Getting Work Experience Is a More Productive Route to Landing a Job for a Fresh Graduate, Not Acquiring Postgraduate Degree
It is common knowledge that qualification gets a job seeker the interview while work experience lands this individual the job. The extent to which this notion is valid in the Nigerian context cannot be under-emphasized. The fact that the education sector in this country is moribund lends further credence to the stance that getting work experience improves the employability skills of a fresh graduate much better than acquiring a master’s degree. In most — if not all — Nigerian universities, students only gain theoretical knowledge not practical knowledge. The level of education in the country is abysmally low; a large number of Nigerian graduates are not employable. From the foregoing, it is clear that a fresh graduate that has few years of work experience, either through internship, volunteering, or part-time jobs, has better employability skills and more job prospects than the one with only a postgraduate degree and no work experience.
Strong Connection between Work Experience and Practical Knowledge
There is a strong correlation between work experience, practical knowledge and skills. Most Nigerian students only gain theoretical knowledge on various aspects of their fields in schools, but in the real world (life after school) there is a wide gulf of difference between “studying it” and “doing it”. Except for fields such as academia, research and development (R&D); acquiring postgraduate qualifications are not really a sure means to boost one’s chances of getting a job. In a study conducted by a team of researchers in University of Uyo in 2014, using the data collected from Nigerian graduates with first degrees and those with second degrees, these experts were able to deduce that there is no significant difference between employability of these graduates in the labor markets. While the research only focused on the South-South, it supports the notion that most employers place a higher value on work experience than they do postgraduate studies; this is why the study, which was done using statistical analysis, showed higher level of education (beyond the first degree) does not really translate to better job prospects. Experience cannot be taught in schools, it is only garnered on the job and the level of one’s expertise on a field only improves as one practises on the job; since practice makes perfection. No years of advanced studies can replace this.
Acquiring Postgraduate Degree Is a Sure Means to Over-qualification
People often cite the erroneous notion that a fresh graduate should pursue postgraduate studies for higher remuneration in lieu of work experience. In this country, a number of employers of labor in the private sector turn down job applications from graduates with second degree because their firms cannot meet up with the financial obligations of holders of such advanced qualifications. To the chagrin of a second degree holder, they are placed on the same salary scale as a first degree holder in private firms. Thus, the advanced qualification that graduates obtain during their postgraduate programs is just another bit of paper.
In 2014, then minister of finance, Dr. Okonjo Iweala stated that no less than 1.8 million graduates seek employment in Nigeria on an annual basis. She obtained her data from the National Bureau of Statistics. A fresh graduate that decides to go for an advanced degree — thinking this step will set them apart from the large crowd of unemployed graduates — instead of seeking work experience, is only doing a disservice to their career. After completing these postgraduate studies, they still have to compete stiffly with other job seekers, some of which have previous work experiences or have sat for professional exams. A fresh graduate, who is not interested in academia and research, should rather strive to garner work experience by working for a private firm or in the public sector, by doing internship with a company in their line of study, or by volunteering to work in a firm. All these will ensure that this fresh graduate gets useful hands-on experience, which cannot be taught within the four walls of a classroom. Also, this is why a leading career portal in the country, Jarushub, and other career consultants recommend that fresh graduates tow this path — and not just accumulate academic qualifications, which may not be worthwhile in the foreseeable future.
Times Are Changing
In the past, many companies used to train their new recruits on their formal role. However, today every firm is trying to save cost; most companies now prefer job candidates with related experience in a specialization, not the ones that have advanced qualifications. This is because these firms recognize the truth in the saying of Albert Einstein that “the only source of knowledge is experience.” In the labor market, what really sets job seekers apart from the multitude of other applicants is work experience not postgraduate degrees; because apart from paper qualification, employers are really interested in how the knowledge and skills of an applicant can contribute towards the growth of their firm.
Qualifications are important to get a job, no doubt. But what is more important is work experience. After getting a first degree, a fresh graduate should strive to garner work experience by working in a firm, doing internship, or volunteering. At this level in the life of a fresh graduate, when their career is just at the nascent stage, they should pay more attention to working for a company whose ideals match their career goals — even if the pay is not so high. In doing so, the fresh graduate can garner much needed experience, which is invaluable and yields higher remunerations in the nearest future.
1. Asuquo Austin Effiong and Agboola Bolapeju Mary, Nigerian Universities Outputs and Their Employability in the Labour Markets in South- South, Nigeria, American Journal of Educational Research, 2014, Vol. 2, No. 12, 1244-1249, Available online at http://pubs.sciepub.com/education/2/12/18
2. http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/1578 ... weala.html
3. https://www.connectnigeria.com/articles ... xperience/