All you should know before you start your first job: A Nigerian guide to navigating the workplace
One thing schools never prepare us for is the reality of having a job.
The initial excitement often turns to disillusionment after a few weeks or months. Your job might not be horrible but it might fail to match up with your expectations.
The downward spiral starts in and you start to hate work. You know you are going down the dark path when your eyes are on the clock all day. At this stage, you start to understand and appreciate what TGIF means on a personal level.
While this is the reality for many people, you do not have to be miserable at work. If you know what to expect and how to handle it, you will be able to navigate the Nigerian workplace.
Here are a few things you might want to know before starting your first job
1. Not everyone gets the dream job
So there is good news and there is bad news. First, the bad news. You may not get the accountant position that you have been dreaming about since you were five.
There are several possibilities.
The first scenario is that you may not get a job in an accounting firm. You might start out at a printing press as a secretary. Or as a teacher in a secondary school teaching government. Nigeria does that to people. My first job was in marketing and I studied International Studies at the university.
The second and best scenario is that you do get a job as a junior accountant in an accounting firm. Sounds great right? But then you find out that your job description did not include the fact that you will be the underpaid secretary and errand boy. While running odd errands for your boss at lunchtime, you might consider quitting. Don’t give up.
The truth is that no one tells us we have to work up the ladder. A lot of people seem to start at the top, in actuality, they do not. They started from below and built a career from rock bottom.
The good news is that you can get a dream job. Working smart and moving up the ladder with the right moves is a skill that comes with time and sense. Reading Keith Ferazzi’s book on networking will help you with this.
2. Work is stressful
Despite all the eye-rolling, this will get I am going to say it, work is stressful. Going to work is a drag. Most people barely motivate themselves out of near tears before they can get to work.
It is fine if you disagree with me but show me one human who wakes up with a smile of optimism on his face at the crack of dawn, arriving on a magical cloud of bliss to the office.
I do hope there is one person who loves his job so much he does not mind working hours and hours on it. Without complaining about it. Not even to himself.
For a novice like me, I thought all that mattered was me being in love with what I do. That is deception and great pain proceeds such thinking. Working at a job requires effort. The mental and physical effort of which two days of “rest” might not help you relieve.
There will be deadlines, given by bosses that you may hate or love. This is real pressure and you have to learn how to shoulder it. No matter how you feel about them, you have to get the job done.
The only thing loving your job does is that it motivates you to keep at it and not give up. A friend of mine was feeling out of it at work and I asked if he loved his job. He said he did but that did not stop it from stressing him out.
Scary as this may sound, it is the reality of many humans. The reality of adults that worked before us and our reality now. Accept the fact that work is stressful. With this in mind prepare to handle this stress just like an athlete endures the burn to win a race.
3. Work requires creative thinking
This is the exciting part of work. You are hired to meet a need. You will actually have to think up solutions a lot except you are stuck with a mindless routine job.
Creative thinking comes naturally to some. For some others, creative thinking is a skill that exists only on a resume. The future of work requires that you are able to analyze problems. You are expected to create solutions to problems. If you get you’ll get the boot to the behind.
The best way to do this is to always train and adapt so that you do not look inept at your job when faced with a daunting task.
4. Work requires you to set boundaries
Most people apply for jobs with a job description. Job descriptions give you an idea of what you are to do. Your responsibilities and tasks that you need to keep up with.
What happens when you work a job that has responsibilities shrinking and stretching to the will and wiles of your boss? One day you are in the tech department. The next day you are the social media manager and Thursday you follow him to the site of his new house to fix sockets. On Sundays, you cut the grass on his lawn. Job descriptions exist for a reason. They protect you and also ensure that you are getting paid for what you actually do.
Speak out respectfully when the boss goes overboard and beyond your job description. You may or may not have a job by the next day. If you do, the good thing is that you have created boundaries. If you do not, you have stood for the rights of all Nigerian workers and you, sir are a hero.
5. Workloads often exceed salaries earned.
When I went job hunting I learned something crucial. Your salary should be commensurate to the tasks you are assigned to. Some jobs pay well and demand the impossible. There is nothing wrong with wanting employees to go the extra mile but you should pay gas money for that.
When offered a job, weigh the salary and the job descriptions. If you are about to do the job of 6 people for the pay of 1, I ask that you walk away. earning a salary in the harsh Nigerian economy is essential, but you might end up miserable and less productive.
6. You are not your job
You are not your job. There are a lot of people who are unhappy because they think they are their profession. It starts from childhood when we do not separate our future jobs and future lives.
If you want to become a doctor, that is great, but when you are not at work, you still need to be someone. Find yourself outside work so that you do not get lost in it. Imagine years after being a doctor only, you wake up, retired and you are not sure who you are anymore. The thought of that makes me shudder. It also makes me even more determined to succeed as an individual. As a person. As a human away from my career.
Finding a job in Nigeria is hard. Few options exist for entry-level work but it is best to know all that you should before venturing out there. I am still trying to find my way through the workplace but these are things you should know before starting your first job.