Do You Want A Job or a Career?

I was recently giving a career pep talk to my colleagues when one ambitious fellow pulled me aside to ask for the difference between a job and a career. In my usual sarcastic way (I swear, I’m gonna get beaten up one of these days), I wanted to remind him that Google isn’t connected to PHCN (if you ain’t a Nigerian, that’s probably lost on you).
But then I thought deeply about it and found that I didn’t have a ready answer. So that evening, while nursing a tumbler of Vedka, ice and Coke, I sat to dimension it from my own perspective.
The internet is chuck full of different meanings but since jobs and especially careers are deeply personal things, maybe it would be better to look at it from that intimate angle. My definitions are definitely mine and I ain’t making any attempt to be politically correct.
A job is something you do to stay alive while a career is something you stay alive to do.
I’m already having a headache digesting that.
The Job
A job is what you do to earn money for its own sake. You don’t, necessarily, have to like it or even want to stay longer than required. As far as you are concerned, a job puts bread on the table and shirt on your back. You may or may not like your boss. You could even be like some people I know, when bored, you fantasize about beating your supervisor up. Trust me, while it’s a bad thought, it can be satisfying.
You get into a job out of necessity unless you are greedy lass where the perks and the money is what drives you. Jobs can be stressful as you do it for survival; you practically have to drag yourself out of bed each morning just to be there.
If you find someone who is cranky, hardly smiling, drives like a maniac and it’s evening – he’s coming back from a job.
Most jobs are dead-end; but if, and I mean a big if, you can find a light at the end of that job’s tunnel and which isn’t a train, it could become a career.
A Career
If you’ve dated a very cute girl before, you would understand what a career is. You just want to do it. It may or may not pay as much but it makes you satisfied and happy. It’s usually a lifelong obsession.
You make a lot of stupid and irrational decisions about a career – get certifications or additional degrees with the hope that it gets better. You spend long hours toiling away and most often than not a career turns into something successful because when you put in that much passion and energy, you are almost guaranteed to succeed. I know people who have taken pay cuts to drive a career. Careerists and entrepreneurs are cousins – they devote their lives, savings, relationships and everything to something they truly believe in.
How did I find myself in a job?
It’s never a fair world and the fight between job and career isn’t fair either. We all usually start with a job.
You get out of school with a good degree, exaggerated view of yourself and a taller-than-life rosy picture of a career in investment banking or petroleum. In this pictured life, you have a Ferrari at 27 and a private island by 35.
The first thing life does to you is make sure you comb the whole streets of Lagos until you are better than the latest version of Google Maps and can do better traffic update than Tsaboin Traffic talk. A thousand iterations of your résumé (CV) later you land your first job, usually a lowly contact center agent at a telco.
That’s a job.
I know a lot of people who marry people they don’t like but because of the goodness of their hearts, end up loving them. It happens with a job too.
You could start with a job but you make something good out of it. You become good at it and as you progress, people realize you are an expert and treat you as one.
A career is born.
What to do in a job/Upgrading to a career
Having a job isn’t bad. I mean, what’s the alternative? Even pimping is a job; it’s also a career for some… but that’s by the way.
Instead of fretting about how dreadful your job is, you could do the following to move from being in a job to having a satisfying career:

  • Be grateful for that job. No matter how terrible you think a job is, as long as it puts money on the table, it’s something to be happy about. Remember, it could be worse if you find your backside on the curb without any means of livelihood. While being grateful though, remember what it is, it’s just a job, don’t sell your soul, whatever it’s worth, for it.
  • Go for a very long walk to meditate and ask yourself what you want to do with your life. Don’t do less than 5 kilometers. It’s so simple to know what your career should be – if a genie assured you of success in whatever you do, what would you rather do?
  • Be reasonable in your expectations before your wife kicks you out of the house. Or how do you think she will react if you suddenly came up with the idea of a career in medicine when you lately spent N1M doing your 40th birthday?
  • If you think you can get joy out of your current job, then ask what you need to turn it into a career. You could have anchor role models and find out what they did to get to where they are or what set them apart in their fields.
  • Once you’ve decided on that career then act! Nothing kills a career faster than procrastination. The best time to start a good career was yesterday but the next best time is right now. Do you need some certifications to be able to practice? Go for it now. How much do you know about these career field? Read like a mad man! Does anyone know you and your capabilities? Go to industry events, network, play, mingle!
  • The journey to a career nirvana is narrow and full of blistering thorns but you can’t pull back. Long after the enthusiasm of being a CFA has died, you must have enough resolve in your reservoir to pull you to the next level.
  • A career is like a mahogany tree, it takes years and lorry loads of attention, affection and money for it to grow and blossom into something beautiful. Don’t play with fire while at it.
  • A career is a demanding mistress, it will take all of you. It can also be a bitch, it doesn’t care how much effort you have put in previously, if you don’t keep at it, you could lose it on a whim.

