Landing your first job in Nigeria takes anywhere from 9 months to 2 years after graduating from university. If you dig deeper into the numbers, you would realize that only a fraction of those that eventually land a job get into companies that they deem desirable. Most graduates are either underemployed or working at companies that add very little value to their career prospects. This is why it’s important to develop an effective job search strategy that positions you for career growth. This is because as most experts would tell you and many professionals would later realize, the first few jobs on your CV can highly impact your lifetime career earnings and advancement over time.
If you take a job where you don’t have many responsibilities or you don’t learn transferrable skills that you can showcase to future employers, you’re likely in for a vicious cycle of moving across low earning jobs until you find the formula we would discuss much later in this article.
If you’ve not read the previous section on The Definitive Guide to Choosing a Fulfilling Career Path, I suggest doing so right after this article because it helps define what job and career path you should direct your efforts to. Regardless of whether you just left university, or you’ve been working for several years, the desire to land your dream job, whatever that may be is likely at the top of your priority list. A job that is fulfilling keeps us motivated, inspired, and highly productive. We are usually willing to give more of ourselves to our employer because we’ve got aligned goals and are generally happy.
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7 Effective Steps to Landing Your Dream Job (with Examples)
Step 1 – Every Dream Starts with a Purpose and Focus
One of the more common mistakes I see with job seekers is applying to almost all vacancies regardless of whether they meet the requirements on the job description or not, then they start wondering why they never hear back from the hiring manager. Primarily, if you’re not focused, it would show in your sloppy application and no recruiter would take you very seriously. Getting a job is not mostly by playing a lottery system; you have to design a strategy that includes your interests, skillset, and career aspirations. Start by focusing your efforts on one or two sectors of interest and be specific about the job roles and companies that you’ll like to target. Once you’ve done this, you can start to conduct research on what the minimum requirements are to get into those positions and companies and build your profile subsequently. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements, you’ll need to get back to the drawing board and decide on whether you need to keep upskilling yourself whilst taking other job opportunities that could lead to your eventual dream job.
Another important element to consider is your “WHY”. Why that particular job? Why that company? Why that position? Is it about money, prestige, culture, or flexibility? Or could it be something else? It’s important to know this and be truthful to yourself about the reasons why landing your so-called dream job is important. One of the resources that could be quite helpful in many cases is career assessment tests such as the one created by Reventify. The value of such a test is to provide direction in your career and re-affirm the path that you are on is the right one for you.
Something else that is important is the use of informational interviews. This is when you connect with professionals in the industry or company you’ll like to work for and get some level of clarity on how things work there, how to get your foot in the door if you’re not already in the industry, and more importantly, how to progress your career and reach your maximum potential. When conducting informational interviews, you should not shy away from asking questions relating to compensation, promotion, work environment, and culture. If the answers match your perception of the industry and target company, your motivation and determination could easily increase even when you’re faced with several obstacles along the way.
Finally, in positioning yourself for that dream job, look at the future prospects of the sector you want to work in. Is it one that would likely continue to grow over the next decade or experts are suggesting that the industry is dwindling? If you’re still early in your career, you want to look for opportunities in sectors that are growing rather rapidly. This could lead to a balance in power in the employee-employer relationship. This is so important when negotiating compensation as the growth in the industry could lead to opportunities in vacancies as well as higher compensation If there are more vacancies than qualified candidates. This is quite similar to the current job market for senior software developers.
Step 2: Outline all the resources and tools that you’ll need to make the journey easier
It’s quite critical in your job search to find tools and resources that would make the process a lot less stressful. Besides the career assessment test, you can look at tools that would help create a perfect CV for specific job listings such as the one developed by Reventify. I cannot emphasize the need for you not to use generic CVs and Cover Letters when applying for jobs. It’s a major turn-off that recruiters can’t stand and your documents are likely to get archived or worse still, thrown into a pile of never to be seen items.
If you are not active on LinkedIn, then you’re not serious about your job search. The platform has over 700m professionals globally and it’s a good resource for hiring quality candidates. I’ve been headhunted for various executive roles in the past year alone and this is me, logging into the platform probably twice a week. I’ll advise that you spend about 25% of your job search time, building strong connections on LinkedIn. Ensure to get your profile optimized for search by hiring managers. I won’t spend too much time talking about LinkedIn as we’ve written a separate article for this purpose. Other platforms that are worth being a part of are Quora and Github if you’re a software developer.
