I got a call some days back that I should come again to Funmi Iyanda’s show. I was asked to pick a topic to talk about for about 25-30 mins, and guess the first thing that came to my mind! ……GFS! I shot back, am I allowed to talk about Finance? In my mind, I was like, what a wonderful way to to sell this product 🙂
I thought about it again, and decided, against it. I shouldn’t go there to sell anything, I should go there to talk about a topic I am passionate about, and that I believe would help young people make a difference quickly in the market place. I’ll talk about a topic I’m passionate about. I’ll talk about Volounteering – The gap between apprenticeship and internship!
The program was aired this morning, so if you want to watch it, you might need to stay awake till 1am after midnight when they’ll have the second airing. But if you are going to miss all of it, let me give you the gist.
Funmi Iyanda was not around, but Ireti Doyle did a fantastic work holding forte for her. Where does NTA get these bright ladies from. Listening to and interacting with Ireti was so natural, I daresay that the future is blinding (too bright).
We started with the usual wonder at my Afro, it’s interesting that I carry a natural conversation starter along with me everywhere I go. People look at me, and look again. A security man once respectfully asked me, “chairman, is that hair?”. I walk around town and barbers look at me lustfully, licking their lips and longing to exercise their clippers. The young ones start running away from barbers, they want to grow their hair like Uncle Deolu’s own. It’s a brand that has come to stay believe me, at least until all my debtors pay – I wouldn’t want them not to recognize me now, would I?
Let’s get to business… Volunteering is the concept of a fresh graduate consciously approaching a company that has the capacity to give him the kind of experience that he needs and volunteering his time and efforts. This he/she does without expecting to get any financial reward in return. During internship, a student goes into the corporate setting to get the opportunity of putting his theory into practice. The student goes to learn, and in the process earns a stipend. The system to support this exists, and for students who get good internship jobs, it’s an experience they take away with them. The apprentice on the other hand, goes to a “master” with the objective of learning, but instead of being paid, he pays to learn. At the end of his apprenticeship, he is celebrated as he starts his own business.
In the middle ground between internship and apprenticeship lies the concept of volunteering. With the present economy capable of absorbing only 10% of the graduating students every year, the ambitious student must get competitive, the star student must look for opportunities to stand above the crowd, and gain experience. I tell people, experience is not experience because you were paid for it. It’s experience because you did it!
There are some obstacles that become immediately apparent the moment one ponders about the concept of volunteering. These hurdles are there to discourage the majority, you need to know them and scale them. “Know your limits, then break them”.
1. The quick question one first asks is, it’s going to cost money to volunteer. I’ll have to go to work every day, and that costs money. Free? This will not work for poor people. Wrong! You will still spend money if you were completely jobless, you’ll spend money making CV’s, going from employment test to test, going from pillar to post to drop CVs, you’ll work hard during this period and it won’t be marketable experience. You have the alternative of spending this time developing skills somewhere and using their facilities to apply as well. The company also does not need to be too far away from your house, it only needs to have a use for the skill you want to learn.
2. The next issue is, will the companies take me? There is not structure on ground for many companies to take volunteers today, but if you make your offer compelling, you’ll get opportunities. I have a friend who’s first job was by volunteering, before he spent two months he had got an experienced job in a bigger company simply by virtue of the kind of experience he had gained. After working for one month in that company as well, the MD had to call him and tell him that they cannot but pay him a stipend as his contribution was clearly seen.
3. What will I tell my parents I’m going out to do everyday, they won’t understand. True, most parents will not understand why you finished from school and perhaps NYSC and now you want to work for free? Are you crazy? Let them understand that the world is changing, that you need to polish the skills that will make you confident about the value you want to add. It’s not something you’ll do forever, 3 months is ideal. As for their support.
4. What types of companies can I volunteer with? Don’t go for the big popular names, they’ll know you are looking for a way to get into the system and disappear into thin air. Go to the companies where they are few and overworked, go to a startup business, a company going through crisis, these kinds of places will give you accelerated growth.
We have been able to graduate nothing less than 5 volunteers from the company I work for. These were people who joined us without knowing much and left us for experienced Jobs. I currently serve as referee for them, haven trained them and seen their work, and also help to prepare them for where they are going. I don’t get shocked or feel bad when a volunteer leaves, I feel happy and have a sense of pride. I love it when they succeed and progress. I have made my contribution. I tell people, your third class usually only matters until you get your first Job, our higher institutions teach a lot of things that are not aligned with corporate needs. Volunteering helps to develop a better candidate.
I’m thinking it might be a good idea for a company to exist to manage volunteers for companies, keep a pool of candidates and send them to different companies for 3 months. This company can train the candidates on basic things and the company can pay for value added, if any. For people who want to start their own corporate businesses, who want to be entrepreneurs, a good way to go is by the way of volunteering as well. What you make happen for others, happens for you.