A Nice Job vs. Career, who wins?
I have discussed the easy part, here’s something to drive you crazy: You are sometimes unfortunate to be faced with a superbly paying job and just a career, which would you choose?

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Things to know before you quit your job

I’ve had a decent career and everyone expects me to jump ship to run my own business but I haven’t. This is for different reasons, but those closest to me know that I’m a closet chicken. Run my own business, are you kidding me?
Before you finally consider me a loser, listen to the best of my arguments.
You need skills to run a business
Unless you want to sell pepper and goat meat, you need a decent level of skills to run your own business. The more technical your dream business is, the more the skills you need to have before you jump right in. You want to sell foreign exchange? Better be sure you understand how it works. You want to become a real estate magnate? Make sure you know the difference between sharp sand and plastering sand.
Quite a lot of world-renown founders didn’t have long experiences but they created a whole new set of industries to play in. If you think you know as much as the Google boys or Zack, you can start right away! I wish you luck.
You need connections to land customers
Even if you are going to open a shop to sell gúgúrú and èpà, you need to know people to succeed. And you need gazillion of them: someone to buy key raw materials or products from; someone to facilitate licenses with the government; someone to link you with large corporates who will give contracts, etc.
You even need connections to recruit. If you depend on CVs and LinkedIn profiles to hire workers, you have entered one chance! The quality of your network is what determines how many believers are ready to leave their jobs to join your quest for glory.
It takes time and effort to build your business connections. It’s easier for those in front office roles such as marketing and sales to know a lot of people, than those of us who sit pretty in back offices making lives of others miserable.
And while at it, please work on your attitude. The fact that you are a senior executive with contractors and customers kowtowing to you means nothing. You don’t know the value of that network until you are out of a job.
So while still doing this cushy job, cultivate relationships. Be nice to everyone. Be fair to all and sundry. Help others as much as you can and don’t trample on lowly entrepreneurs.
Not everyone is an entrepreneur
We ain’t all born to be same. Think about it: growing up, some of us wanted to be doctors, politicians, lawyers, strippers, pilots, pimps, bankers, etc. The diversity is what makes the world go round. Imagine a world where everyone is a lawyer? I shudder at such thoughts.
So extending same arguments mean we can’t all be business owners and that doesn’t mean we won’t succeed. I would rather be a Tim Cook than a failed business owner.
A note of warning: The fact that you want to do your own thing doesn’t make you superior to others. Remember that you will recruit people to run your business. If you think working class are idiots, then you are going to treat your staff like idiots and they will, in revenge, do you over.
You need money to run your own business
Forget about your friends and that retired army uncle who promised funding for your silly business ideas, you need cold cash to start a business and preferably yours. When you depend on other people’s cash to get things going, you will end up with bosses worse than where you worked before.
You probably have to work for some time, save everything, forgo vacations and Louis Vuitton bags to save just enough to start.
The thing with money is… it is never enough!
You need balls to start a business
Some call it liver, heart or spine. I call it balls, smooth steel clanging balls. You need big balls to start a business. It’s not child’s play at all. This is where many of us are deficit. We are just scared.
Fear is not a bad thing unless we allow it to overwhelm us. At least that’s what I tell myself when I have a bad day at work.
Presentation matters with business
You don’t need spend a million dollars to look like a millionaire; however the way you look, or present yourself is very important. While dressing like a village headmaster mayn’t affect your salary at month end, it affects the pricing that you can get out of that product you want to sell.
Packaging is everything!
When you run a business, especially at the first stages, the first product you sell is yourself. Be poorly presented and you are likely toast.
Dress nicely. Shine your shoes and work on your poise. Let your PowerPoint be spiffy. These are the things the chickens like us look at when you come around to present your products and services for sale.
You need discipline to run your own show
If you think that when you start your own thing, you can wake up at any time you want and sleep when you feel like, sorry dude, you are in for a rude shock. Those who run their own businesses run long hours and ain’t appreciated. Customers don’t care.
If you can afford a vacation, (a big IF), take it and let’s see if you have any business or customers left by the time you get back.
The best place to learn discipline is right on the job you have now. If you can’t make it to meetings on time, you will be severely punished for it when you have your own thing. If you don’t know how to talk to your customers with respect, they will punish you by taking their businesses to those who appreciate them.
Discipline is extremely important!
Back to planet reality
There are a zillion other reasons to start or not to start a business. If you can hear your balls clanging and the wherewithal to start, go for it, but put the things I have talked above in perspective.
Don’t call your colleagues, who are chicken like me, chickens. We won’t forgive you when things gets rough with you. In fact some of us will dance on the grave of your business. Karma is a b*tch.
Save like your life depends on it. You will need that cash and much more.
If you decide not to start a business and be a career suit like me, hey, better be good at your job – else you find your butt on the curb. Appreciate whatever you have and be grateful for it. If you feel you ain’t appreciated, or paid enough, or respected enough, or celebrated enough, or get enough days off, remember, starting your own business is always an option. But if you don’t hear the clanging balls giving you assurance of success, respect yourself and do your job like a good boy.
Meanwhile…If I haven’t started my own business, where do I get these nuggets of wisdom from? Well, one last rule, don’t believe everything you read on the internet!

