The job market for new university graduates might be improving, but employers say there are two crucial skills Nigerian job seekers sorely lack — and they both involve something core to almost any workday: writing.
According to HR Execs in Nigeria, 8 in 10 applicants written communication skills leave a lot to be desired, from their CVs and cover letters to their work reports and presentations. Writing well is a make-or-break skill that can get you noticed. Writing poorly gets you noticed too, but for all the wrong reasons.
Where are job seekers going wrong? — And how can you avoid these all-too-common mistakes?
To be clear
Expressing oneself clearly is tough for young employees. Yet most companies prioritize clear and direct communication and say it is a vital indicator for quality of work.
That might be obvious in consulting, marketing or other word-heavy careers. Yet it’s just as central to less-obvious professions. Theatre, for example; Lindsey Buller Maliekel, who manages the apprentice programme at New York’s New Victory Theater in New York City, said clear writing “is integral to the work on stage”, too. Good performers must be able to project their message or act to audiences from diverse backgrounds, and clear writing points to this skill, she said.
When it comes to accounting, numbers matter but so does the ability to explain them. Rod Adams, recruiting leader of Pricewaterhouse Coopers in the US, said it is a misconception that accountants don’t need to write well. For instance, it is important to communicate clearly and with authenticity. That “not only gets your messages across, but also helps you connect and convince other people”, wrote Adams in a journal.
Social Media effect
Social media is increasingly creating new work opportunities for job seekers. Studies done by Accenture show that social networking is now considered the most effective method of finding a job for 27% of 2015 graduates, beating out other means such as word of mouth (15%), newspaper adverts (14%) and electronic job boards (14%).
But, social media use has hurt young people’s ability to communicate professionally.
Social media-style communication lends itself to short, unsupported writing and typically ignores professional writing etiquette. Even if the interactions between employers and job seekers are changing thanks to social media, there are still protocols that corporate job seekers must remember while connecting with employers, and they often don’t have the practice.
There is, however, only so much new graduates can do to improve their writing before their first job. For most, writing at the workplace is a continuous learning process, with improvement accumulated from experience. Still, university students can, and should, familiarize themselves with professional writing by doing internships or job shadowing.
At EmployMe. ng we are working with training centers and schools to invest in learning and development, especially in fundamental skills such as writing in order to train a more competitive and competent workforce in Nigeria. Doing so will not only help organizations attract and retain top talent, but ensure they can develop relevant skills among their workforce to be competitive.