In August Last year, the University of Rwanda graduated more than 8000 students from various disciplines. The stadium was filled with cheer and lots of bubbly graduates perhaps because the four year journey had come to an end.
I was privileged to be a part of this hopeful group of graduates and I wore my gown and cap with pride. Months and several experiences later there are some hard truths I have had to learn about the world of work that I would have loved to receive as part of my training at the university.
Nonetheless, we are here now and I thought it would be great to share and save you the trouble of learning the hard way.
Once you graduate, it doesn’t mean that you are done learning, if anything it means that you are starting yet another level of learning and this time different rules apply. When I started working, I had to unlearn a number of things, one of these being my understanding of work.
One of them being that soft skills like communication, research, writing, work ethic outcompete technical training by far. For many young people in Rwanda today, your first job is not in the field you were trained in and therefore it is going to cost you more in order to thrive in this environment. Plus, you’re probably never going to use most of what you were taught in school.
Do not let this discourage you. Push yourself to learn as much as you can about this new field and take on tasks that require you to get out of your comfort zone. This will increase your offering when taking on new assignments.
This also applies to those that are working in the very fields they were trained in - something rare and pretty cool too. Don’t use your lack of experience as a reason to sit out on work that can potentially take you to the next level.
I recently took part in a study that was asking employers what attributes they looked at most when selecting employees and I was surprised by some of the answers.
One of the things that became clear to me was that work is changing. What employers look for today is different from what they looked for a decade ago.One of the most interesting responses I found was; attitude towards learning in other words teachability.
Whatever your understanding of your classroom content was, you have to be willing to learn from those that are already in the field. They obviously have more experience and you can learn from even more when you approach your work with the attitude of learning.
Another important aspect I have found is that you need a criticism management system. Feedback will always come, some might be constructive while some might not be. Always be willing to listen, learn and not take it personally when you’re reprimanded.
Work is not about money
This one is a bit controversial but I hope you don’t read wrongly into what I have to say especially because the lesson is far more important.
Many young people will go into an assignment focused on what the job is paying and may end up missing out on a lot of opportunities or worse still, damaging track records.
When we focus a lot on the pay we become short sighted, some opportunities may not pay as much but may equip you with skills that will propel you to a better level and I dare say with better pay. Not to say that the better paying ones won’t but to stress that pay should not be the only deciding factor. Also, while on the same topic, be open to taking a professional internship with or without pay especially if its with an organisation that can equip you with skills you will use in the future.
All exposure to work is good exposure, you are still learning something and it is always smarter to invest in yourself at the beginning of your career. This then brings me to my last but most important lesson.
This is a key element to growing professionally. Time and again you will attend events and take on assignments that will require you to interact with different people, endeavour to have people you can relate with professionally key word here being professionally.
Often times these people might be the ones that lead you to your next opportunity this is because they know what you do and have seen in action.Don’t hide that light under the bushel. Through networking, you might even find people that know something you don’t and can mentor you. It is one of those things that you ought not to miss out on.
My hope is that you are able to learn and prepare yourself for the world of work. Also, always keep an eye out for opportunities to grow and better at what you do. The world is your oyster!