How do you even start a writing career without a degree? And by this, I mean an English Major or writing-related degree.
In 2011, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Three years later, I found myself a banker and not assisting at a lab like I thought I might be.
This is no news because this is the reality for the majority of Nigerian graduates. But luckily for me, my passion wasn’t in what I studied, my passion was and is in making money and being successful. This said passion helped me be more flexible with choosing my jobs. In order words, I move to where the money is 😀 . Like Akin Alabi wrote in his book ‘Small Business Big Money‘, your passion should be in the market and not in any particular business.
I am not in love with any particular business, career or service. I am just in love with the market, meaning I will sell or do anything (as long as it is legal though) that will satisfy the market (starving crowd) because that’s where the money is.
My journey to a writing career without a writing-related degree
I began a writing career without a degree in English Major because that is where I see my money for now. I am money driven before passion. The fact that I will make money from a legit venture in my passion. So, it is safe to say I am passionate about money-making.
In my opinion, this is the best approach for someone who is not a rich kid. Go read Akin Alabi’s book. When I look back at my University days and now, I have now come to realise that I am truly blessed. I knew I was broke then, but I didn’t understand the extent.
I was nothing but a pencil, but thank God for grace and me beginning to find my feet, gradually. Landing a good-paying job as a Nigerian graduate is not an easy feat especially if you have no leg (connection). Let’s not even pretend here, we keep it a 100 over here.
The Woes of Job Hunting in Nigeria
I have learned pretty fast, and harshly too, that you mostly do not secure your dream job fresh out of University. As a graduate and one without connect, I walked the streets searching for jobs. Most times, as you would already guess, I wasn’t allowed into the company premises. I remember vividly one time, while I was working as a marketer in one of the new generation banks, I overheard a colleague say they successfully submitted their CV at a Brewery company here in Port Harcourt.
Let me not even begin to tell you the speed at which I ran off to get my CV. Before I could say ‘Jack’, I found myself at the said Brewery company’s gate. But unluckily for me, that’s where my journey ended for the day 🤣 . Of course, what was I expecting? We pleaded and pleaded. And Yes, I didn’t go alone.
I was there with my marketing colleagues at the time. I didn’t like the role of being a bank marketer because traditional marketing isn’t one of my strongest skills. But like I said earlier, my passion is where the money is, and it wasn’t in me idling at home and hoping for the best. So, I took what was available at the time while striving and being hopeful for better.
You will get desperate
Back to the story at hand. So, we were left at the gate. I think we tried lying that someone at the company sent for us. How desperate were we? But, that didn’t work either. So, we left and decided to stroll to the junction while stopping at other companies we found along the way.
None of them allowed us to pass their gates 🤣. You will just hear, “who do you want to see”. If you say Human Resources, the next thing is ”Is anyone expecting you?”. You will be confused about whether to lie and enter (and get caught) or say the truth and risk rejection. Let’s not even mention hotel bookers.
Exercise Resilience and re-strategise
However, before I got the bank marketing job and during my job hunt, I figured that the only places that were easily accessible were banks. Anybody could enter a banking hall. So, I re-strategised. I asked and searched the web for bank head offices in Port Harcourt. I also applied to jobs on Jobberman. In doing this, I got about 5 interview offers, but they were all in Lagos and I reside in Port Harcourt.
I couldn’t tell if the pay was worth the travel to Lagos, so I let them go. Don’t be like me oh!, because I had back up. I was living in our family home and eating mama’s food. If I didn’t have these I would probably, not care about evaluating the pay and distance of travel. I would have jumped on the next available bus to Lagos 😀.
Moreso, be a risk-taker; calculated risk.
For me to start a writing career without a degree was a risk on my part. I was unsure of so many things – the terrain of the journey, the learning curve, the business aspect of writing.
During my job search, I discovered a recruitment outsourcing firm in Port Harcourt. I went to them, registered, wrote and passed their test. During this time, I was always jumping night buses. I remember one day I left Enugu for Port Harcourt around 6 pm. I got to Waterlines Junction in PH at 11 pm.
That was when I was hustling for my second bank job as a customer service officer. This was the job I always wanted. Because I figured it was something I would excel at and doesn’t require me begging people in the name of marketing (let’s not even go there). So, I was ready to get it.
Do not sustain yourself on other people’s approval
I remember when I saw the text message for the “bank chat” ( that’s what they call their mini interviews), I told my mum and she was hesitant about me leaving to Awka in Anambra state. I said to her, “as you are seeing me here, I have already gone to Awka and back. This is just me informing you”, lol.
Don’t get this twisted, I am far from being considered stubborn. In fact, I knew she meant well. It was obvious that her major concern was my safety and where I was going to pass the night. So, I asked what she thought hotels were built for. She clearly didn’t want me to spend the night at a hotel; classic Nigerian mom.
You need to understand that your family may not always have your back or share similar ideas with you. Not that they do not want your progress. They may just be over-protective like in the case of my mom. So, if your guts tell you, that your decision is valid and has good potential, most likely run with it. Once you start doing well, they will come around. Trust me on this one.
On one other occasion, I arrived at Enugu around 6 pm for my interview- still for the same Customer Service bank job. The branch interviewing me had already closed to customers as well as interviewees. I was the last candidate, although I didn’t meet other candidates as they had long finished their interviews and dispersed. The interviewers having concluded with others were waiting for me. I arrived around 6 or 7 pm. Fortunately, Lady Luck smiled upon me and I aced the interview.
Believe in yourself
During the oral interview, I didn’t fall short of answers to questions. I gave them back to back. Even I was surprised. I didn’t foresee such performance. I guess I did so well because I didn’t have the time to start overthinking things (I am an overthinker) as I was still stuck on hurry mode from the journey I had 😀.
This is definitely not my full job hunt experience. But you get the drift. So, you see, I have had my fair share of transition in career path and the job search ‘palava’. One thing you should understand is that many roads lead to the market. Don’t be stuck up on what you studied or what you learned or know. If that doesn’t work presently, you can always learn new things or businesses that could work for you.
Above all, embrace change
I’ll be honest with you, it’s tough chasing that fancy job that you always dreamed about. It’s even tougher doing so when you are constantly stuck with job opportunities that are not-so-great. But what you shouldn’t do is give up on your dreams of becoming successful. Do not commit yourself to a life of misery; slaving away at a job that makes you live paycheque to paycheque. Surely find the stamina to keep going.
I know a Doctor who is into real estate. I even doubt that she practices. Lawyers are becoming bankers. Engineers are becoming website developers. So, my dear open your minds. The last thing on my mind as a young graduate was to start a writing career without a degree that is writing-intensive.
While at the University, if I was told that I would eventually start a writing career without a degree and become a professional writer, do you think I would have believed that. I would probably think you were trying to insult me or maybe you were insane. In fact, what is a writer? lol. But here I am today and thriving at that. Who knows, tomorrow I might be something else.
One thing you should take from this post is ‘open-mindedness’. To even start a writing career without a degree and succeed you need to have an open mind. Bare your mind to new possibilities. At the end of the day, regardless of how many times I feel defeated, I must keep pushing. The day I give up will be the day that I have found a job that supports me financially, and provides a positive outlet for me. Stay empowered and inspired!