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Are you looking for a job?

Author of ‘Practical Steps to Financial Freedom and Independence’, USIERE UKO, writes about moving from an applicant to starting your own business

The events at the last Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment exercise drives home the sad reality that the army of unemployed in the country is growing by the day. It is so sad that a routine recruitment exercise ends in fatalities due to poor crowd control. We are sitting on a ticking time bomb which may blow up on our faces if more jobs are not created. While the government can do much more in ameliorating the situation, the fact is that the government alone cannot create a job for every youth that graduates from a higher institution.

The government has a key role to play in helping create new jobs, but there are so many jobs the government can create directly. Vacancies in government departments and agencies are fixed, and cannot grow each year in proportion to the fresh army of graduates being pumped into the marketplace. Coupled with the fact that our recurrent expenditure exceeds capital expenditure by a ratio of three to one, those waiting for government’s stimulus package to create jobs may have a very long wait.

It is only the private sector that can create jobs on a sustainable basis. The challenge arises when entrepreneurs behave as employees, looking for jobs or sitting on jobs meant for employees. Hence jobs are not created at the required scale with more people chasing fewer jobs.

Employee mindset

The reality is that our educational system produces employees, turning entrepreneurs into employees. Parents set the stage by asking their children to get good grades so that they can get good jobs rather than build good companies. Students are pitted one against the other, competing rather than collaborating. An army of hopefuls are churned out each year, armed with resumes and hunting for existing vacancies.

The word ‘applicant’ does not occur once in the Bible. I would like to know if it occurs in the Koran or other holy books. During the agrarian age, our forefathers were all entrepreneurs. The size of their work force depended on the number of children each man had. With the advent of the industrial age, farms became mechanized and people moved to the city in search of jobs. Sadly, many are still in the industrial age mentally although the World Wide Web ushered in the information age in the early nineties. They finish school and become applicants, looking for jobs.

Today, the future belongs to entrepreneurs. Jobs are no longer secure and your employer can only guarantee your job when the going is good. If profit dips, you may find yourself without a job the next day.

If you have an employee mindset, someone telling you to hire yourself sounds like Latin. All you will come up withare – what business can I go into? Where do Iget the money to start? If you are not street-smart and have not started anything while in school, thinking of starting one now will seem like mission impossible. However, it is not too late to change your mindset. It is a choice between waiting endlessly for a job, or taking your destiny into your hands and going for your dreams. The interesting thing about life is that whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are correct. There is no one right answer. You write the outcome you want. It still comes back to choice.

Starting with the end in mind

The mistake we usually make as individuals is trying to start something and then see how it goes. We leave the outcome to chance or circumstances. We don’t take responsibility for the final outcome. We don’t clearly define the end game or what success looks like. Builders and good leaders don’t operate that way. They see the end before they start. A builder does not clear a site, mobilize men and materials and start building. The first thing he does is get an architect to execute the first creation, the blueprint that shows the finished product. If you visit some work sites, you see a big board showing the finished building. Everyone knows what the finished product looks like. They don’t start and see how it goes.

That is not how most people run their lives. They don’t know where they are going. They graduate first, then prepare a resume, start applying for jobs and then see how it goes. They jump over opportunities as they go about their daily job hunting.

Every person has to, at some point in their life discover what their gifts are, and what they are supposed to do with it. Your work is to give your gift. Jobs may put food on the table, keep body and soul together but your work is the reason you were born. When you can connect with this and catch a vision of your desired future, you can then come back to the beginning to figure out how to start with what you have now.

Small beginnings

Every big thing started small. If you study the history of big corporations, there was a time it was just a thought, then got on paper and then started small, often in a backyard somewhere, garage, dorm room, sitting room or boy’s quarters etc. When you know where you are going, figuring out how to start with what you have is not very difficult. History is replete with stories of men both living and dead who started with virtually nothing and accomplished great things.

Everybody has something. If you know where you are going early on, you can start while in secondary school. Some University students use more expensive phones and wear more expensive clothes than those paying their school fees. Some of them drive better cars than their lecturers. Where did they get the money from? Couldn’t this money be used to start a business in the backyard? How much did the founders of Google and Facebook have when they started out?

What about Youth Corpers? Some of them fly to their orientation camps and use the most expensive phones. Most of them have two sources of income – their employer and National Youth Service Corps. Someone who has a dream will save one income stream and live on the other. Some even have three streams of income, their parents and family members being the third. For someone who knows where he is going, there is no excuse why you cannot make money while in University and NYSC. Where there is a will, there is a way. The best source of start-up capital is your savings and the best way to start is small. If you have seed capital and you know where you are going, then you are ready to fly.

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