OUTSPOKEN: Mildred Talabi Talks About Employability, Entreprenuership and The Glass Ceiling



Hello Mildred, please tell us more about you.
My first real ambition in my late teens was to be the next Rupert Murdoch with a massive media empire. So I trained as a journalist and worked for various publications, including The Guardian newspaper, before going freelance in 2007. In pursuit of this dream, I “accidentally” embarked on a career in CV writing and in the process discovered my real passion is people’s work lives – to help people discover and live out what I call their “inner vocation”, which is the work they are designed to do and the purpose they are created to fulfil on this earth.
I’m walking in this direction at the moment in my career. Today I spend most of her time delivering career talks, seminars and workshops and writing a weekly blog on career issues and job hunting tips and techniques on my website www.mildredtalabi.com. I also run a CV writing business called “CV Makeover Expert” (www.cvmakeoverexpert.com) where we create effective CVs, cover letters and application forms for jobseekers.

What exactly does your work as a career writer and speaker involve?
I write about careers on my blog every week and I’ve also authored a book called ‘7 Keys to a Winning CV: How to create a CV that gets results’ which was published by Harriman House in September 2011. I have just started writing my second book which will be aimed at graduate jobseekers specifically – more details soon!
On the speaking side, I give career talks mainly at universities to students, graduates and post-graduates on the reality of the job market and what they can do to prepare themselves for success once they’re out of education. I also run CV workshops and seminars at career and employment events and for private organisations on invitation.

Growing up we heard stories from some of our parents about how they had jobs lined up waiting for them before they even graduated. Are we owed jobs, should it be served to us?
When I give my talks to students, one thing I like to get across to them is that no-one owes you anything! Yes, there was a time when having a degree was all you needed to guarantee you a job when you come out, but unfortunately that time is long gone and is likely never to return.
These days any young person who wants to succeed in the job market must get competitive – get internships, do work experience placements, set up a blog, master social media, network, sell yourself on your CV etc, and yes, do all this WHILE you’re still studying! The more practical experience you have to back up the theory you learn in university, the better your chances are of succeeding in today’s job market when you come out.

It has been said that many young graduates are not employable despite their degrees.What exactly does this mean?
Exactly as I said above – too many graduates are coming out of university with nothing more than theoretical knowledge. Unless you’re able to convert this into practical skills that will be useful in the work place, most employers don’t want to know and you therefore end up in the unfortunate situation of having a degree and nothing to show for it but a large student loan debt.

As far as employability is concerned, where does the work of the University ends and graduates’ start?
Make it your personal responsibility to improve your employability in the three, four years you’re at university by making full use of your university’s resources while you’re there – tap the knowledge of your lecturers, talk to your career advisors, join societies that will advance your skills when you come out (e.g. public speaking / debating societies), and of course learn, learn, and learn some more.

So what are the important skills and knowledge that graduates should have in addition to their degrees?
There’s too much to get into – I had a colleague of mine write a detailed guest post on my blog about what exactly employability is and how graduates can tap into it. You can read the article here – http://mildredtalabi.com/guest-post-employability

There has been so much talk about women and the glass ceilings, do you think young women today still face a lot of limitation in the workplace or is it just a matter of not pushing hard enough?
I think the answer isn’t as black and white as that. What we do know is that there is clearly still an issue in this area – I read recently that women on average earn over £500,000 less than their male counterparts in a lifetime doing the same job (http://bit.ly/TyIuho). There’s still a very long way to go to equality in the work place…

When a desired job or career path isn’t forthcoming, do you advice graduates to do whatever job they can get or stick to the job search till they get what we want?
Both – take any job just to keep the funds coming in, but set goals and create an action plan that will take you to your desired job and then start taking the steps towards it. It’s very important you have a deadline for this to happen, otherwise you may find yourself slipping in to comfort zone mode and then “trapped” in a job you don’t want for the next 10, 20 years of your life. That would be tragic…

How do you convince an employer you can do a job you’ve not done before?
As the job competition is much more today than it’s possibly every been (an average of around 70 people apply for every job), it’s harder to convince an employer to take you on for a job you haven’t done before when they are very likely to have received applications from many who have – and thus less training expenses for them.
However, it’s not impossible – you can convince an employer through your CV by highlighting relevant transferable skills or experience similar to the role that you may have done outside of a work environment (for example, through voluntary work); through your cover letter by highlighting how your passion and quick learning makes up for your lack of experience; and finally at the interview by being honest about your shortcomings but highlighting your areas of strength and letting your personality shine through.

Is exaggerating on your CV an option?
No – exaggeration is practically the same as lying in most cases and I never recommend doing this. If you learn how to put together a CV correctly – and I recommend my book 7 Keys to a Winning CV for this – you won’t need to lie or exaggerate at all but still come across in your best light.

In a country like Nigeria where the unemployment rate is very high, young graduates are being encouraged to consider entrepreneurship, what do you think about graduates without work experience opting for entrepreneurship?
I’m very pro-entrepreneurship amongst graduates, I think it’s definitely a great way forward. I’ve written about this more extensively on my blog with a post titled, “The gradpreneurs are coming…” You can read it here – http://mildredtalabi.com/the-gradpreneurs-are-coming

Any advice for young women searching for jobs or working at building a successful career?
When it comes to your career, it’s so important you do what you love as we spend so much of our lives at work. Dedicate yourself to discovering and living out your “inner vocation” one day at a time. Don’t be afraid to try things – trial and error is a great way to eliminate what you like in a job and what you don’t like; after a while you’ll start to build up a pretty accurate picture of the kind of career you’re suited to and then make every effort to live out this career. Life is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling that way.

How and where can we know more about your work?
You can find out more about me, subscribe to my blog (for free) and get a copy of my book 7 Keys to a Winning CV by going to my website – www.mildredtalabi.com. I have a free 45-minute audio interview on “how to land that job with a winning CV” that I’d love to give you – full details on my website.

Thank you Mildred!

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