For all university graduates – those who just completed and those who have stayed at home a little longer – the greatest asset you can possess is time – because you have so much of it. Sadly though, in most cases, practically most of this time is spent at home doing nothing. The best thing you can do with all this free time is to use it to acquire relevant work-related skills that will make you not only a problem solver but also highly employable. Especially for people in Africa or any part of sub-Saharan Africa where unemployment rates are very high, sometimes even reaching 60% in some countries, you will realize that acquiring these skills won’t be just for the sake of it, but is rather quite necessary to get your career to take off.
There are three different sets of skills every new African graduate seeking employment should have. The first and most common one that almost everyone looking for a job already has, is technical skills. This is the knowledge acquired from the university or any other tertiary institution. Often, it comes with a degree in the field which you studied. Unfortunately though, as proud as you may be of these skills, they just will not be enough for the workplace because most if not all of these skills especially within the African context, were acquired through rote learning. I am not suggesting you discard your University acquired Technical skills. The key here is to build upon them as just technical skills will by themselves not be enough to thrive in today’s workplace. You would have to acquire two additional skill sets and these are:
This is the unmentioned skill set that you will need to stay employed. Under it are problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, interpersonal communication skills, and personal management skills.
Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
This includes your ability to discern that your place at the company is to be a problem solver. This means you do not punt roles or tasks assigned to you to someone else. You need to see everything in life as solvable and nothing as above or below your job description. The next is:
Personal Management skills
This skill set entails your ability to properly groom yourself for the workplace. It includes mundane things like maintaining good personal and dental hygiene. Another side is that you need to be able to work well and coexist with your coworkers (teamwork). Finally, maintain a healthy time management with regards to the time you show up for work and how you manage tasks and deadlines at work.
Communication skills/Interpersonal Communication Skills
For this, you should be able to learn how to communicate verbally and through writing as well. Learn how to speak clearly and confidently. Your writing must also be easy to read and understand. All these skills are not so difficult to learn. There are books and online programs that could help you learn these skills.
In this modern-day and age, learning this skill set is becoming more and more important in the workplace as it cements your position as the go-to person when it comes to all things digital. These skills are:
Spreadsheet Manipulation ( Google Sheets/Microsoft Excel)
Regardless of your field of study, learning how to manipulate a spreadsheet is very important. To greater boost your employability, you would need to become an expert in spreadsheet manipulation. Learn how to work with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets as the two are interchangeable although Google Sheets is easier. Learning the basics such as formatting, conditional formatting, formulas and functions, charts and graphs, removing duplicates, data validation, even a few “If”statements would be very useful and the Excel go-to person at the workplace.
The next digital skill you need to master is your ability to design a slide. This is not all about Powerpoint. Unfortunately, though, even some of the most seasoned, most experienced people at the workplace do very poorly at this skill. Your ability to use new technology like Canva, Prezi and Google Slides will help you to create stunning and effective slides for your bosses.
Social Media Marketing
This is another skill of serious importance that will give you a massive competitive edge for the limited openings available on the job market. Know how to manage your company’s business profiles for their Facebook pages, Instagram pages, Youtube channels and Twitter business accounts as well as how to manage a WordPress blog for your organization. Also, by learning how to handle Facebook ads, you will be saving your company money. Learning all these as well as how to create graphics for social media campaigns will go a long way in helping you present yourself to a potential employer as a well-rounded employee, ready to solve any problem thrown at you.
All those skills mentioned earlier may seem a lot to handle at first glance but you will realize that as you take the steps to acquire them, they are actually quite easy and straightforward. Use the time you have available on your hands to acquire these powerful skills and this will help you arm yourself for the highly competitive job market. Always keep in mind that your job description means nothing when a problem is thrown your way to solve. Never see any task thrown to you as above or below you. If you have this mindset, you will not stay unemployed for long.