How To Land Your Dream Job! An Interview with Akindele Afolabi – Experienced HR Consultant, Career Manager & Author

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Good day Africa,

Trust you have gotten into the swing of 2016 and enjoying the ride. I have and I am having a blast.

Today, we present to you our very first interview for the year and we have on our hot seat, a very experienced Consultant in the Human Resources field. He majors in rendering career management services.

He shares his very insightful perspectives on a wide range of issues around HR Consultancy, Resume Writing, landing your dream job and more.

It is a loaded package and it is all yours. Enjoy!

Akindele Afolabi 1

Tell us about Akindele Afolabi – family, ethnicity, education…

Akindele Afolabi is the founder of Career Edge Limited, Nigeria’s foremost dedicated career management service firm.

I help individuals answer many career-related questions such as, “Who am i? What am I good at? What am I motivated to do? What is most important to me? etc and also help them make decisions on career related issues that affect performance.

I work with organisations to empower their people to take ownership of their career management and development so as to improve employee’s alignment of self with the drive to achieve organisational goals.

Prior to founding Career Edge, I spent my 12 working years in the consulting and banking sector serving in different leadership capacities.

I have an M.Sc. in Service Management and Design from the University of Warwick, UK; B.Sc. in Sociology from the University of Ilorin, Diploma in Counselling, Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a couple of other certificates.

I am from the Sunshine State in the South Western part of Nigeria. I am married to Iretiogo Afolabi and I am the Resident Pastor of my Church in Lagos.

You have worked in the human resource management and consultancy space for about 12 years. What would you say is the most important ingredient for uncommon success as an HR Consultant?

What is required for success as an HR Consultant is not uniquely different from what is required for success in other career endeavors speaking generically, though the level of sacrifice differs. You must be able to co-create visible values for your clients and you must have what it takes to deliver the value.

To co-create visible values, you must have an understanding of the business of your client and their pains in your area of focus. This requires that you listen to them before you can help them.

You must also have the competencies (knowledge, skill and attitude) to execute the demand placed on you by the need to create value for them.

As an HR Consultant, can you give us a peep into what your typical day looks like?

There is hardly a typical day as an HR Consultant. You are providing solutions for clients and you do not know what the next business challenge might be. This does not however mean that you do not plan daily, but you have a flexible plan which can be easily adapted to work demands without compromising on your deliverables.

I start my work day early to enable me execute my plans before other intrusions like meetings, demands from colleagues, and other operational and tactical  issues begin to crop up. I use the early hours to set the day in motion and execute some mental activities such as reading, writing proposals, working on clients’ project, reflecting on my work etc.

Sometimes I hold internal meetings and set out by around 11.00am for client meetings and business development. Depending on the number of client meetings and location, I may be back in the office between 2.00pm to 5.00pm.

Work continues in the office till about 8.00pm. I spend most of this period attending to operational tasks, holding project meetings, responding to emails, etc.

It doesn’t end there; I still work late into the night when I get home on some days. Just like the early morning time, I spend this time on strategic work and self-development. It doesn’t usually follow this order, but this gives an idea of what might happen on a day.

Akindele Afolabi 2

What are some of the major challenges you have encountered in this business?

Working as a consultant is very demanding and I consider it a calling more than a job. It requires people with the right skill set, but more importantly, the right attitude. Getting people with the right attitude and staying power for Consulting is a major challenge that most consulting firms face.

You are selling know-how, so it is not your typical job where you may get away with residual knowledge. It takes a lot of discipline to be able to meet the ever pressing deadlines and still create time to update your knowledge in the areas where you provide solutions for your client. Getting the people with the “calling” to work as consultants is one major challenge especially with indigenous consulting firms.

You have also authored an amazing book that is focused on Writing Resumes. What is the title of the book? What are the three biggest benefits of the book to your target audience and why?

The e-book which is my second book is titled “The Complete Resume Building & Interview Creation System”.

I would identify the following as three key benefits of the book;

  1. To help readers understand what a resume is and the purpose it is created to serve.

I decided to write the book when people send me documents supposedly resumes but at best a semblance of “contact us form”, lacking any basis to contact them. I noticed that I found myself making comments on the resumes and sending it back to people to update before I can send it forward to potential recruiters. It appeared to me that when people start looking for jobs, they just hurriedly put a resume together, perhaps using a template online or creating one for themselves and send it to whoever, expecting to be called for an interview. One other thing that strikes me is that, sometimes the people with the wishy-washy resume are capable of doing a good job but it is never reflected on the resume and hence there is no way to tell that they can do it and get called for a discussion.

