Adulting is a proper scam that comes with daily struggles. If it’s not waking up to the reality of just how expensive curtains are, it’s realising you need work experience to get jobs, but you also need jobs to get work experience.

So, how does the inexperienced job seeker battle unemployment and sapa? I spoke to seven people who landed jobs they weren’t qualified for. For some, it was by luck and preparation. For others, well, it involved wuruwuru to the answer.

“Omo, it was God”

— Mide*, 25, Software engineer

After NYSC, I wanted to get into tech, but I didn’t think I was skilled enough to get an entry-level role because of the steep learning curve in the software technology space. 

Before passing out of NYSC, I’d reached out to a friend who got an intermediate engineering role in a healthcare technology company. By industry standards, the role requires two solid years of experience (not training experience o). So I tried to get a referral from him for an internship to gain skills and experience while learning from seasoned engineers. The internship didn’t work out, but surprisingly, my friend suggested I give the intermediate role a shot, which I did. 

I was scheduled for two rounds of interviews with about two weeks to prepare in a programming language I barely worked with. Although I had taken courses on it as an undergraduate, I’d rate myself a beginner. Yet there I was, prepping for a more advanced role to work in the language. I had help from experienced friends pointing me to needed resources, so I doubled down on studying and watching tutorial videos up until a day before the interviews.

I passed the interviews as I was blessed to get the questions I’d prepared for. Omo, it could only be God. Two days later, I was offered the role. Na so I take resume remotely for US company o. The gross salary and benefits were mind-blowing. God really blessed me, and I’m grateful because I knew I was not up to par for the role. I spent two and a half years there, got promoted and led million-dollar software projects. My experience there really kickstarted my career in software engineering.

“I knew next to nothing”

— Dara*, 24, Talent management associate

My current role is my very first job, and honestly, when I applied, I knew next to nothing. I’d just finished NYSC in 2021, and it’s not like I wasn’t looking, but nothing good was coming. Even internship roles required experience, and I had absolutely nothing except for the teaching I did during NYSC.

So I took free soft skills training online and whatever employability course I could find. Then one of the classes’ Telegram groups would post job vacancies. That’s where I saw the advertisement for my current job. They asked for two years’ experience, so I begged my friend, who writes CVs as a side gig, to write one for me. I don’t know how she did it, but she manufactured three years of experience for me and even changed my NYSC teacher role to Human Resources. She padded my CV with so many skills that even I was feeling myself. I applied, and in one week, they reached out to me to set up an interview. Luckily, I know how to talk a good game, so I completely wowed the interviewers. I got my job offer the next day. 

I’m smart, so I’ve learnt on the job. Now, I try to influence the company to hire people who don’t necessarily have the required experience. If they can prove themselves during the interview, what do they need experience for?

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“I don’t think they noticed”

— Joe*, 26, Video editor

For my first video editing gig, I outsourced 70% of my duties, and I don’t think the clients noticed.

Here’s what happened. I was still learning the ropes when a relative told me their company was hiring a video editor. I didn’t meet most of the requirements and had practically no experience, but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. With my relative’s help, I didn’t have to submit a portfolio, they just put in a good word for me, and I moved straight to the interview assessment. 

I was given a small editing task, so I outsourced it to a professional for a price. I got the job, and since it was remote, it was easy for me to just outsource the difficult tasks (which was most of the work, TBH) to other people. The people I paid knew it was for my job, but they didn’t care. But I used my free time to ramp up my skills, and about a year in, I started doing most of the work myself.

“I didn’t even apply”

— Tony*, 22, Graphic designer

I’m a pharmacy student, but I just have a thing for graphic design, which I taught myself with no formal training whatsoever. I recently got my first job as a graphic designer for a not-too-bad media company. And the funny thing is, I didn’t even apply. I tend to post my designs on LinkedIn — in fact, that’s all I’ve done there since I joined in 2020. Fast forward to November 2022, a recruiter reached out to me and offered me the job. I thought it was a scam till I got to their office and got an employment letter. I didn’t even have a professional portfolio.

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“I just kept applying”

— Naima*, 27, Content strategist

I’m a trained community health worker, but I really don’t like the field. I just studied for it because I couldn’t get my desired course in university. I got introduced to social media management when I graduated in 2018. My aunty asked me to help with posting the items she sold on Facebook because, according to her, I knew how to write convincingly. I did that for a while, and we eventually opened an Instagram account I also managed. I didn’t even know people got jobs as social media managers till I came across it on an online job board around 2019. I decided that was what I wanted, so I just kept applying to different places, even though I had no formal experience. I kept at it for about seven months till I finally got my first job. I’m not even sure how I convinced them to hire me, but thankfully, they did, and they never regretted it. That job helped me become the content strategist I am today.

“I was just trying my luck”

— Kofo*, 25, Product manager

I studied French in school, and for the longest time, I thought I’d end up as a teacher. But just after NYSC in 2019, I got introduced to  Product Management. And I found out I didn’t need a degree to pursue the career path. I could just get online certification. So, I attended as many classes and training as possible. 

The next step was to find someone who’d trust me enough to give me a job. I didn’t find many internship opportunities, so I had to focus on entry-level positions, which required some form of experience. I was just trying my luck, so I don’t know if it was God just looking out for me, but I landed a junior role in a startup within six months of actively job-hunting. They just decided to take a chance with me; I’ll forever be grateful for that.

“I technically faked experience”

Ola*, 28, Admin officer

I once got a job that required three years’ experience when I had less than six months in total — from student industrial work experience (SIWES). I’d graduated four years prior, in 2015, and I was unemployed the whole time — save for my pastor helping me out by paying me to train our six-man choir, like a music director kinda gig. It’s a really small family church, so the major qualification I had was that I could sing. 

In 2019, when a church member shared a vacancy for an executive assistant with three years of experience in, I wasn’t sure what to do. I told my pastor, and we decided to use his company — a business name he’d registered one time — as my employer, since he was paying me any way. So, we put it on my CV that I was an executive assistant at his “company”. Technically, I faked the experience, but it wasn’t like it was a job I couldn’t do. And I obviously did it well because I got promoted to admin officer in 2022.

*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.

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Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.