Finally, it might be worth it to invest your time on a few job boards. You may need to create a professional profile that is periodically updated and would yield you a few search results. Ensure that your profile indicates your idle prospective jobs and transferable skills. Some of the job boards I’ve used in the past are Jobberman, NGCareers, Glassdoor, and Indeed.
Step 3: Your Network determines your Networth
This is a popular saying that most of us are familiar with. We may not all agree with this phrase because it shows some level of favoritism, but the truth is, people, don’t always make the most rational decisions. It’s difficult to assess skill set and culture fit on paper. Sometimes, you have to either know the candidate personally or have been referred by someone whose opinion you trust. This is how the world works and it is likely going to remain so for a very long time. Your focus should be on building strong connections that could lead to long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
If you don’t know where to start, I’d suggest starting with your inner circle especially family and close friends. Let them know what your career interest is and if they know anyone that is already successful or has a mutual interest. Typically, if you’re serious enough and persistent, you’ll get a few good links that could lead to something useful. If you have less than 10 years of professional experience, you should be actively seeking a career mentor.
Someone with a depth of knowledge and career experience that is willing to provide great advice to you at least once a month. Personally, I like to have 2 mentors, preferably of different sex and experience levels so as to have diverse perspectives. You can find mentors either within your close personal network or by building a strong connection with one online.
Before choosing a mentor, you’ll need to get a bit close to the person, understand their interest and values, which could be harder to assess if no personal relationship already exists. If this potential mentor is active on LinkedIn, then you’ll just need to be on their radar by shadowing their activities and engaging with them from time to time. You might catch them going for a seminar, conference, or speaking engagement and this could be the time to meet with them in person.
A hint is never to ask someone that doesn’t know your professional ability to be your mentor. Because people that have advanced far in their careers tend to be quite busy, the only way they’ll accept being a mentor is if they believe you have the ability to excel in your chosen career as well. No one wants to mold a possible failure.
Step 4: Develop Expertise and Industry Experience
If you are serious about getting a great job, then you have to continuously develop your skillset and become extremely competitive. The seats at the top only get smaller as you advance your career, which means that you have to get used to consistent growth and become invaluable in the process. What new skills have you learned? What project did you work on last and what was the impact? How easy is it to measure your past work and do you think it is impressive enough to get the attention of your desired employers? There’s always going to be something new to learn even if you’re currently at a dead-end job. What you need to focus on is intent. What are you doing today, that would get you to that next level that you’re seeking?
If you need to learn a new skill, don’t just get a certificate. Experience is way more important as that is the only thing that verifies that you can get the job done in the real world. Now the paradox is that you need a job to get the experience, so one of the things that worked for me in the past was to facilitate free live training on subject matter that I was good at and build on that experience by providing small businesses with free consulting advisory services. This would look more valuable on a CV than an internship with an unknown firm.
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In the event that you are already working with a mid-size firm or large company, you may need to develop internal projects using a business case method approach. This is when you present a case to an ongoing problem that the company knows to exist but is not actively looking for a solution. You would then ask for permission to solve this problem by showing the cost-benefit analysis. If it doesn’t interfere with your daily work activities and the cost to the company is very little in resources, you have a high probability of getting buy-in.
Now, I don’t want to hear that the company you work for has no problem. Never have I seen any company with zero problems. There’s always something worth improving or creating. My main advice is for you to go above and beyond your daily responsibilities and find new solutions that the company can adopt. If you lead this initiative successfully, not only would your company’s superiors see you in a different light, but you can add this to your portfolio of work and showcase it as part of your key achievements to future employers.
Step 5: Provide Credible Opportunities and Value to Target Companies
In the event that you don’t have a job, then you should consider creating something of value for the companies you’ll like to work in. At this stage, you should already know a few current employees of your target companies; preferably people that could be your future boss. Even if you’re just interacting with them online, it would be good to have some information on what their current challenges are and what the impact could be if they eventually solve them.
If they work extremely long hours or are focused on their core daily job function, they may not be actively looking for a solution to the challenges they mention. This could turn out to be your opportunity to proffer solutions that could prove to be valuable. In your best interest and for the sake of time, you could create a slide deck with a business solution that you’ll submit to their private email.
