That First Job
The first job you get right out of school, most times, is not your dream job. I do not know why life has shaped it so, but that is the reality for a lot of people. For some, they get that dream job but realise that there were attracted to it for the wrong purpose and if they are lucky enough, they switch. For a minute percentage of the world, they get what they want and grow it in.
Why am I writing this?
It is very simple — you may not get what you want at the first strike. But that first strike is ultra important, as a career is a journey. The journey of a million miles starts with a step and this step helps you to gather momentum to generate enough force to thrust yourself into the orbit that is suitable for your competence, training and qualifications.
The pay from your first job may not be able to get you that Rolex watch you have always dreamt of. Neither would it offer you the financial freedom, you thought you would achieve immediately after school. However, it would beat discipline into you. You will know the implication of missing deadlines and being late for engagements. There are financial implications to it. Time in business is money. Every minute counts.
A Funny Story
Well, this may have nothing to do with anything but just hear me out. While job hunting in Lagos, I stayed with a senior friend. As the spare hand in the house, I had to run errands — pay light bill, shop, get things done. On one of the days when I had to run an errand when I got back, I realise that the street was unusually quiet. The “liquid quietness” unsettled me and I made enquiries. My findings did not sit well because they meant I was a potential target. Do you want to know my findings? Ehm, the police had come to raid the street for any well-bodied person that was “loitering” around. Their postulation was that anyone that was not at work at that time of the day was involved in nefarious and criminal activities.
After thinking about my life in an imaginary jail cell, I concluded that it was not the most romantic of sights and hence I bent my knees to pray to the almighty God — maker of the heavens and the earth — to see to it that I get a job as fast as possible. I posited that a man (my senior friend) cannot be taking care of me and at the same time come to a jail cell to bail me. To make the matter worse, I did not have a cell phone. You see my life?
My prayer was simple “God eh — I take God beg you, find me work. Amen”. There were no Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew interpretation to it. I needed God to understand me. I did not want to hear that it was an issue of misinterpretation or a lacuna in understanding. I know God does not have such issues, but I just wanted to ensure that the prayer was transmitted properly.
My First Job
My first job was as a customer service agent in a telecom company. I was asked what a “whole” trained Chemical Engineer was doing in a call centre. I must admit at that point in my life I did not have a cogent answer. To be honest, I did not see a career path from where I was but it was undoubtedly that I needed a job, any job, to put body and soul together. I needed a means of livelihood and this was it. So I took it and would ask questions later. Noteworthy was the fact that I had applied to a good number of companies and most did not come through and hence I had to take what I was offered.
I was elated to take the job in the first instance because I did not want what was easily available then, bank jobs. And so I went with the flow. I dreaded bank jobs — the “meeting of target” was the primer. It was like graduating from one level of asking to the other. From asking for jobs to asking for deposit funds. Abeg, enough begging for one lifetime. E dey tire person.
As per the customer service job, we were trained on the job and how to be courteous to customers. Some customers needed help that we could proffer. Some were just outright annoying (I have no qualms for being paid to attend to folks who are annoyed. They have valid reasons to be annoyed). Some used the call centre as a help centre, reporting crimes or seeking police help. In fact, during a domestic violence episode, I answered a call from a spouse and did what I could to calm the person on the other end of the phone. Some just needed someone to talk with especially during the lonely hours of the night. You did your best to be calm, respectful and courteous. All in a day’s job. Really I don’t mind as I love to talk to people and solve real life problems.
It did not take me long for me to realise what my real job title was — taking on pure venom released by folks that the company had frustrated. It could be an error in loading the airtime that they have paid for, or poor network service. In those early days, there were loads of issues, the services were expanding into new cities as we tried to provide them with the telecoms service required. It was mostly voice calls and SMS services. Then the genres of phones evolved. So did the value-added services (VAS). More troubles. More complications. I tell ya…it was an exciting time.