I decided to put the book together to address this concern to let people know that creating a resume is a job on its own and needs to be done well. I believe that if people know the real purpose a resume serves, they might want to take the extra time to create a good one that speaks well for them in their absence

  1. A reference book to equip readers with the practical step by step approach to create a result oriented resume.

I have often been asked the best format for a winning resume and I have also seen people offering to sell resume templates that get job instantly. I do not share the opinion that there is a particular format of resume that gets anyone a job because one size never fits all. I believe if you understand the purpose of a resume in the first instance, you will be able to create one that can get you an interview given the knowledge of how to do it. In my 12 years career as an HR practitioner, I have screened thousands of resumes and I know that what get people called for an interview is their succinct communication of how they are a fit for the role.

The knowledge of how to create a resume aligned to the role being sought after was therefore shared in the book such that anyone can follow the steps to create a great resume

  1. Help the reader to see that having a great resume alone does not guarantee an interview and teaches how to get the resume read by recruiters

When people succeed in creating a great resume, they seem to forget that they are not likely to be the only one with a great resume and applying for the same job. They also forget that the recruiter receives thousands of application per job and are unable to read through all.

Another obstacle that most people with great resumes are not aware of is the trap of the ATS (Applicant Tracking System), a computer software which organisations use to sieve resumes rather that real human being.

This suggests that having a great resume alone may not get you an interview. The book addresses these concerns by teaching simple and ready to use tactics to get resumes read by recruiters. It also provides tips on what can be done to avoid the trap of the ATS.

The population of unemployed graduates in Africa is alarming. What tips would you only recommend to a close friend (and everyone reading this blog) for landing the jobs of their dreams?

Let me attempt to answer this question by clarifying what a dream job is. To most people, it is the type of job that pays good salary and probably offer some great rewards, compensation and good work colleagues and environment. This may better be described as a “high paying job”.

If this is the conception of a dream job, then the tips are not really far-fetched. They are everywhere on the internet and can be easily accessed.  However, this type of job mostly provides extrinsic satisfaction while leaving individuals that have them with some internal cravings that seem not fulfilled by the “dream job”.

I wrote a 3 part article on the concept of Dream Jobs where I characterized a dream job as;

  • Doing what you are passionate about doing. The word passion is synonymous with compelling emotion. Emotions are feelings and feelings are internal. When you are passionate about something, it means that there is a force derived from within fueling the desire to do that thing or act upon it. The drive is not some external pressing needs.
  • Using your natural gifts to make a difference in the world
  • Things you do that give you satisfaction and joy that no money can offer you.

The use of the word ‘Dream’ signifies an ideal state, a fantasy which is a product of the imagination. When you say dream job therefore, it is better construed as referring to an ideal state, a job that offers a creative satisfaction, the chance to live your dream and impact the world (micro or macro)

Based on the foregoing, my submission therefore is that if you are going to find your dream job, you will need to first conduct a life audit to ask yourself thought provoking questions and find answers to them.

Your dream job flows from your innate abilities; you must identify your innate abilities, skills, interests, job satisfiers and values before you start pursuing your dream job. It is in expressing the innate abilities to add value to mankind that the dream finds expression.

Akindele Afolabi

What are three hard-to-spot pitfalls that are critical to avoid in landing a dream job?

If I go by my submission on dream job above, I would say that the trap most people fall into is rushing into a career without having a self-assessment. My experience working with clients in career counselling has proven this over and over again.

Doing a self-assessment goes a long way to help you plan your career even if you don’t start out with your dream job. You know where you are going and you understand that your current job, which might not be fulfilling is a means to an end. I have found out that people who have this approach to their job, no matter how bad the job is, are still happy doing the job because they know where they are going.

The second pitfall I reckon with is misplaced priority. Like my former boss used to emphasize “it is the law of sowing and reaping, not reaping and sowing”. When there is a strong desire to reap first without sowing, many people have jeopardized their career.

Many people want a white collar job but the reality on ground shows that there are very few of this especially at the entry level compared to the number of graduates coming out of our higher institutions every year. Between the period 2007 and 2011, average new entrants into the labour force (Nigeria) was put at 1.8 million people per annum and it was projected that the number will increase to about 8 million by 2015 (National Bureau of Statistics – NBS).

