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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - NYSC, the North, CV, Nigerian job market, NNPC, headed to Nestle Foods.

I recall the first time I read Steven Covey’s ‘SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE’. I was seriously inspired. Driven. Motivated. I felt like I could mold myself into a winner. It remains one of the most powerful books I have read yet. I still go back to read it over again. You can never fully appreciate the principles that the late Mr. Covey loaded into that text. My favorite habit from that book is ‘be proactive’. I have tried earnestly to make that my mantra. So, while in University I could not stop thinking about the Nigerian job market. In my newly acquired proactive mode I began to seek out ways to avert the pitfalls of the job market or a lack of it, if I may say. As the years went by, I saw people who graduated ahead of me; very good students who left the University with excellent grades and still not manage to find a decent job. The closer I approached graduation, the more fear I felt. I like to use my fear to motivate myself, so each time I was beset by the uncertainties of the job market; I would try to do some research on how to avoid the same fate that had befallen friends and family members who graduated ahead of me. Should I go back to get a master’s right away? I’d ask myself, but old boy that meant more money and time for school now. Haba! You wan become a professional student? My mind go ask me. Or shall I say yab me. I had already set lofty academic targets for myself as a means of standing out of the crowd at least, but I knew that alone may not do the magic for me…This is Nigeria you know.

When graduation finally arrived, I was thoroughly pleased having met my lofty academic target. Soon, I went off to NYSC in the North. From my flat in the middle of nowhere I would run to the neighboring big city to do my internet browsing. I’d write letters to all the companies I could think of, where I could possibly work given my university training, and ship the letters out to them in town. In large numbers, I sent out those unsolicited applications. Week in week out, I wrote more letters and by weekend, I would have them mailed out in the bigger city. Eventually, I wrote over forty different companies/government parastatals and not a single one of them wrote back to me. Undeterred, I ploughed back into work and began to think of new companies to contact. I changed my style of writing and redesigned my CV. I made sure my sterling academic achievements were easily spotted on my CV. Then, I began to think of studying abroad. I wrote nearly all the Western Embassies in Nigeria seeking out scholarships. Seriously, I wrote them all and even more.

I kept reading to fill my mind with a positive mental attitude. It seemed nothing could stop me, not even the lack of replies from top companies and embassies…until I no sabi who to write again. I had exhausted the companies and embassies on my list. Na so I begin write them all over again.  I guess the notion that if you knock hard enough, the door may open is true, but the fact that the door opens no be sey dem go invite you in. Finally, I began to hear from embassies that pointed me in the direction of scholarships I may qualify for. Why did they have to wait for me to write twice before they replied? To test my faith? Maybe they realized I was going to keep writing; that I was willing to keep badgering them until they got me off their back. Meanwhile, no single company in the country bothered to reply to my unsolicited applications. I have to confess that I began to wonder if it had been worth it burning the candle at both ends on campus. What was the point working that hard to leave school in flying colors, I wondered. Na so NYSC take finish and my proactivity never get me anywhere.

I continued to invest time in my hunt for scholarships while I still applied to companies. Then, NNPC announced that they were hiring new graduates. I felt certain that I would make the shortlist, at least. I took time to fill out the lengthy and frustrating application forms; this was back in the day when for Naija, if you dey browse, you go enter the address you want and press enter, and then go house go chop and come back and e never load finish. Nobody had internet on their phone then. If you wan download something then, you go carry mat go cybercaf√©. When you press download, you go spread your mat go sleep for three hours and when you wake up, na so the thing go tanda there dey look you…still downloading!!! Anyway, I persevered and completed the application forms and uploaded every document they had requested. Then I waited. Soon, friends began to tell me they had been shortlisted for the test. It is only a matter of time before they invited me, I thought to myself. I had whatever they asked for and even more in terms of academic performance, but to my utmost chagrin, I no hear anything oh! I could not believe it. Then, I well and truly lost faith in hard work and dedication. Angry, I wondered why I had put myself through all that in school. At least, I deserved to be shortlisted. I was enraged. Dazed. Deflated.

