Beyond the University Degree – Developing Skills for Life

For so many school pupils, the greatest challenge that presents itself is that of passing exams and getting into university. The ‘challenge’ of WAEC, GCE, NECO and JAMB is so real that everything else fades in the light of passing these examinations. Sadly, only a minority are able to wade through these treacherous waters to secure admission into a university. For these ones, the belief is that their future is set and all that needs to be done is to stay afloat for four to five years, pass all exams and come out with a reasonable class of degree.

However, in today’s world, nothing can be further from the truth. Anyone who still treasures such a belief is living in cloud cuckoo land. The reality of our world is that things have changed so greatly in the last 20 years and anyone who wants to survive must understand how the world now works. The value of a degree has certainly diminished for a variety of reasons. One is the unfortunate decline in standards of education; this has not been helped by the incessant strike actions by lecturers due to pay issues and conditions of work. There is also the issue of examination malpractices, a high level of leaked examination papers and impersonation. All these have contributed to fallen standards in education which has taken a toll on the employment market. It is a fact that education in Nigeria is largely academic and it appears that this trend will continue.

The sheer number of people who graduate from university each year in Nigeria and also in other countries has also increased employment competition. As the world has become a global village, anyone can apply to any job from anywhere in the world. This means that a Nigerian university graduate applying for work at an oil company in Lagos is in competition with other Nigerian graduates from Ghana or even from Canada. Frankly, the competition in Nigeria is keen enough with so many thousands of graduates from across the country going for the same few jobs.

This scenario is not peculiar to Nigeria, many other parts of the world including Europe and the Americas are also experiencing a global meltdown which has reduced the number of opportunities available. The reality is that not enough jobs is being created to go round making it imperative for anyone who wants to get a decent job to be multi-skilled. It is no longer enough to have a good degree, it is absolutely necessary to gain other skills directly or even indirectly relevant to your degree.

Basic life skills are extremely important too as they make a difference to what a person can offer. Today’s employers now extend their interests beyond well educated geeks who can only sit by a computer to intelligent programmers with good interpersonal skills who can also relate well to clients. Life skills are basic skills which are necessary to function in life. Often these are simple transferrable skills that can be employed in any sector once acquired.

Life skills are non-negotiable if a person intends to amount to anything in life and includes timekeeping, organising and planning, relating to people, speaking in public and being proactive. These skills can be used anywhere in almost any job and they enhance your college degree.

Interestingly, these skills can be learned without possessing a degree. You can even function with these skills exclusively in many jobs with or without a degree. An example would be if you have a job as an executive PA, there are hardly any specific skills which you need to learn at university to function in this role. There are however, many other skills like planning, organising and interpersonal skills which are crucial to this kind of job. Theses same skills can be enlisted in managing a building project. Assuming this PA is offered a job in a property development company as a project manager, the PA skills will simply be transferred to manage this project effectively.

In the above example, the new project manager will apply his timekeeping, planning and organising skills to ensure that the architects, engineers and artisans work to timescale with deliverables to show for it.

This same person can work in logistics – managing coca cola goods from production to distribution across the country.

The points below will further illustrate the objective of this discussion:

  • A degree is no longer sufficient to make headway in life.
  • With increased global competition for work, you need additional skills to give yourself an edge in life.
  • Everyone needs to complement their degree with basic life skills.
  • Employers are increasingly looking for people with these life skills and you will do yourself good by developing them.
  • It’s never too late to start developing yourself in this area. For example if you read widely, you will begin to develop your communication skills.
  • Start to be genuinely interested in people and you will develop interpersonal skills.

We all benefit when we do things right!