For a few years now, the Ghanaian media space has been filled with headlines such as “she(he) graduated with first class, but selling bread“, or “he(she) graduated top of her class, but no job“. When I read some of these stories my heart goes out to these graduates, and I am sure a whole lot of us sympathise with them too.
However, I also come across other stories where individuals who did not even graduate with first class are making entrepreneurial waves and huge impacts soon after their graduation. I , just like most people found myself thinking about the causes of such contrasting outcomes. Luckily for me I have a blog which profiles the stories of young Ghanaian entrepreneurs and industrious youths, and from these stories one thing became clear, that most of the graduates (either first class, second class, or pass) that are surviving and doing well after their tertiary education are mostly students who had side hustles, campus businesses and were involved in student leadership while back on campus irrespective of their academic class. This evidence is again supported from the myriads of graduates stories shared on the life after Uni blog.
Graduating with first class or top of your class is good, but recent graduates must understand that the terrain has changed and the class you graduate with is no longer enough and does not guarantee your survival on the life after school scene. Gone are the days where first class students and exceptionally good students get job offers even before their graduation, that is no longer the case. The significant increase in tertiary institutions and student intake in these institutions is no where comparable with the past such that there are ten times more graduates than available job opportunities. Implying that graduates can no longer live their lives after school to chance, hoping a company will pick them based on their academic laurels alone.
I recently, came across the story of a young man on Facebook which is a major motivation for this article. According to this young man, while he was at the University he was very studious and religiously married to his books with the objective that if he is able to come first place in his class, at least he is sure to get some job offers after graduation. And truly, his efforts paid off academically; he not graduated top of his class, but also took most of the awards presented during his graduation ceremony. According to him, he was very optimistic that he would get an offer because he had a sterling academic performance. Then, he waited for the calls, at least that was what he was told would happen. He waited and waited, the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, and yet no job offers arrived! Per his account he was so disappointed that things did not turn out the way he had expected. Who wouldn’t? This young man’s story is just one of the many stories of graduates who were disappointed that their academic performance could not secure them a job after school.
Am I saying tertiary students should not aim at getting first class or good academic credentials? No, not at all. All I’m saying is that tertiary students should aim at having an all round education while on campus, such that they can be able to undertake meaningful projects when they graduate if there is no immediate job available. Thus while pursuing academic excellence they should also read books outside their course materials, attend career fairs, and seminars, build their networks, participate in student leadership, go on internships and volunteering work.
The new survival strategy is this: Whatever class you aim to graduate with, being it First Class, Second Class Upper or Lower, should be combined with some soft skills (eg. adaptability, flexibility, good work ethic, critical thinking, resourcefulness, and team playing etc.) and some extent of entrepreneurship prowess. Thus, graduates must know how to generate some income for themselves in the interim while waiting to get their dream jobs. This also implies that our graduates should not only be focused on getting high grades, but must have an eye for problem solving.
It may interest you to know that some of the renowned personalities and businessmen we have in Ghana today started their career back on campus, the likes of Bernard Avle, Bola Ray, Foster Awuntiti Akugri, Chaste Shoes, Trudie Art and Craft, etc.
And while many think that university is the place to press the pause mode on life, it is also actually the place where you decide how the rest of you life should proceed.
In conclusion, I leave you with this: study all that you can and have all the fun that you can, but also ensure that if you leave school you would be able to do something meaningful with your life even if no one employs you immediately.