One thing I learnt from that experience was how to serve customers. How to follow up on issues and get them resolved and how empathy is a major force in managing unresolvable issues (both you and the customer know that this issue cannot be resolved, but you are humane enough to empathize). Some months after that, I was drafted to being a buddy at work to new joiners in the call centre. Afterwards, I was brought into the training team to develop training materials for both the customer service teams and the sales team. I lasted there for less than two weeks before I got my next job.
It was a short period but I learnt a lot there. My immediate supervisors were helpful and nice. They took us through the rudiments of what the job entails. They told us stories of the first callers to the call centre. from the weird to the absurd.
Their niceness did not mean they did not read us the riot act when they had to. It comes with the terrain. But it was fun and interesting.
Think of your first job as farming. In farming, there are two types — subsistence farming and commercial farming. While your aim and goal is commercial farming (the big deal — multinational company with training and development opportunities), you may just have to start with subsistence farming (a one-man company with no processes and structure).
Let’s go back to Agric 101
Subsistence farming, a form of farming in which nearly all of the crops or livestock raised, is used to maintain the farmer and the farmer’s family, leaving a little surplus, if any, for sale or trade. The aim is to meet your needs and cater for minimal extra-curricula. Apart from those that farm as a hobby, most subsistence farmers hope to go big. However, survival is a big part of their modus operandi. Subsistence agriculturalists target farm output for survival and mostly local requirements, with little or no surplus. “Planting decisions occur principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and only secondarily toward market prices. Despite the primacy of self-sufficiency in subsistence farming, today most subsistence farmers also participate in trade to some degree, though usually for goods and services that are not necessary for survival”.
“Subsistence agriculture generally features small capital/finance requirements, mixed cropping, limited use of agrochemicals (e.g. pesticides and fertilizer), unimproved varieties of crops and animals, little or no surplus yield for sale, use of crude/traditional tools (e.g. hoes, machetes, and cutlasses), mainly the production of food crops, performed on small scattered plots of land, reliance on unskilled labour (often family members), and (generally) low yields.”
I am sure you get the drift. The subsistence farmer is more about survival and his / her investment are minimal. There is no “feferetti” in his / her life. No power suits, no glam shoes, no bling. Day-by-day living is the order of the day. Your hope is to make it alive and then strive for the future.
When you have this attitude, it is easy to pick a low earning job, that keeps you afloat to be able to make it alive. You aim to gather the requisite skills, network and be in the circle of the employed to take the next step to your career success.
Commercial farming is all about the growing of crops and/or the rearing of animals for raw materials, food, or export, particularly for profitable reasons. The aim is to produce in large quantities for sale.
“To achieve the economy of scale, therefore, commercial farming needs to be very efficient and practised on a large scale as the goal of the farmer is to maximize the profit margin. Hence, contemporary commercial farming solely focuses on the production of crops and farm animals for sale, using the most advanced, efficient, and recent technologies”.
As I discussed before now, this is the destination. Your first job rarely takes you here. But once in a while, that dream job comes at the first asking. But if it does not come, you have to make do with what you have to get what you want. Noteworthy is the fact that employers, would want to know that you are useful / employed before you join them. Hence whatsoever your hands findeth to do, comes in handy. They know you will learn a thing or two there. If not for anything, you will learn how to meet deadlines…for a time in the life of a business, is money.
I will take it from here in the coming days. See you soon.
The initial parts of this write up is here Possibilities & The Law Of Recognition, Possibility II: The Curious Case of Bassey & Word Problems, Possibilities III: “I Have A Dream”, Possibilities IV: Driving and Possibilities 5: Life In Reverse. You can check out my other works on personal development Asking, Managing Access In Relationships How To Ask, Authenticity, Life Skill: The Power of Saying “No”, Start Off; Look Up & Pedal Hard, 12 Unforgettable Leadership Lessons From The Lion King, InBuilt, Now I Arise, Life Hack: Accountability, Life Hack: Simplicity, Life Hack: Making Impact. I also reviewed The Lion King and wrote about Movies That Shaped.
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