Article written by Tokunbo Fasoro
We make mistakes with our career choices because we do not plan. We erroneously assume that relying alone on our grades and degrees can get us to our target careers. I was speaking to a group of students at the University in Lagos about how we receive in recent times, so many job applicants who are second class upper and first class degree holders. When I was an undergraduate, it was quite different. At that time, a whole department could have only one graduating student with a first t class! This simply means that presently, there is a lot of competition. The question is: “What makes you stand out from the crowd?”
In a bid to answer this same question, I developed the acronym DPA – Discover, Prepare and Act. Follow these steps and you will have a great chance at career success.
Step One – The Discovery Phase: this is the phase where you discover who you are. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Taking action on the honest responses can determine your positional happiness in the next 5 years.
Before you choose a career to ask yourself these questions:
1. Does this career or occupation inspire me?
2. What am I passionate about?
3. Does this career align with me? Consider your values and your
4. What are my strengths? It’s no secret that we excel at things we are
5. Do the technicalities around the certain career support me?
Some jobs involve traveling while some don’t. Do you enjoy traveling? If you are considering working in the medical industry, do you mind being around a hospital environment? Or do you want to go into events planning and you detest parties? Some environments are purely entrepreneurial, some embrace diversity, some are extremely conservative etc. You need to determine which environment is right for you and you for it.
6. Can I do it for free and be happy doing it?
Step Two – The Preparation Stage: The preparation stage involves every activity that gets you ready and brings you closer to fulfilling the criteria. The preparation stage comprises of three important aspects – Do Your Research, Get Mentors, and Create your Blueprint.
i) Do Your Research: Research the internet, and read books on your chosen career or profession.
ii) GetMentors: Take a step further and look for people that have excelled in that industry; follow them so social media, read about them, and approach some of them to build a relationship. I understand that these people might be extremely busy people, but it wouldn’t cost anything to try. The worst you can get is a no, and that doesn’t take away anything from you. If you receive a no from anyone, just dust your shoes, be positive and move to the next person.
iii) Create Your Blueprint: Set goals and write them down clearly. Ensure your goals are SMART. I would quickly explain what SMART goals are in the context of building a great career.
Specific: What is your career goal and what exactly do you want to do? Ensure that this is well defined. Have a specific reason, purpose or benefit of accomplishing that particular career goal.
Measurable: This simply means that you can identify exactly what you want to see, hear or feel when you reach the goals you’ve set. It means breaking your career goals down into measurable elements. For example, I see myself heading the accounts department in a blue chip company in the next 10 years. Identify what is important, and clearly state this. From determining what further education and additional certifications would be required to achieve this ten-year goal. This is should be written and outlined orderly with a time frame of clear expectations. Defining the objectives of your goal makes it clearer and easier to read.
Attainable: What needs to happen to achieve these goals? Is the career goal achievable, considering the circumstances around you such as environment, resources, time etc.?
Realistic: There are some goals that are simply not realistic; a goal has to be something that is reasonable and can become a reality in our lives. For instance, you wouldn’t want to build a career in football when you are already 30 years old. You need to be sincere with yourself and ask your self is this goal is truly realistic.
Time-Oriented: Every goal must have a time frame attached to it. It must have an end i.e. a definite time in which it is planned to be accomplished. When a goal has no time frame, there is no sense of urgency and most times, they’re never achieved.
StepThree–TheActionStage: Manypeoplesetgoals, write it down and just keep it tucked in between a book, hidden in a shelf. A lot of people have died with their dreams; lots of brilliant ideas are still stuck in pieces of papers in bookshelves. Les Brown was credited to have said: “the graveyard is the richest place on earth…” The graveyard is very rich with ideas because a lot of people have taken those brilliant ideas to the grave. Not acting is the major reason why most people grow complacent and they feel they are too old to change. Once you have your goals set, clearly written and with timelines the next thing on your agenda is to act.
It is time to put your goals into action. It is important to note that employers don’t have the time to teach anyone. They just want people to flow seamlessly into the workplace. You need to train yourself pre-employment in order to gain the experience you require for your desired job. Seek opportunities where you can intern; get vacation jobs, and offer volunteer services to gain the necessary experience. Always seek opportunities for training. Fortunately, there are a lot of free training and websites with relevant content that can give you opportunities to boost your career prospects.
It is important to note that although there is a high level of unemployment in the society, you may feel that you will not easily find a job. I am certain that if you offer to work for free, at least one organization would hire you.
The major problem with most people is that they put money first before fulfilling their dreams or their passion. I know a lot of friends who went into banking just because of the money, 10 years down the line, they want to get out to follow their passion. Working for free definitely is a lot of sacrifices, but nothing good comes easy; sometimes, we need to make sacrifices in order to succeed.
I remember the first staff I employed in my company whose previous salary was 5 times of what I was offering. I must tell you I didn’t want to hire her. She needed to make a career move because she wanted to build a career in HR, and I remember asking her how she would cope, especially as she had been offered an entry-level job and I definitely could not do so much to increase the offer we had made. You wouldn’t believe what she said to me, she said: “I should be paying you ma for teaching me!” At that point, I saw that she had determination and willingness to learn, and so I hired her and increased our initial offer slightly to accommodate her transportation cost.
She came to work every day with so much energy and humility that impressed me, and I put in every effort to ensure she was well trained. Within 3 months of working in the organization, she had already started training graduates. Today, she is in one of the top HR companies in Nigeria. That is because she sacrificed to learn.
We need to do what it takes (as long as it’s legal, and we are not breaking any laws), to achieve our goals. I know of people who volunteered to work for free, and two months into the job, they were already negotiating their salaries with the MD of the organization! It only takes hard work and determination to succeed.
A lot of young entrepreneurs make mistakes thinking that “talent is enough” to make them successful. You might be very talented, and exceptionally gifted, but there is still a lot you need to learn. Asides researching and learning, you will need to intern or work with someone running the exact business you desire to establish, to learn the practical nitty-gritty of running a business. Examples of things you might need to learn include: how to market the product or service, managing people, the daily running of an organization, managing finance, human resource management, customer care, work ethics, and many other lessons that are learned from experience.
Wherever you are, go out there, make a difference and work your way into career success!