Let them know that you’re interested in working at their company sometime in the near future whenever a vacancy opens. If they are impressed with your work, they’ll surely note you down and be open to discussing future opportunities with you as soon as it arises. Now, this is not a silver bullet and doesn’t work all the time but the idea is to come up with ways to get the attention of your target employers and showcase tour abilities in ways that others won’t dare to.
I’ve seen it work a lot of times and if you want to get inspired, here are a few examples of how people I’ve worked within the past landed their dream jobs.
Landing Your Dream Job Example 1: If your superpower is selling, better be ready to showcase your sales ability
Eric is a sales manager that used to work in an insurance company, however, he was quite interested in financial technology start-ups. He had been following a few companies and their senior team on LinkedIn and was well informed about new product launches and other newsworthy information that the company shared periodically.
When he saw a post that one of the companies he was actively following would be going to a popular tech conference and have a stand, he knew this would be his advantage to have a one-on-one with future team members. At the tech conference, he approached the Head of Sales at the stand and after a few chit-chats, he persuaded this individual to give him a chance to pitch the company’s products to potential customers.
At the end of the event, Eric had done such a good job that the Head of Sales promised to put him at the top of the line when a sales job came up at the company. Within 4 months, he got the call and eventually got the job. This could have only happened because he was well prepared and had a well-executed plan.
Landing Your Dream Job Example 2: If you don’t meet the minimum requirements for the job, the only way you have a shot is to really get creative
Enor is a bright young lady from the University of Lagos who was looking to work in one of the prestigious digital agencies in Nigeria. She had spent slightly over a year networking with a few employees of companies that she wanted to work in and some knowledge of who their top clients were. When she found out that a vacancy opened for a Digital Marketing Associate, she surely submitted her application. But she knew that would not be enough to get her attention because it was a competitive role and she didn’t have the requisite experience that was asked on the job listing. For her to make herself more valuable in the eye of the employer, she had to go the extra mile. She decided to create a specific project (presentation and draft marketing campaigns) tailored to one of their clients and sent it to the Marketing Director, who she was already connected to on LinkedIn. She eventually got called for some round of interviews, which led to her accepting a job at the company.
Landing Your Dream Job Example 3: Persistence wins all the time
Ade applied for the role of Growth Manager at a Software company and after the 2nd round interview he didn’t hear back for about 3 weeks, so he decided to contact one of the co-founders, whom he met at the last round of interviews.
After sending a few emails and getting no response, he decided to visit a speaking engagement that this Co-Founder would be speaking at, and during the Q&A session, he decided to ask “When would you like to give me feedback for the interviews I had at your company? I’m still interested in working for your company”.
He was told that an internal candidate eventually filled the role, but since they liked his profile, they are open to discussing future roles in the future. At the end of the session, he briefly had a one-on-one with the Co-founder and they shared contacts. It took almost 10months of keeping in touch with the company before a role that suited his skills was open. He obviously was the no. 1 pick for the position.
Step 6: How good are your Interview skills
We’ve discussed a lot of strategies surrounding how you can get employers’ attention including providing valuable work to key employees, but the reality is that technical skills and soft skills are two different things. The importance of an interview is to demonstrate a lot more than your technical abilities. You want to showcase that you’ll make a good team member and you’re reliable and can go the extra mile.
Generally, those that make it to the interview stage have showcased that they meet the minimum requirements for the job. What you want to do is to build rapport with the interviewees; show them that they’ll really love working with you and that your values are aligned with that of the company. Finally, ensure to demonstrate that you can deliver results that are measurable. I’ve got another article solely on how to kill it at the interview stage, so I suggest reading that as well.
Step 7: Show passion and interest for the Company and Position
This is without saying but some job positions are so competitive that you would be required to go the extra mile after the interview stage. This is more crucial for smaller companies where you’ve met with a director and other senior team members at the interview stage and they need to decide between two or more strong candidates. You may need to reiterate your unique value proposition via a thank you email.
Let them know why you’re passionate about joining the company, what it means for you, and more importantly, what it means for them as well. Focus on your strong points and remind them about your previous key achievements but do not oversell yourself. You typically want to make the email 2 or 3 short paragraphs so that it is easily digestible. We’ve created such email templates for paid subscribers of Reventify.
If you’ve done a combination of the other tasks highlighted in this article, then you need not worry. At this very stage, you’ve done the best that you could have and It’s only a matter of time before you land your dream job.
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