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Certifications Broke My Heart

Nigerians are funny people.  Everyone wants a shortcut to success. For those without the liver to ‘do Yahoo’ or go into politics, sing or act in Nollywood, the obvious choice is having a professional career. I mean a career in just anything… as long it guarantees a chance to impress Baba Nkechi, the neighbor.
I recently went on a rant of how having an extra degree has been mostly fraught with disappointments but I’m not yet done yet.
Will getting certifications or professional qualifications provide my career with a needed boost?
My naïve family and friends think so; and in fact, they feel it’s a “sure banker” strategy.
Let’s talk about it.
Certification and professional exams come in different shapes and sizes. Sexy and luring, boring and deflating. I’m making a half-hearted attempt to categorize them my way. In general it depends on what miserable career you are trying to enhance.
The Compulsory Certifications
Some careers where you can practically kill someone else, such as medicine, pharmacy, etc., are more regulated than nuns in a nunnery. These certifications come under my rant, because they are compulsorily required – else you won’t be allowed to do anything. For example a lawyer trying to practice without law school degree is flirting with going to jail; the only time you can be allowed to sell drugs without a pharmaceutical certification is when you are a drug dealer. That itself, will get your head missing in Indonesia.
The Computer Certifications
Nigeria welcomed the 1990s with a slew of computer schools – the corner street panacea to everything needed for a modern career. Everyone rushed to do computer education with dubious diplomas but the racket didn’t last for long because did it help build any career except for the account balances of the patrons.
But computer certifications won’t just die easily. It upgraded itself and became the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MSCE). For the first time we had something that if you had, it briefly guaranteed you to be god’s cousin. It actually helped careers… before the charlatans were discovered. MCSE cost one hand and two legs and people got jobs in droves. I remember the wistful way I used to look at Solix Technologies adverts then. Solix’s a story for another day. Then everybody I knew got on the MCSE train and it stopped being fun.
We moved on to other things.
Oracle certifications glowed briefly. Novell tried for just a few days before it became dead on departure. Cisco seems to have had the best outing so far. TheCCNA was easy to get on, with the promises of a good career as a network administrator. CCIE has been adjudged as visa to career heaven, wherever that is. But once you got on it, you discover that heaven is more of a personal thing. You get me?
I spend dearly every year for my Chartered Fellowship with British Computer Society. 6 years down the line, I’m still trying to justify it. It looks good on my LinkedIn profile though.
The Project Management Certifications
PMP came with a bang, followed by its cousin, Prince2. The myth of project management as a job or career was created by Nigerians who trooped to the UK on the HSMP programs, got there and couldn’t find gold on the streets of London. Hey, don’t crucify me yet! That’s the rumor I heard. I can’t be sure it’s true. Someone confirm for me.
Project Management meant many things.
OK, I was also on the PMP and Prince 2 trains. I did them to show that I’m also smart. I found out I was stupid, as it never did anything for me. I mean nothing!
Quite a number of friends, relatives and even family members did these certifications with a hope that their lives and careers would take a sudden change for the better. It never happened.
The Dead Ass Certifications
How people started doing HR certifications baffles me. I mean HR guys are usually miserable people who endure thousands of emails from jobseekers expecting them to perform miracles, find work and pull promotions out of thin air? They are a fantastic bunch but if you don’t want to become a lecturer in Nigeria despite respecting your uncle that’s a professor, don’t do HR certifications also.
