What reading does for you

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin.

 

I saw this quote, and I couldn’t agree more. Reading is perhaps one of the best things one can do for oneself, and perhaps is the fastest way to self-development. One of the best things about reading is the inability to run out of reading materials. There are well over a million published books in the world, with at least one to match every personality and interest that exists in the world. Which, in essence, means that there is something for you to read, no matter what you like – fiction, drama, suspense, romance, non-fiction, biographies, law, crime, war… name it. There’s something for you.

 

Now, I understand that sometimes it might feel like there isn’t enough time, and reading could start to feel like a luxury you can’t afford. But if you could give me a couple reasons to convince you to read more…

 

  • Reading makes you a cat. Not in the creepy, Nigerian-movie kind of way, but reading gives you more than just one life. A good book gives you a portal to any country of the world, and any era of your choice. It gives you exposure you might not necessarily be able to afford in real life, and all you have to do is flick your wrists – turn the page.
  • Vocabulary development. The logic to this one is pretty simple. The more you read, the more words you pick up. The more words you pick up, the stronger your vocabulary. So if you’re looking to speak better, write better, or just know more words, reading is a great place to start.
  • Beat age-induced dementia. Research has shown that when cognitive ability is employed a lot in the early and mid-life of a person, the age-induced decline in cognition is slowed down. Which, in essence, means that if you read a lot when you’re young, the probability of getting dementia in old age is reduced, or at the very least, slowed down.
  • Become a people-person. When you invest a lot of time reading books, it aids your interpersonal skills, because in the course of reading you’re exposed to numerous characters, and from every point of view possible, such that when you do meet such characters in real life, there’s experience in dealing with them. And for the ones you’ve not encountered in the pages of your books, well you’d be willing to read them!
  • Fall asleep easily. Reading before bed helps you fall asleep faster because it helps take your mind off the stress of the day, it relaxes you, and when made into a routine, reading before bed sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to shut down for the day. Thus, catching a couple Z’s becomes a lot easier.

 

So there you have it! Amazing things a good book would do for you. From me to you, I would advise to trade in e-books for good old paperbacks. Some time away from all this technology would be great for you!

 

Stay Healthy Work Healthy

Living and working in a high impact city has a lot of benefits; high energy, fast paced, professional exposure, entertainment and lots of excitement. The downside also exists in the form of long working hours, unending traffic, a high cost of living, high levels of stress and sometimes, poor health. Most of it outside of our control, but good health is not and we should not allow it become so.

 

If you live in a major city, you may sadly, have become desensitized to the frequency of diagnosis of stress related diseases. Staying healthy is without a doubt one of the things is 100% within your control. It takes some sacrifice, discipline and commitment, but that’s pale when compared to hospital bills and having to manage debilitating illnesses that can be avoided. The paradox of healthy living, however, is that for something so important, it is also severely overlooked, deemed unimportant in the face of seemingly “more important” things like work. What we fail to see, unfortunately, is that our state of healthiness – or unhealthiness, as the case may be – is a determinant factor in just how productive we are at work.

 

 

Like most people, you may have hopped on – and then off – the “fit fam” train, promised yourself many times that you will start working out an hour a day? How did that turn out? The thing about living healthy, is that it’s not a quick fix. It can’t be a quick fix. Living healthy isn’t something you binge on. It’s more than a three-day fruit cleansing and intensive detoxification. It is not magic either, you can’t just wake up and begin to do one hour at the gym every day. It’s a process; a series of intentional lifestyle adjustments, geared toward a clear goal – to be healthier.

 

 

Healthy living involves understanding that “you are what you eat, how you move, rest and sleep”.

What you eat actually literally translates to your ability to function properly. Eating healthy contributes to your cognitive ability reduces fatigue and irritability, increases energy levels and logical thinking, and increases all-round productivity.

 

 

There is also exercise. It is possible to come up with a lot of seemingly logical reasons to not workout; not enough time, not enough energy, no gym equipment, no hot workout clothes… a lot of reasons, and they’re logical. However, living healthy is nowhere near complete without physical activity. I know you drive. I know Lagos wahala (hassle) is enough stress for a year. But stress is not exercise. Exercising helps to keep blood pressure in check, fights obesity, helps the heart, and reduces risk of diabetes. In the workplace, exercising regularly aids your memory, helps concentration, and enhances creativity! It’s always a great idea to incorporate exercise into our everyday lives; from walking to jogging or running to leg raises that can be done in the office while sitting at our desks, to skipping the elevator and taking the stairs, exercise does a whole lot of good for the body.

 

 

In addition to eating healthy and working out often, living healthy also involves knowing your numbers; blood pressure, blood sugar, BMI. It includes drinking more water, fighting to be and staying happy as well as getting enough sleep.

 

 

Remember, you can only give what you have. If you’re not at your health’s best, you can’t give much. Always remember that! Take care of yourself. It’s important!

