The service year is a year of advantage as you are afforded of enough free time amidst enough opportunities. What you chose to do in this free time is a matter of choice, and this choice is purely yours to make. But there are a few things to do in order to maximize the resources at your disposal, the biggest of which is time.
1. Identify your career path and related skills
Identifying a career path is as good as setting a vision. Many people fall into the trap of threading too many path in the name of versatility. To strive to be everything shows a lack of direction and focus; remember that Jack of all trade is a master of none. It is essential to define a career path and identify the skills you need to be unique, successful and employable in the chosen path. This is where versatility comes in, your ability to excel in the different areas of your chosen career and apply diverse methodology and ideology towards achieving set goals and objective stands you out as versatile and resourceful. A lot of people however have a defined career path but are developing the wrong skill set. It is good to be skilled in a wide range of field but you must identify the core skill upon which your technicality will be judged and assessed. Other skills come as a bonus only when you are technically sound in your chosen career path.
For help with identifying your career path, click here.
2. Attend training and courses
For people serving in the heart of the city, this is as easy as it can get. There are a whole lot of organisations offering courses and training on different field of studies. After having identified your career path and its related skills, what you should do next is to find organization or resource centers around that offer courses and training on this. The skill acquisition and entrepreneur department, SAED, of the NYSC have partnered most of these people and thus reduced the fee at which it is offered. Some also take installment because they understand the value of your monthly allowance to be a bit low.
Don’t argue that these certificates are not respected, they are just means of extortion. Look beyond that thick designed paper and picture yourself sitting in front of the interviewer; that paper becomes just a means of introduction, you will be the one to sell yourself by delivering your self-worth. The knowledge you gain is key, if you are able to convince the interviewer that you know what you are saying and can technically defend it, the paper becomes meaningless to him. You are the real deal! Examiners don’t judge certificate, they judge you!
Then there is Coursera. Coursera is one of the top most online learning platforms for students. Anyone can sign up and enrol in different courses for free and earn a completion certificate upon the completion of their specific role. Other such avenues are edX, Khan academy, Udemy, Alison, Udacity, CodeAcademy and so on.
3. Create a CV and cover letter
Absolutely; this is one thing you must never fail to do. Do not say I will create my CV when I am done with NYSC. CV can be progressively updated so create it there and then, as more events comes up, you can add to it. You should also create a good all-purpose cover letter which you can later adapt to suit specific purpose as the opportunities comes. It is important to make your CV focused and detailed without overloading it with unnecessary detail. The CV is a document for yourself to sell yourself in summary, a means to give the examiner reasons to choose you over the others. Be explicit on what makes you stand out, what do you do that others can’t and what are your core strength.
To read about creating a good CV and cover letter, click here.
4. Build a network
It is perhaps the most discussed topic among peer around the world today. While you are on yours service year, it is important to identify people who are focused and determined like you, not just from your field but from other fields as well. Exchange contacts and CV with likeminded and forward thinking people. This is called networking. One should however be careful not to network with people who will hinder you from the purpose you have set to achieve. It is a normal psychological effect for people to compare themselves with those around them in evaluating their personal achievement, that is, we use people to whom group we belong as landmark for our own success. This is why it is important to build a network of potential outliers so that the benchmark you use in valuating yourself will be of a high quality and standard.
5. Accept responsibilities
In a standard interview, apart from testing your technical skills, one other thing that interview look to examine is your leadership and managerial skills. They may thus try to create scenarios that require this skill to solve and try it on you, or they request you to briefly describe a situation whereby you have executed leadership qualities in the past. You certainly do not want to give a domestic reply, do you? So as to be able to have an experience to share, it is good that you accept managerial or leadership role while you serve. Strive to be a member of the executives of your community development service group, and take active parts in executing the various project activities that the group will be executing. This will not only develop your leadership skill, it will also teach you a bit of human resource management, project execution, and also improve your communication skill.
6. Develop and practice a corporate life.
We live in two distinct worlds as employee; there is the corporate life we live while at work and there is the informal life we live at home. It should however be noted that the most integral part of our lives as employee is spent living corporately. It is therefore imperative that we start developing this corporate life early before we are forced to learn the hard way. Read tips on living a corporate life which I will be discussing in subsequent posts. There are utterances in our everyday life that will not be accepted in a corporate world. Then there is our interpersonal relationship, and the way we relate with people in the outside world differs from how we relate in an official setting.
7. Identify and work on your weaknesses
While you are at improving your skills and value set, it is also essential that you identify our weaknesses and make effort at overcoming them. Most people have time management and multi-tasking issues. There are different methods of improving on these weaknesses and it is left to you to decide which method best suites you. Seeking help where it is required is okay as some of this weaknesses are habits; and bad habits do die hard. But a problem known is half solved. Once you have been able to identify these weaknesses and you are willing and ready to work on them, with the host of resources available online, then yyou will definitely get better at them.