It doesn’t really matter how and when our career goals changed, what matters is the effort we put in developing and make a success of the new ones.
The next time you see a graduate of English, be sure to ask him or her what their preferred course of study was. You will probably hear things like;
“I wanted to be a lawyer, but I was given English”
“It was my second choice.”
Almost 90% of English graduates in Nigeria didn’t study the course out of love, rather out of compulsion and frustration.
That was my story in 2001. After crossing the hurdles of University entrance examinations, I naively thought that the prospect of being a lawyer was going to be a walk in the park. My joy was however short-lived as I and some other unfortunate colleagues were ungracefully bundled out of the Law 101’s class one day. The university could only admit 100 Law students because of the stringent rules of Law School.
From the time I was old enough to know about careers, I’d always wanted to be a lawyer. I belonged to the group of people who from childhood had been single-minded about their career paths. So when I was bundled into the faculty of Arts to study English and Literary Studies, I suddenly found myself with no career goals. What in the world will I do with this kind of course? I often wondered within myself and of course I wasn’t alone in this thought; my parents share the same. My dad was particularly worried about my ‘bleak future’ because to him majority of English graduates go on to become teachers and he didn’t want that for ‘his daughter’.
I quickly concluded then that the only way I could be ‘somebody’ after the disappointment was to try my best to get a banking job. I never bothered to even research the career options available for English Arts graduates. But that soon changed as I was given an opportunity to write a copywriter’s test; I was later called for an interview.
That interview was the turning point for me as I discovered new career goals. I was convinced by the two panelists that I had raw talent in writing and what was needed was my commitment. Over the years I have come to love this new found career and I have and am still learning to be better at it every day. So if you are like me that stumbled into a career by reason of chance, these steps will be useful:
Never stop being hungry
Don’t ever be content with the basicness of the new career. Get empowered with every given opportunity. When I started as a copywriter, I quickly enrolled myself in an advertising school in Lagos where I learnt firsthand from the industry veterans. Soon after I began to attend trainings related to my field and I still till date commit myself to multiple learnings.
Also don’t be afraid to be stretched in the new career. I started with copywriting but I gradually began to explore journalistic writings with the weekly opinion pieces I usually send to the Sunday editor of Punch newspaper. Those publications boosted my morale and steadied my feet later as a journalist. Dig into the different aspects of the new field; in short be uncomfortable with average and strive to excellence. As African women, we have a lot at stake if we decide to be complacent in our careers and not seize the moment.
The key word is patience
I know you have heard this word ‘Patience’ countless times; but it remains one virtue that must be acquired for us to get to the peak of our careers. Yes, it was one interview that reset my career goals but it is patience that I have continually needed to stay calm in my career journey.
It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of comparing our career stories with others but it is not right or fair on us. I particularly am guilty of this as often times I feel behind in my career in comparison to the different success stories of my colleagues that seem to trail me.
The antidote to this kind of feeling is to keep on pushing and never stopping, at least Rome wasn’t built in a day.
There are mistakes in life that are not supposed to made by us. That is what mentors are for; they’ve walked that path and they can constructively guide us through if only we ask. Career mentorship is vital to how far we can go in achieving our career goals, so get to it today and seek out those mentors now. There are lots of mentoring programs for women of black descent that are committed to building and shaping careers of African women; give yourself the opportunity of having a voice in this patriachical society.