The Reality of the Skills Gap

Every year, many hopeful and promising students graduate from institutions of higher learning, eager to join the workforce and contribute their quota to national development. Some estimates say that Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions produce an average of 500,000 graduates annually and a Jobberman survey taken by almost 90,000 people, says that 47% of the Nigeria’s university graduates are unemployed. When you consider both unemployment levels and number of graduates produced annually (and the fact that the number of graduates produced annually will keep growing), it becomes obvious that the competition for available jobs will continually be quite stiff.

 

Why are many people unable to find work? Why do many employers struggle to find entry level employees with basic skills? A good argument could be that the number of available jobs keep reducing as many businesses scale down or close shop based on the current state of the economy but does that mean that no one is hiring? I dare say no, there are still organisations who can afford to hire new staff so what could be the issue?

 

Employers often complain about the lack of employable graduates, citing that many of these graduates do not even possess basic workplace skills and attitudes such as communication skills, analytical ability, and initiative, and in many more cases, the required technical skills. Of the few graduates who do end up employed, many are put through various kinds of formal and informal retraining programmes by their employers in order to bring them up to par with organizational skills requirements. Why are many graduates unprepared for the workplace?

 

The truth is that many of our schools do not prepare graduates for the workplace and many graduates also do not take the initiative to prepare themselves for work. Many assume that their basic education is sufficient to get them the jobs they require forgetting that the competition for available jobs is extremely stiff. At the root of it all is the skills gap.

 

A skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required by the market place and the skills that employees and potential employees have to offer. Realising that a gap exists is the first step, how then does one bridge the gap in order to enhance his/ her job search? You conduct a skills gap analysis to help you identify the skills you need to meet your career goals and your level of proficiency in those skills. Thus, the questions to ask are;

  • What do I want to do?
  • What skills do I need to have to do what I want to do?
  • What are the generic skills required by majority of employers irrespective of role?
  • Do I have some of those skills and if so, how good am I in those skills?
  • How can I improve on my existing skills?
  • How can I get the skills I need?

 

Students and early graduates must consistently seek out opportunities to develop and enhance the skills they need for life. Many will say it’s hard to get the first job that will provide the learning platform but there are also a lot of other opportunities one can take before that. Consider internships, volunteer opportunities, involvement in student bodies and independent projects, etc. everyone has an opportunity to acquire a level of skill in most areas they seek but the reality is that many are not taking advantage of the obvious ones around them. For example, if you want to develop your writing skills, write for the campus paper, learn to take minutes of meetings, spend time developing good term papers. If you want to develop organizational skills, plan a meeting or an event. Most importantly, learn how to use the computer and the internet.

 

While you are job hunting, do not be idle. Find opportunities to develop and use your skills, the idler one is, the greater the chances of one’s skills diminishing. Don’t wait to struggle for the available jobs, take your career in your own hands.

 

Rethinking Talent: What we should really be doing when people discover themselves

Since we agree most people become clearer about what they want to do after the early stages of their career and in fact encourage most people to find their “purpose”, isn’t it logical to throw open the employment/opportunity gates to people who are switching careers?

 

When it comes to choosing careers, very few people are so lucky to find out early on what they want to do life-long. The reality is that most people stumble into it at different points in their lives; early, mid-life or later in life. We repetitively ask people to find their purpose because ”purpose” is so important. It gives life meaning, it makes you content, fulfilled, it energises and it refreshes. When they do find that purpose, how much of a chance do we give to them exploring it? Should we allow people to continue to work to keep up with bills or really encourage work that makes them thrive?

 

I believe we should do more. I believe we need a talent re-think especially because we know most people discover their real interests later rather than earlier. I believe people should be given the opportunity to explore their interests to the maximum and hiring policies need adjustments to accommodate what is simply reality.

 

What to do when you figure out what makes you tick:

  • Make a transition plan; immediately. Writing things down actualises thoughts and adding timelines gives you a mission. Make a detailed transition plan to include the skills needed where you are going, where to learn them and when to have learned them by.

 

  • Create a plan for networking in this new space and building the necessary connections.

 

  • Learn the skills, within the timelines. Things change rapidly and you most certainly do not want to complete your learning only to find that you are already out-dated. Review constantly and keep up with industry trends.

 

  • Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer: Cut your teeth, make your errors where you can be forgiven. Give volunteering everything like it were a paying job and learn as much as you can.

 

  • Respond to vacancies, sell yourself and confidently advance towards chasing your dreams; you have everything to gain.

 

 

This is for HR Professionals:

You cannot be the human in Human Resources if you are not applying human nature to the way you view and accept talent. Inclusive employment should include people who are changing careers at various levels. It’s a reasonable assumption to believe that an older person who has recently re-trained may be more disciplined and come with a higher level of work readiness than a younger one.

 

We ought to drive policy that really ensures we are equal opportunity employers and provide access to great talent at all levels.