As a young female University student or woman in Technology studying Engineering or another STEM-related course, have you ever thought, “What if good grades are not enough?” You must have heard of that first-class graduate who is now using his mathematics skills to calculate his monthly average income after he has paid part-payment for the tricycle he bought on hire-purchase and covered maintenance and fueling costs, but this is not about the hardworking young man who has found himself in that situation. 

It is now a habit for HRs in Nigeria to complain that graduates are not employable, that they are not equipped with the required skills (hard and soft) and updated industry know-how to be ready for what the market requires, and that immediately they are passed out of university with flying colors. 

Why only ‘Good Grades’ are not enough in this digital age

So it brings us back to that important and dreaded question: What if good grades are not enough? What other steps do you need to take to become well-equipped and desirable for organizations looking out for talents that can give them the edge in hotly contested markets across the world? Yes! The world! Since technology has turned the world into a global village, you are now expected to compete with your colleagues in the US, UK, France, Rwanda, Kenya, Japan, South Korea, India, China, and other countries where education gets a huge budget and students get the required attention. Tough luck!

According to a LinkedIn survey, 59% of leaders say soft skills are increasingly important to company success. Meanwhile, colleges are still focused on academics, not real-world applications. So students can earn good grades but still lack the critical abilities that 21st-century jobs demand. 

So this blog will show you how to give yourself a fighting chance and not rely on only book knowledge to get the nod when you are ready for the labor market. In Nigeria, after the 1-year compulsory national service, you will often see prayers like “I wish you favor market, not the labor market,” which is funny for a nation that enrolls about 2 million students at the tertiary level and graduates 600,000 every year. How do you expect a favor when all you have to show for five years of study is a piece of paper stating your grades? So how else do you make yourself attractive to Big 4, multinationals, and emerging companies looking to catch young talents?


If Good Grades aren’t necessarily the selling point, then what is?

  1. Take extracurriculars seriously: I know this is tough to imagine, not to mention doing, taking into account how passing exams with good grades in school has been made to look easier than a camel passing through the eye of a needle. However, you still need to build your soft skills while studying hard to get excellent grades; your emotional quotient (EQ) will add to your advantage when you are ready to get into the job mix. 
  2. Internships: Start applying for internships as early as possible! Do you know how to beat those crazy requirements that will ask for 3 years of experience for an entry role? It is by doing either a virtual internship (during sessions) or an in-person internship (during the holidays) that the company also matters; an internship at an unrecognized entity close to your house might not have the same value as a pan-African non-profit that is operating across over 20 African countries (WAAW Foundation comes to mind) or a multinational in any established industry, which will open you to how work gets done in the corporate world. The importance of an internship while still in school cannot be overemphasized, as it has the power to bridge the required skill gaps.
  3. Volunteer: Being a part of a worthy cause can be rewarding; one of the rewards is that you have more information on your resume, aside from those four scanty lines of your primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Additionally, it presents you as a person who is not just concerned with themselves but also has the vision to contribute to the solution in their community. Employers value problem solvers, so it is important to not just seem like one but actually be one!
  4. Training: Never say no to free and paid training that can add skills to whatever you are learning at the university. The popular belief is that no knowledge is a waste; I can’t say the same about my knowledge of how to dissect a toad, which we were forced to practice in our first year, but there are platforms on campus and online for you to pick an interest, learn, and put into practice. This might just create the additional value that will give you a headstart when you start applying for jobs. Take it from a graduate of Zoology who is now practicing in the digital marketing space, a journey that all started with an advert by Google to learn Digital Skills for Africa in 2018. You might never know what the future holds in store, so when you see training or webinars on AI, graphics design, blockchain, or any topic that tickles your fancy, you should register, attend, and follow up with more training and practice to become an expert someday. 
  5. Network: I have always wondered why I never bought Bitcoin in my university days. The truth is, none of my friends were into Bitcoin or crypto as it was, but my university has produced more founders of successful startups than any other in Nigeria, and many students got into crypto way earlier than when the world understood the potential. So this is why you should spread your tentacles and try to meet new people with diverse interests in tech, e-commerce, finance, health, and as much else as you can handle. The next big idea by the time you graduate might not even be in the mainstream yet, or you might just connect with your co-founder to build the next big thing. 

Take the first step to eliminating the “good grades equal job” mindset

It looks like a lot of work, so you have to be intentional about standing out in situations where grades will not be enough; there is no one size fits all, and our journey is different in life, but if you can master 3 out of these 5 strategies, chances are that you will not struggle to find someone willing to bet on you. When you get that first opportunity, it is now up to you to make the most of it. I hope this was worth your time. See you at the top!

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