By Victor Ogunmola
Are you about to wrap up your degree program? Have you completed your degree program?Or are you prepping for or already doing that one year mandatory service to the fatherland-NYSC?
You know you live in a system where opportunity is acutely limited. You know the competition is simply too tough. You also know that you simply don’t have parents/family or support base that can seamlessly give you the needed financial push. You know that about half of the scanty available opportunities are not even rooted in merits particularly in the public sector. If you call it a battle for survival- you are very right.
But brothers and sisters- you can potentially reduce the odds against your northward movement by being a little more diligent and proactive.
Remember no one will do for you what you need to do for yourself. I know many of you already mapped out plans and resolutions for the new year 2020. And please take a pass and don’t be offended if any of my words here doesn’t make any sense to you.
I must also add that this post is specifically directed to folks who are academically minded, who are truly confident that they have a career by leveraging their first degrees as a stepping stone to attaining greater opportunities. In other words, I am not well informed enough to provide any advice on emigration based on any path other than academics’. Be guided.
Therefore, not in a particular order, below are my new year gift nuggets to you; the referenced audience:
▶️ Start or continue to build bridges by widening your professional and relevant relational networks. LinkedIn might benefit you more professionally than any other types of Social Media platforms.
▶️ Explore, identify and leverage on wise counsel of mentors.
▶️ If you already have ‘a’ mentor(s), I say congratulations. It is also important to learn the etiquettes of mentor-mentee relationships. You are likely to be taken more serious when you project clarity and serious mindedness in your approach and interactions. Stay above mundane things. Make the job easier for you and your mentor by always coming prepared. Do your home work. Seek and be deliberate about feedback. Your mentor probably have other tens of mentees- respect his time and demonstrate why you deserve his/her quality attention.
▶️ Consider writing Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or any other relevant exams required for foreign degree admissions. This, I believe, should be a core goal for you during your NYSC. You got the time and focus to get it done at that time. Endeavor to prepare well and score very high- that could help you in securing funding/assistantships especially in American schools.
▶️ Apply to schools in the US and else where. As stated above, you have a chance to be funded for a graduate study if you do well in those exams. There are also schools in other countries that are tuition free especially in the Scandinavian and European countries (may be in Asia too)- Sweden, Norway, Germany etc; you are mostly required to take care of your daily upkeep. While applying to schools, make sure you engage and talk directly to a professor in the department you are applying to (a potential supervisor) in addition to your official interactions with the central admission registrar office. Such contacts could be very useful in securing both admission and the needed funding.
▶️ Also critical to your chance of admission and funding is the strength of your recommendation letters. Work diligently with your current professors to give you World class letters of recommendation. Having two to three paragraphs as a recommendation letter doesn’t help your cause. Not writing much about what you have done and its relevance to knowledge will not give you the needed latitude. Again- work with your professor or whoever you identify as a referee.
▶️ If you are currently serving (NYSC) or you will soon be doing it- please make education savings a priority. I mean such savings will be very handy in paying for the exams, registrations and few other things you might need for admission. Those fancy and expensive phones and personal stuffs will come in droves when the time is right.
▶️ Yes. Foreign education is expensive. Scholarships. Fellowships. Graduate/Teaching Assistantships. Securing any of these will certainly help you to fulfill a lifetime dream. Check on local scholarship opportunities. PTDF (my own angel), Commonwealth, Chevening (first class holders), Corporate Scholarships (ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total ? etc). Also look at what is available internationally- again many American schools will give you funding in form of Teaching or Graduate Assistantships, many countries also give free tuition and some full scholarships. You just have to be more inquisitive. Make information exploration and mining a priority this year. This is also where having a mentor could be very useful.
▶️ Prepare for failures and disappointments. They will come just like your breakthrough will also come. It doesn’t matter how many times you have applied for scholarships or admissions- keep pushing. Yes- you have not really scored good marks in those exams- reapply again. It is worth every ounce of the effort. Remain driven by keeping your end goal in mind.
▶️ And this one: looking for job is not a job on its own! You have graduated. You have completed NYSC. You have applied for a lot of opportunities but nothing seems forthcoming at the moment. Yes- there is one thing I know you can start while still waiting on other dream opportunities. Start your graduate study at a Nigerian University. Being in an academic environment is both great and productive. It catalyzes your chance of being connected to career opportunities of your dream.
▶️ Ultimately the decision remains yours. Use your discretion. Be like the Bereans. Seek knowledge. Get understanding. And more importantly ACT!
Happy and Productive New Year to you all!