There’s quite a disconnect between the preparation we receive in school for life after school. If ultimately the purpose of school is to prepare you for the job market, it shouldn’t just prepare you to work but also prepare you to navigate the politics of it. We should learn skills such as salary negotiation, what to expect for an entry level job for your field, and everything else. However, this is most often not the case and so we have no choice but to roll with the tides.
After I finished my first job and was halfway through my second job, it dawned on me how much I had undersold myself. Upon reflection, I can attribute this to five major causes:
- Lack of confidence
I was coming from quite an inexperienced place; I was fresh out of school, I didn’t know what the workforce expected of me, and I hadn’t quite grasped my potential. I was yet to be tested and so I put myself on the lowest pedestal. Well, my interviewers fed off this and leveled it as a bargaining chip.
- An eagerness to work, financial consequences be damned
I wanted to make up for my lack of confidence through work and experience, and so I was willing to work at the expense of my finances. I felt I could soar from there because I was going to dedicate my time and energy to my new job. Well, the confidence did arrive but not with the desired financial benefits.
I was quite naive when it came to the politics of the workplace. I firmly believed once I performed and met my targets, success was my due reward. Well that isn’t it. There’s a lot more to working than just showing up and doing your job. It isn’t school; you can’t just study hard, write exams and get good grades. Apart from your performance, you have to be visible, you have to put yourself out there, get seen, and get heard. That’s how recommendations happen, that’s how promotions happen. Unfortunately your work alone is not a big enough mouthpiece.
- Lack of information
I didn’t know a thing! Everything that I thought I knew, I didn’t know. I didn’t even know I had to ask! All I knew was: go out there, look for a job, and work your ass off. I spoke to no one about what to expect or what to demand. I didn’t know about benefits and allowances, all I knew was work, work, work.
- Generally underestimating the financing adulting requires
When you’re fresh out of school, responsibility doesn’t really dawn on you until say after your national service. When you need new work shoes, when you have to contribute to the upkeep of the house, and when you have your own needs that parents or elder siblings won’t foot the bill for, THAT’S when you find out what’s up.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have spoken to those before me; my seniors from school, my elder siblings, my friends, and even my colleagues. I would get information on what to expect, where to look for work, what companies to avoid, and what to demand. School might not prepare you, but there’s a wealth of information out there if you ask and keep asking. Generally divulging information about our salary isn’t something Ghanaians are forthcoming with, but then even if you do not get the spot on information, you might get a bit of a hint.
By Guest Hacker Eyram Seshie (@Sweyram)
Eyram is a regular Ghanaian and a feminist. She listens to too much music, is an undecided introvert, and is currently working in the Tech world.