The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you. ~B.B. King
In this week’s edition, I have a story to tell and I will be as brief as I can.
I know that many Africans are usually dissuaded from seeking jobs in western countries because they don’t possess the requisite skills. This is especially true considering the massive digitisation and digitalisation in more developed countries. I republished one academic’s take on this here.
But I’m here to tell you that this is not a blanket situation. As they say, there will always be an exception to every rule.
When I relocated to Ireland in 2015, I already had a BSc in Accounting and a Master’s in Political communication but having never worked the regular 9–5 I knew that getting my desired job will be a challenge. For one I am a very mobile person used to visiting Nigeria each quarter to oversee business interests. So I registered a company and did what every Igbo man does best; trading. I sold gadgets and used items on eBay and Dondeal to augment my earnings from Nigeria.
The first years weren’t so bad but as the naira value plummeted it was time to get a job. My first attempt was in 2018. I saw a vacancy in the local classified for an accounts assistant and applied. During the phone interview, I reeled out my qualifications and experience as a businessman back in Nigeria and added that I was proficient in Microsoft Office, particularly in Excel.
When she asked if I was familiar with any other accounting software like sage, oregano, marjoram etc I had no answer. The young lady would have laughed so hard if she could see me staring at the ceiling. Well, I was rejected but the lady courteously advised that I could join the company as a bookkeeping trainee for which I will have to pay! Of course, I declined.
Fast forward to 2022 and the naira had lost so much value that converting it to euros for subsistence in Europe is outright stupidity. Once again I applied for another job. This time I was accepted after the interview. It was a stocktaking job and everything about it suited my routine. Part-time and flexible, availability will also be solely determined by the employee. In addition, early starts meant one could finish early and have time for other activities. And perhaps most enticingly the job entails travelling across the country. All rosy but for one thing; the remuneration didn’t meet my expectation. After a little mulling, I politely rejected the offer.
To my utter surprise, the CEO called me the next day and asked why I rejected the job without trying to reach out and negotiate. I was even more perplexed. I thought everything is supermarket price here. Well, I explained that as an employer of over two decades, I strive to pay what I believe is fair rather than what is obtainable in the industry. He tried the usual line of my lack of experience, the job being an entry-level one and that I will have to be trained at the company’s cost but I insisted.
He asked me to hold on so that he can check my interview scoresheet. When he got back the first thing he asked was if I have ever worked as an accountant. I smiled to myself because apparently, he had seen BSc Accounting in my CV. So I replied that even though I haven’t worked as one I have employed accountants and equally used my knowledge of accounting through my years as a businessman. When he placed me on hold again I knew I had won the argument. He got back and this time asked me to demonstrate my knowledge of accounting in any way I can. I agreed and sent him my company financial account which I recently prepared myself.
The next mail was a new offer with improved wages. I’ve now been on the job since last September and have received many commendations because I deployed my accounting knowledge to solve problems with the team leaders when the need arises. As I write I have recently requested an upward review of my wages. Yes, if you know your worth then you should earn your worth. It may not be the best-paying job but I can’t remember the last time I called up funds from Nigeria.
The thing is that no knowledge gained is lost. I read accounting for a reason and never practised as a professional nor did I work in any financial institution. Frankly, I find debit and credit monotonous and tedious. However, the knowledge is there and has been of immense help in all my business dealings. Over here it has helped me secure a job and who knows I may begin to find it interesting if the pay keeps rising.
Moral of my story? Check the opening quote.