Every undergraduate’s dream is to graduate from the university, gain financial independence from their patients, and live a well-sorted life. Every undergraduate knows their life will change once they graduate, but only a few understand this change. Being a graduate in Nigeria is the complete transition into becoming an ‘independent adult.’ People start to see you differently, and most importantly, you don’t look at yourself the same way anymore.
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Life After University in Nigeria
One of your most significant memories as an undergraduate is when you sign out. It signifies the end of the examination as a university undergraduate. During this event, everyone is happy. Some have plans for the future. Some start implementing laid-out plans. Others do not know which road to take.
A few days or weeks after signing out, the joy of finishing the university starts to settle down, and then reality slowly sinks in. Since they recently wrote their last papers, the results are not out, and therefore there is no certificate. There is no proof they are graduates. All they can provide is their previous semester’s results. They cannot apply for full-time jobs yet. The best they can do is training or an internship. Some would rather be entrepreneurs than employees.
While all this is happening, most of their parents would see this as the perfect opportunity to have ‘the big talk’ with them. The big talk is when a Nigerian parent, especially the father, has a one-on-one chat with their recently-graduated child and asks about their plans.
I remember my own ‘big talk’ with my father. He asked me about my plans as a Business Administration graduate in Nigeria. I didn’t have much of a plan, but I knew that neither finance nor insurance was on my mind. I might have considered human resource management like him, but I had a good marketing sense. So, I said maybe I would get a professional certification in marketing.
My dad was satisfied with my ideas and suggested, “why not take it a bit further and get a professional certification in digital marketing?” The word digital marketing wasn’t new to me, though I didn’t know much about it. I knew I could write and that content writing was part of digital marketing. At that moment, I found a new path, one that I follow to this day. Not everyone’s ‘big talk’ goes well. Too soon, they realise they have a lot to do and begin to wonder if they should have done more during their university days.
Securing an Internship as a Graduate in Nigeria
Not every graduate in Nigeria wants to work 9-5 jobs. Quite a lot want to be entrepreneurs. Some start their little businesses while still undergraduates and others start after signing out. Some need some amount of training before starting up their businesses. Businesses like fashion design, event planning, and home decorating fall in this group.
The need for training puts this set of fresh graduates in the same boat as their pairs who want to work in corporate organisations. Thus, the search for suitable internships begins. The first hurdle comes from the brain-racking task of developing an appropriate CV.
At this point, they start to get a glimpse of the stress of getting a full-time job. Even though they are applying for an internship, employers still filter applicants based on their grade points. Eventually, some get an internship, while others don’t. Those who don’t get internship opportunities start thinking of getting a professional certification to boost their CVs.
Being a Graduate in Nigeria: During And After Graduation
After a few weeks, the results are finally ready, and most of the fresh graduates pass all their papers and then start to prepare for their convocation ceremony. The convocation day will be the first time they see some of their coursemates or friends after the final exams. They use this opportunity to reminisce and talk about their current situations.
On this day, some coursemates who are entrepreneurs would have already started living good lives, driving flashy cars, and wearing expensive clothes. Others would wonder, “is it not Ayo that started selling shoes in our presence when we were in year 2?” Some of their mates who have not started making real money or secured an internship may start to feel bad.
After the convocation ceremony, it becomes more evident that they are no longer students, and they need direction.
Tensions start to rise when the release date for NYSC ‘ call-up letter’ draws nearer. Graduates who are interning wish to be posted in the states they reside in so their PPAs (Place Of Primary Assignment) can be where they are currently interning. Others who are entrepreneurs wish they were posted close to the states they reside in to keep their clients. After the call-up letters are posted, everyone knows their fate. Not everyone is lucky to have their wishes become a reality, so they relocate for the following year.
Life as a Corper
Relocating to a foreign state can be challenging, especially if you don’t speak the language of said state. With time, you adapt, but time doesn’t wait for anybody. Most people gain total financial independence once they start collecting the government allowance, which, as of 2022, is 33,000 Naira.
This allowance is not enough for some, but they have no choice. They have to learn to manage what they have. Some corpers get lucky and work in PPAs that pay them, and this serves as a form of subsistence. While receiving the monthly federal allowance, and if lucky, an additional payment from your PPA, you would still have to save for rainy days, professional certifications, future projects, or as capital for a business start-up.
These 12 months of NYSC can be a distraction, a break, a form of exposure, or an opportunity, depending on each person. During this time, graduates are regarded as ‘Corpers.’ Those who intend to take professional courses may get carried away with the service, thinking that “there is still time.”
Time flies, and they won’t have gotten some of the professional certifications they intended to get. Others meet with external factors that prevent them from achieving their goals, like power outages, insecurity, poor network coverage, or assignment to a PPA that is not in line with their course of study.
Entering the Labour Market as a Graduate in Nigeria
During service, corpers complain about the monthly allowance, but most of them forget that the allowance was constant. The government always pays the monthly allowance at the end of each month. Now, they have to get a job or find something that will bring in income.
Some graduates are lucky; the PPAs they worked in retain them. Some start their businesses based on their experiences from NYSC or working for their bosses in their PPAs. Others use the certifications they acquired from their service year to get good jobs.
Not everyone has things this easy. The graduates posted to PPAs not in line with their course of study leave without relevant working experience. This makes things harder for them. Working experience and class of degrees are essential factors in securing a good job as a graduate in Nigeria, and here lies the problem of most graduates.
Some employers may not require applicants with a first and second Class only, but they would want applicants with a minimum of 3-5 years of working experience. This will be difficult for a fresh graduate in Nigeria who has just completed their NYSC programme. Some graduates decide to further their education to get a better opportunity once they have a master’s degree. But, there is still the issue of inexperience; this is why the rate at which fresh graduates are applying for internships, part-time, casual, and contract jobs is increasing every day.
The journey of a graduate in Nigeria isn’t an easy one, but it is educative and helps to build them for what lies in the future. Although life may be tough, it may be worth it later on. Like some people say, “Successful people always have some unsuccessful stories.”
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About the Author
Agbaje Titilope is a young, enthusiastic writer, who graduated from the University of Lagos. He has written various articles and write-ups for various blogs and is versatile, he can write any genre of topics; ranging from entertainment, business, history, politics, lifestyle, and so on. He can also write stories and is an expert in content marketing. He can be contacted via [email protected]
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