In Q3 of 2015, the statistics made available by NBS shows that 41,672 jobs were created in the formal sector, 428,690 in the informal sector and 4,818 in the public institutions. In the same period, there were 1.8M entrants into the job market, excluding the existing unemployed/underemployed active hands.

If we compare the number of jobs created with the number of people that need a job, it becomes obvious that the needs can never be met.

I wonder why a graduate is still sitting at home lamenting lack of jobs when there are a couple of things he/she can do with the gifts and talents God has given him/her. Many people discount their skills if it is not linked to paid employment and because they have so much focused on getting a ‘high paying job’ they undermine their abilities.

If you notice the statistics presented above, you would observe that most jobs were created in the informal sector (this has been the trend), if people don’t start to rethink their priorities, it will take long to wake up to realities.

Finally, people need to be aware that dream jobs don’t exist on the shelf to be grabbed, they are created and every one can create his/hers.

Looking out 3 to 5 years, beyond the obvious trends, what do you think will be the next big change in the African jobs market?

African is regarded as an emerging market which implies that many business opportunities will be created in the region. With relative political stability, FDI may increase leading to more jobs being created.

However, global changes in business outlook will continue to impact the way work is getting done in organisations. This will require new roles being created, some existing roles being eliminated or merged, plus other factors that will not only require new skills to be acquired but also render some categories of workers redundant.

Without sounding prophetic, there will likely be an inverse correlation between the business opportunities created and employment rate.

The growth of e-commerce, servitisation of manufacturing, uncontrolled population growth and business process outsourcing are key factors that will impact the direction of the African job market.

Freelancing is also likely to grow especially with the increased rate at which employees are made redundant. In a bid to survive the redundancies, skilled individuals will offer their skills to organisations as free agents which in turn will help the organisations keep down employee costs.

If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ [websites, books, materials] you’d recommend, which would you include and why?

My perception about life is that the way you think determines your life and I have personally been influenced by the books and speeches of many great minds in this area. I will recommend these two books to anyone who desires to live a fulfilled life;

1- Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao – Dr Wayne Dyer

2- Excuses Be Gone – Dr Wayne Dyer

Akindele Afolabi

What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?

Fortunately they are all scripture-based and these words have really comforted and encouraged me in whatever I have gone through.

They are;

  1. I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me
  2. I am His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works
  3. All things work together for my good

What are three life memories you recall most frequently and why?

The one that readily comes to mind because of the way it changed my life was when my first boss mandated me to deliver a talk on his behalf to a group of Rotarians in Warri just after my NYSC in 2002. I had never done anything like that before and I dreaded public speaking so much that for the first time, I wished the world would come to an end before that day so I didn’t have to do it.

Unfortunately, the world is yet to come to an end. I tried all I could to make the cup pass over me but it got stuck. While all this was going on, I was equally preparing for the talk until the day eventually came. I went to give the talk with the support of all the confidence boasters I read about and it turned out to be an exceptional performance. I got a standing ovation and I suddenly became a celebrity as many people came to me to get my contact details. This event is significant because it taught me a great lesson in life – to confront my fears. Since then, I have not stopped speaking in public.

What is your inspiration? What keeps you going?

I believe I am created to solve a problem and in everything I do, I always ask myself if I am actually solving the problem or I am just going through the motions. I adjust based on my response

Any mentors?

I do submit myself to the mentorship of some key people whose opinion I revere in different areas of my life. I relate with them through their speech, books and in few cases personal meeting.

For you, Life is….

A journey, a good navigation system and the desire to keep moving will get you to the destination. I also believe that the destination is in every step of the journey

Africa will rise when…..

We start to think beyond ourselves and begin to see that we have what it takes to be the greatest continent (Proverbs 13:23).

What words of wisdom or advice would you like to leave with the youths of Africa? Inspire a young African in a sentence.

The change you need in your life is never going to come if you expect it from any external body (e.g government, your employer, your spouse etc) it must start with you by changing the way you think.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to begin to rethink his/her career in the light of the purpose for which you believe you were created.

This has been a very insightful interview. Many thanks for sharing with us, Akindele.

You are most welcome.

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And that’s a wrap. Do you have any questions / comments, you can type them in the comments section below.

You can connect with Akindele Afolabi via his blog http://thecareeredge.biz/careerinsights/,his twitter handle @careeredgeplus, or his Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/careeredgeplus/

Thanks for reading. Do have a fruitful week ahead.

Cheers.

© 2016 – 2017, Arise Arizechi. All rights reserved.

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