I lost confidence in the system of course. Then a night before the NNPC test, I got a call out of nowhere while taking care of my evening chores in Lagos. “Hello may I speak with Victor Chinoo,” a female voice asked over the phone. “This is Victor speaking,” I answered, wondering who it might be. “I am so sorry that we mistakenly omitted your name in regards to the NNPC test,” she said apologetically. My heart begin to dey jolly. Ehen!!! God don hear my painful cries, I thought to myself. “Okay, I understand the test is tomorrow. Is there a way I could still take that test?” I asked. “Yes, that is why I called you. Where are you?” “I am in Lagos.” “Good. Go to Unilag tomorrow and ask for….” She gave me the name of someone who would accredit me for the test. “She will have your name and registration number inputted on the computer waiting for you. I had not read a word for the test since I had thought I was not writing it. Nonetheless, I was so elated that night that I barely slept. My wonderful brother dropped me off to Unilag in the morning before heading off to work. The place was teeming with humanity. How many people dem go employ sef, this one wey the entire youth for Lagos dey here, I wondered. Meanwhile, I went about searching for the lady with the magic wand; the one who was going to give me the opportunity to have a shot at a job in NNPC like everyone else.

Would you believe that amongst all the officials there that day, none…I mean none whatsoever bore any name close to what this mystery lady had given me over the phone? I looked at their name tags thoroughly to make sure they were not lying to me. In sheer disbelief I refused to leave. I called the number from last night hoping to find someone who could right this wrong…this terrible wrong. There was no answer on the other end. I continued to gallivant around the area hoping that the lady I was looking for would appear somehow. For where? Like joke like joke, everyone went inside to write the test and I was the only man standing outside. My pleading and persuading fell on deaf ears. They did not know the lady who had called me and they had no clues why I was left off the list. That is Naija for us, abi? Painfully, I walked to the bus stop and took a bus home. Later in the evening, I received another interesting call. “Victor where have you been all day?” One of my best friends from University asked over the phone. “I can’t even begin to explain to you what I went through today. By the way why are you asking?” “I am just leaving NESTLE foods now,” she said. “I took the Nestle test today and they were calling your name all over the place, but you were nowhere to be found. I felt so bad. By then I had shut off my phone as we had been instructed. Even if I had reached you, you could not have made it in time for the test,” she explained. In her voice, you could hear her concern. She had wanted me to be there…to have a chance at least.

Nestle was one of the companies I had written severally during NYSC and after. In fact, I had written them many times after I had moved to Lagos after NYSC, but I never heard from them. “I did not get their letter,” I told my friend. “They said they had invited you in writing,” my friend explained. So, I missed both tests in one day. Till today, I never really got the letter from Nestle. I even called my NYSC employer and they told me that they had not received any such letters for me. I had told them to forward my letters to me after I had left, which they did. I missed both tests on a Friday, so by Monday morning, I donned my suit and tie and headed to Nestle Foods. On getting there, the gateman would not let me in. “You need to have an appointment oga,” he insisted. “I understand, but the letter they had sent me went missing. Perhaps someone forgot to actually mail it. I need to talk to someone in HR,” I explained, but this man was bent on discharging his duties with blind and staunch legalism, with no room whatsoever to bend. As for me, I was ready to crash through that gate at some point. I stood firm with an indefatigable and obstinate will. After several hours, he realized that I was willing to pester him all day, so he unwillingly called someone in HR. A man came from HR and took me into the plant. In the conference room, he explained that they had sent a letter to me. Sir, do you keep copies of these letters?” I asked. “Chances are that someone did not actually mail mine out. Something has gone wrong somewhere. Could you check to find out which address it was mailed to?”

He left and returned only to say he could not see any record of where the letter had been sent. “Could I be given a separate test on the grounds that I was unfairly denied an opportunity?” I queried him. He shook his head negatively. “I am afraid, we can’t help you.” I knew he might not have been responsible for the whole thing…although he might as well be responsible, who knows, but at that point, I just wan slap im safe sotey e no go see again. Fully encapsulated in a ball of disappointment and sadness I forlornly trudged out of the premises. For a few weeks, I could not bring myself to send any new applications. My brother was on my case urging me to get past my disappointment and get back to searching again. A short while later, I managed to shake off the disappointment and got on with sending out new applications. I devoured any daily newspaper I could lay my hands on. Then one evening, another interesting phone call came through. A doctor (scientist) at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) in Vom, Plateau State, called to tell me that they had received my unsolicited application. “The director of the institute and I think you are a good fit for one of our open positions,” he said. “When could you be in Vom to have a chat with us?” “How about next week?” I asked. I had been there several times, so I was elated at the prospect of working with some of the lab toys I had seen there before.

Story Continues…        CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 2

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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