Over the years of recruiting into Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa, there is a trend that I have noticed and also believe it can contribute to the reason why the opportunities given to graduates are limited.
My observation is that the degree in which a student majors in doesn’t reflect their ambition and career aspiration. For an example you can come across someone who has studied Physics wanting a career in Human Resources because that where their hearts lie.
So the question that may cross an employers mind is “why you didn’t study a degree in Human Resources, or a related course where the skills are transferable? (such as Business Administration, where you can then specialise in Human Resources by obtaining an accreditation or/and gain a role as an entry level Human Resources Administrator and work your way up)”
As an employer, if a Computer Engineer graduate’s CV lands on my desk for a Accountant position I would not feel compelled to invite this candidate for an interview because his educational choices are not in line with what I am looking for. My initial thoughts would be that “the employment market is tough, he/she is just applying for any role that they come across all in the name of securing a job” when actually Accounting may actually be their career aspiration but all an employer will go by is what is written on the piece of paper. In this scenario, I am more likely to hire an Accountancy graduate who has then obtained an accreditation to be a chartered accountant with no work experience then a computer engineer.
I am aware of the challenges that the Education sector faces and the limited availability of courses to everyone but what is being done to guide students on the various career paths they can take where transferable skills can play a part in achieving their desired profession?
Taking a course that has no reflection on ones’ true ambition just because the course is available can prove a stumbling block once they graduate, and start looking for employment. Remember, a CV is a marketing tool. A candidate is judged purely on that document so what it conveyed is a deciding factor for an employer to determine whether they want to interview you or not and if the education background is not in line with their objectives, your CV can be overlooked.
Being a graduate is just a basic requirement (like business development and sales positions) for an organisation. Other methods of qualifying the right candidate include personality, cultural fit, industrial training experience, and the ability to understand their core business objective as the best deciding factor to hire. (this is relative, because some business development and sales positions can also look for technical/practical and theoretical knowledge in a particular sector).
However, a more specialised role will stipulate the core discipline they require you to have. For example: To work within telecoms you would need to be a graduate of computer engineering, or an IT related discipline.
To work in Human Resources you would need to be graduate of Human Resources or Business Administration with an emphasis on HR (through an accreditation) and a side discipline that is related.
To work in non-government organisations you would need to have graduate of Microbiology, Public Health, Sociology and related fields.
An initiative to tackle this is to have an active professional development system made up of a team of career advisers in secondary schools to attain the career aspirations/interests of pupils in their final year and enlighten them on the various career paths to take to achieve their goals if their first choice is not available to them. This will also encourage students to research more about their choice of study and develop a passion for their aspiration at a age where the brain is still being nurtured.
Students can also be educated about other avenues that they can pursue to make themselves more employable (i.e. voluntary work, attended workshops, enrolment in short courses etc.) or even better still, equip them with the basic knowledge to venture into the world of entrepreneurship.
This way should they decide to join an organisation once they graduate they are more knowledgeable about their chosen profession which will be demonstrated in their job search and subsequent interviews. They will have more options to explore in regards to the positions that they apply for, and the employers will have a larger target driven pool of candidates to choose from with great potential when looking for their next hire.
If they have decided to embark on the entrepreneurial journey, they can be enlightened about the direction in which they want to establish their business by identifying their target market, unique selling proposition, and the social-economic challenges that they may face and how to overcome them successfully.