Leveraging Technology to Position Yourself in the Labor Market

Job seeking can be a daunting experience, from the endless applications to the interviews that go nowhere, and the countless rejections. It is especially hard in a country with a low ratio of available jobs to an employable workforce like Nigeria. It takes about 4-6 years, depending on your field of study, to complete a degree program at a university in the hope that it will offer you an advantage in the labor market. Yet, Nigerian students suffer unintended consequences as a result of the never-ending war between ASUU and the federal government. The strike sets you back one or two years if you’re unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. This is one of the reasons parents would rather spend millions sending their children to study in foreign universities.

Leveraging Technology to Strategically Position Yourself in the Labor Market

Considering that the average company’s entry-level age requirement is 25, by the time you ultimately graduate from university, presuming you don’t have a carryover or a mean lecturer purposely holding you back, you’ll already be older than 26. Your age is a major disadvantage in the current work market because there are few available openings. What do you do then?

Tech to the rescue

Take advantage of the times. We live in a digital age where countless prospects are at our fingertips. A few keyboard clicks can bring up a number of online courses and scholarship opportunities if that’s what you’re looking for. Simply being focused and customizing your search will help you locate them. The following websites provide free or affordable certification training:

  1. Coursera
  2. YALI Courses
  3. Google Digital Marketing
  4. Udemy
  5. edX
  6. Virtual volunteer & internship opportunities to tackle the labor market

Did you know that you can also volunteer online and get internship placements remotely? During the COVID-19 pandemic, most organizations adopted working from home/remotely or hybrid options. They discovered most work can be done at home at far less cost. There are full-time, part-time, internship, and volunteer online work that you can also get, without “knowing someone”.

That’s right, you can also gain work experience from the comfort of your home. The “Careers” page of a company’s website is where you’ll find their current openings.

Personally, remote work is not a foreign concept to me. I’ve been working from home as a freelance writer. I worked a few jobs after receiving my Master’s degree in 2021, but they never felt quite right. They were roles that, in my opinion, did nothing to advance my professional career. Eventually, I left them. I applied for and was accepted into the International Model United Nations internship program (IMUN). I worked remotely during the entire month-long internship. It wasn’t UNICEF, which was the organization I wanted to work with as a child but it opened up a world of possibilities.

As a result, at the beginning of 2022, I began to think carefully about my career goals and how I could strategically position
myself. I found several free courses when I searched online. I narrowed them down to my preferred sector and the field I wanted to work in.

Where to find volunteer & internship roles

There are several sites to find these opportunities. I will go deeply into LinkedIn and the United Nations Volunteer Platform, and how you can set up your profile and apply for jobs.

If you’re starting out in your job search, LinkedIn is your best bet. Almost all organizations have a presence on LinkedIn. All you need to do is create an account and optimize your profile with relevant skills and qualifications. Since you don’t have a lot of work experience and most employers would be hesitant to recruit someone inexperienced. They’re more willing to hire you if you have volunteering and internship experience. If you have any volunteer experience, that will offer you a competitive advantage here. You can tailor the jobs you seek using LinkedIn’s job search bar.

You may also opt-in for a daily, weekly, or monthly job recommendations list based on your profession, job functions, or most
recent job search. You can also choose to create a job alert for the organizations you want to work for, which will notify you as soon as a position becomes available. I got my first online role on LinkedIn. Never stop applying, because you never know which ones will be successful.

The United Nations Volunteer Platform
Although my desire to work for UNICEF was mainly dashed, I had turned my focus to the United Nations. Such aspirations may be seen to be somewhat fanciful by some; we are all aware of how challenging getting a job with the United Nations can be. I had previously been advised by someone to volunteer with local NGOs in order to obtain work experience. So, I figured what better organization than THE United Nations? Hence began another grueling search.

You can apply for positions at several of the UN’s member agencies via their online platform. I created my account on their website United Nations Volunteer Platform. It is an online platform that allows you to apply for positions with a parastatal of the United Nations or other non-governmental organizations, either on-site or online. I’ve been a UN Volunteer for more than a year.

During that time, I’ve worked with four different organizations: the African Association of Entrepreneurs (AAE), Play for Peace (PFP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Turkiye and Nigeria, and the Public Health Aid Awareness and Education (PHAAE).

How to get started

Below are the steps to setting up a profile and applying for jobs:

  1. First, you need to create an account on the platform website United Nations Volunteer Platform and set up your profile. Update it with details such as your full name, educational background, professional certifications, skill set, passport number
    (for onsite jobs that may require travel), etc. Your NYSC also counts as work experience.
  2. On the DOAs (Descriptions of Assignments) tab, you’ll find several jobs both online and onsite. You can filter them to country, language, online, or onsite jobs. Click on the ones you’re most qualified for and apply.
  3. It is crucial to read the job description and tailor your motivation statement to each expected deliverable. Use any previous or similar experience you’ve had in the past or professional training or certification to pitch how you’ll deliver on the job. This could be the difference between a successful or a rejected application.
  4. After applying, you’ll get an email from the organization you’ll work with if you’re accepted. They’ll have an onboarding webinar or meeting and pair you up with a supervisor. They do not discriminate and my experience with them has been
    wonderful. A Certificate of Appreciation from the United Nations and, occasionally, the host organization will be given to you at the end of your assignment if you do well.
  5. Remember to keep updating your profile with any new skills and experience you acquire.

Other sites that offer virtual volunteer or internship opportunities are:

  • VolunteerMatch
  • The Forage
  • DO IT
  • Translators Without Borders
  • TechSoup
  • Zooniverse
  • Amnesty Decoders

Social media accounts you should be following
There are social media handles that post remote work opportunities, full- and part-time roles, internships, and even scholarship and fellowship opportunities. Follow them, turn on notifications, and apply to any you feel remotely qualified for. You’ll get better at writing applications and eventually, you’ll get a callback. It worked for me.

  1. Opportunities for Youth
  2. Opportunity Desk
  3. The Intern Place
  4. ToHire.ng
  5. Opportunities4Africans
  6. Youth Opportunities
  7. Dixcover Hub
  8. YouthHub Africa
    Don’t wait around for a white-collar job or that uncle that collected your CV, put in the work and give yourself a competitive edge. In a digital world,

Aisha Ahmad

Aisha is an avid reader and writer. She enjoys pastries, and coffee, and has a soft spot for felines. She hopes to retire in her thirties to the countryside, a barista in a quaint cafe with a view of the ocean.