Life as a young graduate is exciting times. Some of us have looked forward to this for years — finishing school and getting a job and being blessedly independent!
We are excited for you too. But you know what, before you rush headfirst into the corporate world, we’ve got some sisterly advice we want to equip you with first. The answers to some salient questions you already have.
Alexilore recently got the chance to catch up with the Senior HR Manager at VerifyMe Nigeria, and the Founder of Dream Jobs and Careers Network to talk about career lessons, paths, navigating the workspace and work-life balance.
Babe, she dropped gems.
Alexilore: Nothing prepares you for life as a young graduate trying to navigate the professional space. You’ve been here before, and if you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?
Uchea: I would ensure I look for opportunities to gain work experience through internship and volunteering while still at the University. I would also learn new skills in line with my career path and network more.
How important is mentorship for young people on a scale of 1-10? We hear this every day, ‘Go get yourself a mentor’. But how does a young person position himself for one? I understand you can’t just walk up to someone you admire and say, ‘Hi, I would like you to be my mentor?’ It rarely works like that.
On a scale of 1-10, I will choose 8. You can make yourself visible to the person by engaging his/her posts on social media. Ensure you comment intelligently on the posts. Also, attend events where you’re likely to meet him/her. Volunteering to help in any way you can, is another way to get noticed.
With the economic challenges hitting hard, a lot of young women are conflicted between paid and unpaid internships. What’s your view?
It’s not a bad idea to desire a paid internship. However, if you don’t get one, I will advise you to take an unpaid one to gain experience. I know times are hard, but you need to be willing to make sacrifices your future self will thank you for. I made sacrifices, and I am reaping the positive benefits today.
For so many introverts, networking is the ‘big bad word’ that stands between them and opportunities. If getting a job comes down to networking, and quality of one’s connections, don’t you think extroverts will get all the jobs? How can introverts cope in a world that seems to favour extroverts?
I understand this because sometimes it’s a challenge for me. Especially as I am a 75% introvert. However, I have learned to be intentional about networking, even when I don’t feel like (laughs). I believe we can do anything we put our minds to. There are so many introverts doing amazing things out there. Use your personality to your advantage.
How important is it to have a lawyer or an HR practitioner read through an offer letter before signing?
Well, if you can afford the services of a lawyer, I think you should.
I will advise you to read the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and also the terms and conditions of your employment contract. Feel free to ask questions where you aren’t clear on certain things.
How best to report the negative behaviour of a colleague?
If you have any issues with a colleague, I will advise you to report to the HR department.
In terms of older colleagues using the younger ones outside professional duty, I don’t support this but use every opportunity presented to you as an avenue to learn. If it’s something you don’t like, you know for sure that when you’re in a position of authority, you won’t do that to your subordinates.
What advice would you give for negotiating a pay raise?
I will advise, you concentrate on adding value to any organization you work. And in the right work environment, you wouldn’t have to ask for a promotion before it is given.
However, when you find yourself in a place where you must threaten to resign before you get a promotion, you need to develop the courage to ask for what you truly deserve.
From day one, ensure you document your successes and achievements in the organization. This will help during the discussion with your boss.
What advice would you give for managing people in a team, especially when there are differing opinions?
Respect people’s opinions and be open to learning other people’s views on issues.
If you had to prepare a 20 something-year-old for navigating the job market and interviews. What advice would you give? Especially when she keeps getting no responses or rejection mails?
I will find out what she may be doing wrong. Is her CV and cover letter well written?
Does she know how to answer interview questions? Has she developed courage that will help her ace job interviews? Does she believe in herself? These are some of the things I will help her achieve. Finally, interview platforms are learning grounds. The more you attend an interview, the more confident and knowledgeable you become.
Did you always have a set career path, or did you stumble into it? Young people are under pressure to ‘know your passion. Follow your passion’, but sometimes we don’t know.
I got interested in HR during my master’s degree. I took courses in HR, and I realized I wanted to learn more about it because I got my highest grades in the HR courses. However, along the line, I found out that being an HR professional can allow me to help, inspire, and motivate people, which is what I love to do naturally. Recently, I realized that it’s tied to my purpose in life.
My advice will be: Find out things you love to do naturally, then choose a career in line with your skills and passion. Passion for what you do will keep you going when every other thing fails. Also, remember being happy should be your utmost priority. Finally, and most importantly, seek the face of God.
You talk a lot about how important it is to stand out with your C.V. Tell me more.
With my experience as a recruiter, I know for sure that a well-written CV is necessary to get job seekers an interview invite. For tips on this, you can join my Facebook community, Dream Jobs and Careers Network.
Having found it difficult to get a job myself even with a master’s degree, I learned what works and what didn’t work. I get so many messages from people asking me how they can get their dream job. It’s not possible to reply to all messages, but my online course has all the resources you need.
What are your six best career lessons?
My career lessons include:
- Don’t trade your happiness and peace of mind for anything. Not even for a billion Naira salary. Protect your mental health.
- Ensure you nurture relationships everywhere you work.
- Develop a good relationship with your bosses.
- No work experience is a waste even though it’s an experience you gained in a field that isn’t in line with your career path.
- Your destiny is in your hands, you need to learn to take risks. If you win, you’ll be happy. If you lose, you will be wise. Don’t get comfortable with the status quo.
- Believe in yourself and always practice self-love.
Lastly of all the career lessons you gave, which would you hold to your chest?
I can’t trade my happiness and peace of mind for anything. Not even a billion naira as salary. My mental health is very important.
How do you maintain a work-life balance? What are your self-care routines?
Hmm, …this can be hard right now, but before we started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, whenever I feel stressed, I request to work from home. This gives me time to rest more and refresh. I try to get enough rest; I take myself to the cinema to watch a film, and I have ice-cream and pizza(smiles). I also try to exercise to keep fit. Generally, I do things to make myself happy.
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