It’s twice as hard to get a job that’s paying them
So I ain’t paying attention to what you’re saying.
– Jay- Z (Say Hello)
Nigerian businesses have a huge problem with sourcing talent that will only get worse.
How do I know?
Well, I have this horrible habit of surrounding myself with people who are way smarter and more talented than I am. (Although that is admittedly a really low bar since all I actually do is repeat “government sucks” in enough variants of one-forty characters to sound smart). Fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of my friends have quickly figured out my email inbox is a market place for human beings (in a good way) so I inevitably end up in the middle of high stakes talent exchanges.
“Sam, can you help me find a software developer. I need him to start in Lagos on Friday.”
No doubt, it can be bothersome sometimes but its friends, family, and relationships I care about, so I do what I must. Besides, I enjoy chasing talent. It makes me feel influential.
You see, I have never really had any trouble sourcing and acquiring trusted talent from my large network of friends and friends of friends, until last month when I tried to hire a web/graphics designer for a very reputable organisation that was building their IT infrastructure.
As per the usual, I tapped into my networks and contacted a couple of young, promising and highly recommended graphic designers I knew to ask what it would take to bring them on-board the project full time. They didn’t even consider my offer before flat out rejecting it.
Their responses might have as well been a widely distributed template designers have developed for rejecting full-time opportunities given how eerily alike they were.
“Unfortunately we will not be able to take advantage of this opportunity. [Insert shrill pitch about contract design arrangement here.]”
As my “e-las” rolled in, one after the other I was at first slightly annoyed, then, pleasantly surprised. I don’t think it was because I expected them to all jump at the offer. After all, being at the helm of a software business where half our competitive advantage is incredible design, I understand how highly sought out and valued great designers are all over the world. Even more so in Nigeria given the amount of sheer crap that passes for web design here. Everybody loves a website that isn’t as broken as the government.
What I didn’t expect however was the level of savvy these talented graphic designers represented with their responses by suggesting to me their own consulting outfits. They very clearly knew they were worth more as consultants – highly priced mercenaries if I may – than as full time employees however mouth-watering my offer was.
Since I finished school last month, I have been paging consistently through “Startup of You”, co-authored by Linkedin Founder and the most connected man in Silicon Valley, Reid Hoffman. (By the way, if you have a college age child, you really want to do your family line a big favour and make this required reading this summer). The book is packed full of practical advice and ideas on how talented young people can build a network that enriches and advances their careers despite the turbulent economic times.
One of the more life changing ideas in the book is that the key to a successful career is managing yourself and your career as a one-man startup. Just like, startups continually invest in and improve themselves so they can compete with slothful corporate giants, many Nigerian youth are investing in themselves and building valuable networks to upend our “God’s time” culture where seniority is unfortunately considered a substitute for talent and experience.
Like those designers I sought after, I find more talented young Nigerians doing a great job of independently developing and selling unique professional skills to a labour market in demand instead of locking themselves into establishment jobs that reward seniority over competence. These young people are quietly building a professional services industry where they will not be overworked and paid peanuts, a few months late and soon enough Nigerian business will be forced to pay a premium for this kind of talent to win in an increasingly competitive globalised marketplace.
Dear Nigerian employer, welcome to your first taste of global competition, where age and seniority are still no match for talent and expertise.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.