“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” ― Nelson Mandela.
These profound words of Nelson Mandela hold true for many young university graduates. Completing 4 years of rigorous study can be compared to climbing a hill, however on completion of this, graduates only find out there are many more hills to climb as they navigate the professional world. Unlike the school system where students can find guidance from lecturers and counsellors on how to succeed, the world of work is a highly competitive place where only a few take times to help others who do not know their way around. Many graduates find that they are unable to transition smoothly into the working world and this leads to frustration.
The Next Generation Internship Programme (NGIP) run by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) is a rare opportunity which serves as a platform where young graduates and/or early career professionals are guided through the transition process to effectively settle into more senior positions within the civil society sector.
On completing coursework for my degree, the thought of being free to go out into the world to finally pursue the wonderful career I had imagined, filled my days. However, as time passed, the optimism and daydreams about a perfect, well-paying and fulfilling career quickly changed into worry about whether I was truly prepared for the world of work. These thoughts were amplified when I submitted my curriculum vitae for several jobs but did not get called for interviews. Doubts about my self-worth crept in at this point and I know that many university graduates in West Africa can resonate with this story.
The world of work is markedly different from the school environment and unfortunately, most degrees do not prepare students to handle the transition from school to work. As a result, when they are thrown into the proverbial ‘lion’s den’, they are swiftly swallowed up by the system. Not many companies are willing to hold graduates by the hand and make the transition process smooth and the few that do, are unable to absorb the large numbers that graduate every year. Nevertheless, these companies are doing great when it comes to grooming the next generation of leaders.
The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) is one of the organisations working tirelessly to raise the next generation of West Africa’s leaders. The organisation runs the Next Generation Internship Programme which aims at developing the professional capacity of West Africa’s young leaders while enhancing their civic consciousness. Within two months of being on this programme, my knowledge of the civil society sector in West Africa has expanded. I have benefitted from the numerous training sessions facilitated by the staff of the organisation. Sessions have been held in areas like Report Writing, Blog and Commentary Writing, Research Methodology, Proposal Writing, Leadership, among others. Content for training sessions even covered how to search for jobs, write CVs and cover letters that will guarantee success in job hunting. These training sessions, which are directly relevant to the workplace have been extremely helpful as they have aided me in the transition process from student to worker.
I have also had the opportunity to practically put to use the things I learnt during training sessions and this has aided in quick assimilation of concepts. My network has expanded and I am currently building professional relationships that I plan to keep long after this internship is over.
My participation in this programme has helped to rebuild my self-worth. Through the several lessons I have learned, both theoretically and practically, the programme is proving to be the helping hand I need to kickstart my hike up the hill to a successful career. I would therefore recommend it to early career professionals who are interested in civil society and the non-profit sector.
West Africa will be able to harness more of its talented minds if this programme is replicated in other sectors and the sub-region will be better for it.