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Career success: Why you should widen your horizon

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It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see – Henry David Thoreau

A mentor friend was recently invited to deliver a career talk to a final-year journalism class in one of the northern universities. The most important thing he told them was to think beyond their immediate environment and prepare for the next phase of their lives in the context of global perspective and not to restrict their thoughts to the local job market.

The aim of widening one’s horizon is to compare and contrast education and careers from around the country and even to the world at large and appreciate how they relate to ours; discover where other nations are ahead of us, whom we are at par with and whom we have surpassed in order to fathom solutions to our myriads of problems.

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Those who got out of their comfort zones and had experiences outside their states or countries will tell you how life-changing it can be. Another perspective to widening our horizon is thinking about and exploring one’s ambitions and passions despite not being what they are studying or practicing professionally.

Someone blessed in tailoring or fashion design as they call it these days, that found himself studying Agronomy or working in a food canning industry as opposed to the fashion industry, should not abandon that skill but must look for ways to keep practising to improve upon it. If you can write, be a writer. There are many scientists and lawyers who are novelists.

A person knowledgeable in religion who finds himself studying Western education should not fail to explore the opportunities abound therein and must not allow that skill to waste as well. If you have none of these, learn a trade or a technical skill. Anyone that has no second skill must seek ways to develop it. This is another topic for another day.

Widening one’s views and outlook is not to say that every student or young professional must look for studies or seek work abroad, however, it is recommended to have at least varied local experiences across one’s country.

Just as we know, this is one of the fundamental objectives of the NYSC scheme.  A graduate that is deployed to any state outside his, as is usually the norm, must refrain from applying for re-deployment to his own state if possible. You will come to thank me later for this.

The benefits of a broader outlook are even more striking if one is to go outside the shores of this country to study or work. For the Nigerian job market and further studies opportunities, a conference attendance in Ghana or South Africa in one’s resume can be more eye-catching than a conference attendance in Lagos for instance. It demonstrates what efforts you are willing to make in your future career. A medical student or young professional practising in Nigeria would never see some tools he read about theoretically until he goes to where they are available.

According to a urologist friend, what he learnt in the practical application in his field in India in just six months he couldn’t learn in the six years of his training in Nigeria. He had been sending most of his complicated cases to them anyway prior to that, so he decided to go and see the magic for himself. Of course, there was no magic, it was just an abundance of modern gadgets and the added skill and dexterity of working with them. All the theories were learnt excellently here, mind you and so he has read about most of them from textbooks.

As we live in the digital world, the first and foremost means to exploit is the internet. Invest in the internet; invest your time and money in it. For students ‘Google Scholar’ not ‘Google’, is your main search page for educational development especially on research and other educational literature. It is the ‘New Library’. Other web pages for free online learning are ‘Coursera’ ‘Khan Academy’ and ‘LinkedIn Learning’. For professionals, LinkedIn for now suffices. You can make professional connections online these days by registering on LinkedIn, a social media platform specifically for professionals. In the LinkedIn dialect, it is called expanding your professional network.

However, do not rely on the internet alone, go to well-equipped libraries to get physical access to manuscripts ranging from the latest books to reputable journals in your area of study and career or interest. This is where registering with the British Council, the American Corner, or religious circles, as the case may be, become very handy. It can be an excellent opportunity to expand your professional circles by joining these. In Nigerian parlance, it is called making ‘connections’.

For students, they should have good relationships with lecturers; young professionals should also be close to their superiors at work who are open-minded and open to friendship. The friendship should be a professional one with limits and boundaries, not the open social friendship type. Be ready to be a mentee to the one you admire and let him be your mentor. Ask questions on anything in your field you are not fully clear about.

Then… take a trip… to anywhere. Traveling both locally and most especially internationally if one can afford, or is opportune, is as important as the classroom. It enlightens one in ways that active learning from institutions may not.

If one restricts himself to only what is given in schools or to what is practised locally at work, without knowing about global best practices, then he is in for a big surprise.

Muhammad can be reached via auwalbala@rocketmail.com

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Auwal Bala Muhammad
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