My name is Emem Mbre, I work in Lagos, Nigeria, as a Project Assistant at One Voice Adastrapera Consulting (OVAC) Group and I am honoured to be given the privilege to write about my short but industrious career experience.
Right from the early stage of childhood, there is a perception of what one’s future should look like. But life events shape the best of these, but that is a story for another day.
Fast forward to being in the University with a year before graduation, when I realised that most of my childhood ambitions had either evolved or taken a different direction. I started engaging in activities to help me plan a career path. One of which was “ReadySetWork” - a Lagos state initiative targeted at preparing undergraduates for employability. The programme lasted for 13 weeks and I was exposed to soft skills like emotional intelligence, CV writing, and overall, a mindset shift.
I graduated from the University of Lagos in 2018 with a BSc in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management (IRPM). Like every graduate, I was excited for the next chapter of my life which involved undergoing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), this is usually immediately after graduation. The aim of this programme is to enable fresh graduates to gain first-hand job experience before being employed by any organisation in Nigeria. It is regarded as a call to service.
In my case, my call to service was scheduled seven months after graduation, leaving me with the challenge of what to do during this period. While I gained theoretical knowledge during my four years at the university, I had no practical experience working in an organisation. My student experience did not fully prepare me for the labour market, which is very competitive with barely enough jobs for graduates.
Getting a job in Nigeria is not an easy feat even with prior working experience. In 2018, the labour market was battling with an unemployment rate of 23.1% and underemployment of 20.1%.
Armed with the knowledge of the Nigerian labour market, I started applying for jobs while waiting to be called for service. Fortunately, I was recruited as a customer care representative for six months in a renowned fast-moving consumer goods company in Lagos. It was indeed an achievement for me as I had not undergone the mandatory service programme but exhibited the potentials and willingness to gain experience.
As a customer care representative, I gained tangible skills, such as how to use several customer relationship management (CRM) tools, communication and conflict resolution skills, as well as problem-solving skills.
I was then called to undertake my service in another company in Lagos. Again, it was a whole new experience for me as the company was operating in the oil and gas industry. As an NYSC intern, I was tasked with providing support functions to the admin/HR department and I have experience in recruitment processes, personnel records management, and other administrative functions. The journey seemed to be a smooth one with the bright prospects of getting a permanent role in that company after I concluded my service. But then the Covid-19 pandemic erupted.
The Covid-19 pandemic was, and remains, a game-changer. One of the memorable events from the start of the pandemic was that Nigeria imposed a total lockdown in the state in the first quarter of 2020. This act had many ripple effects. My service year was abruptly cut short; many companies started laying off staff, many businesses closed down while some underwent major operational changes.
The lockdown was lifted during the third quarter of 2020. However, activities did not rebound immediately as businesses were still reeling from the shutdown. Unemployment increased to 33.3% of Nigeria’s population (as of the fourth quarter of 2020). Ultimately, the difficulty in getting a new job increased proportionally.
I received my discharge letter in June 2020 and I began the process of applying for a new job yet again. If searching for a job before the pandemic was difficult, with more rejections than acceptances, the process became even more daunting as the requirements needed in the workforce became streamlined to specific qualifications and skillsets.
In August 2020, I was recruited by the OVAC Group after a rigourous employment process, which was another massive achievement for me in the current situation. The OVAC group is a consulting business that offers pragmatic solutions. I was excited to enter a sector of activity which was new to me and provided me with an opportunity to learn, contribute and make an impact.
My journey with the OVAC Group began by being welcomed to work with a team of experienced individuals with a close-knit organisational culture and amazing employee benefits.
I have been working for them for nine months now and indeed it has been an amazing journey of learning, overcoming challenges, and improving my skillset while offering value to the company. Some of the highlights since joining the OVAC Group include- managing the company’s social media accounts, organising contents and weekly publications, active engagement and collaboration with the team to provide value to our clients.
I am privileged to work directly with the Chief Executive Officer and the Programme and Change Director, as well as colleagues, who all have my best interest and development at heart. I look forward to growing and expanding my knowledge in the finance and project management field, which represents aspects of the core business at the OVAC Group.
By sharing my career journey today, I hope that it will inspire my peers who are studying at university, confused on how to plan a career path, actively engaged in work, and those struggling with unemployment/underemployment.
If you are curious to find out more about the OVAC Group and what this amazing company does, please visit www.ovacgroup.com.