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Graduates without professionalism

How can we help a student who doesn’t think he/she needs to be trained on professional mannerisms and basic work ethics to succeed after school?
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I am worried.

In a few minutes you will understand why.

As you all know, I work in a top-ranking Nigerian University as an academic, so I relate with students all the time.

But my particular worry is focused on final year undergraduate students and fresh graduates, awaiting to be posted for national youth service.

Having interacted with this demography of students for several years, I realised that more than 80 per cent of them lack professionalism despite being formally educated irrespective of their fields.

They do not know how to structure or send emails. They generally lack basic courtesy behaviour and etiquette particularly when interacting with strangers, either physically or on the phone.

They are yet to clearly understand that there is a tone in writing and speaking which could be interpreted as disrespectful. And I am certain they are also unaware of how to construct a proper curriculum vitae (CV) to drive their careers forward, post-graduation.

These general deficiencies make them appear unfit for the corporate workplace and perhaps explains why many employers continue to emphasise that many Nigerian graduates are generally unemployable.

What they probably mean is that these graduates lack the soft skills which are expected to effectively complement the hard skills, making them a liability to any organisation that decides to take a chance on them.

The transition from university to workplace is a big leap, so without proper exposure, a graduate is most likely going to feel like a misfit in the new environment and may struggle to cope.

So, I can understand why many final year students or fresh graduates are weary about looking for a job. They are generally more interested in starting their own business; becoming their own boss, without having to follow workplace rules they are not even effectively trained for.

The only problem with turning to entrepreneurship without any professionalism is that they may still end up ruining their businesses or stifle it from growing. It is the error that comes from trying to become a leader without first being a servant.

Let me emphasise that this is NOT a Gen-Z problem. This issue has been with us for decades. I am a Millennial; I experienced it too and the cycle has continued, sadly.

Our universities in Nigeria are designed in such a way that the curriculum focuses on teaching the core skills and knowledge for the completion of the degrees admitted for. This is exactly the same practice in the Western world.

However, while the Students Affairs Division in the Western world are extremely active with ALL student-related issues including employment preparedness or workplace readiness, our Students Affairs Division in Nigerian universities appear to be active ONLY during registration or admission periods.

I remember that it was in 2013 during my Masters study in the United Kingdom, that I understood clearly how to prepare competitive academic and corporate CVs, thanks to the Students Affairs Division of the University of Greenwich.

This means that our Students Affairs Divisions need to do better and be well-funded by the University management to ensure that the solutions they come up with are effective and sustainable.

I am still worried, because many of these final year students are so ignorant and clearly unaware of the type of support they need. If they are self-aware, at least they could seek for support outside the university.

How then do you help a student who doesn’t think he/she needs to be trained on professional mannerisms and basic work ethics to succeed after school?

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