I’m sorry if you did ICAN or ACCA with hope that being an accountant means anything, you need your head examined. The accounting work has been largely automated with fancy software. When last did you see a job vacancy for accountants? How many of your cousins with accounting degrees are accountants?
The Glory Certifications
If you can pass the CFA, a big IF, you deserve everything you think you deserve. Mostly nothing at times. CFA takes about 3 years to pass alongside 1,000,000 liters of coffee and stubby fingers where the nails have been eaten off and hopefully you get a good job when you are done. The only one person with CFA that I know whose life changed for the better because of this qualification was one dude who got moved from dead ass role to live ass investor relation job because he has CFA. The job itself doesn’t require CFA.
My Diatribe Against Certifications
Certifications, through the empty promises of improved career and super fly lifestyles provided by “armed robber” salaries, never came! I could have spent the tiny I had on beer and at least forgotten my sorrows for a while. Instead I slaved nights, read dumps, went to boring classes and got shafted.
I was intellectually raped.
And I wasn’t alone. I, being a very nice dude and a gentleman, am asking this question today: can certifications turn your career around or provide a needed leverage?
My humble assessment, if you bother to ask me, is no! I know some people have made it because of the few wonky certifications. I know a lot of people who have been “healed” in churches too; but hey, we both know where you go when malaria shakes you and rattles your bones.
You may want to read the following carefully.
Too many people are certified, and if you paid attention in your economics class, you would know that demand and supply wreck havoc to the most beautiful things. Once everyone has PMP, your project management certificate means nothing. Don’t even mention Prince2. I don’t know what else you can do with it apart from using it to craft paper kites.
If it was that good, someone would have put a gate on it. You want to do PLAB to be a doctor in the UK and earn good money? Trust me there is at least 7 years of extremely dreadful medical degree between you and that.
Does anyone know any successful accountant around? So why do you subject yourself to incredible cruelty with ICAN and ACCA? Nobody hires accountants these days.
I have been on interviews panels like a billion times and we hardly take a second look at certifications; we look at you! Are you smart? Do you come with a positive attitude? Can you work without supervision? Do you know why Buhari wouldn’t devalue the Naira? Nobody gives two flying horse legs about certifications – except of course if you are going to be in networking or IT security.
The Outliers
It’s not all doom and gloom. Some certifications will certainly enhance your chances. If you are going to be doing networks, better come with at least a CCNP else you should stay at home. If you have a CCIE, oh, we will roll out a damn red carpet for you. Even better, we will be thinking you are effing crazy not to be in Dubai earning Arab money. UAE, and to a large extent, the Gulf, is a nice place to be if you have Cisco networking certifications.
Same for the increasingly needed IT security experts. The spate of computer attacks these days is scary. So large companies like telecoms, banks, oil and gas, etc. are practically gobbling up IT security experts and no better ways to show you know your left from right than your certifications. CEH, CISM, CISSP, GSEC, etc. are regularly served for dinner.
Guaranteeing Career Success
Ok, I lied. I don’t know how to guarantee career success for you. I mean, I don’t know a single formula. What I know, however, are things you could do to move up the ladder – without spending the money you don’t have on phony certificates.
Probably when I’m less busy, I will come back to share some tips. Until then, goodbye and go have a good beer!

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