As I stare on the notepad to write these few lines, my mind is blank, as blank as it was roughly two years ago in the year 2020, during the lockdown period. As a young student taking Human resources and Chinese, I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to become in future.
However, despite being unsure of how my post-studies years would be, my keen interest to learn and explore new waters landed me in an institution that is equipping me with the right skillset for the world of work. I am enjoying every moment of this journey.
Four months into this journey, since I commenced in October, my experiences have been from one blissful moment to the other.
A rather turbulent academic journey
In 2020, during my third year in the university, with the rise of active cases of the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions of higher learning including my university (University of Ghana) had closed temporarily due to COVID-19 protocols, paving way for the introduction of electronic learning (E-learning) for the rest of the semesters. A major setback in the form of a labour strike by university lecturers further deepened the trails of time. The regular academic calendar of thirteen (13) weeks of lectures was slashed to six (6) weeks.
As a third-year student going to my final year, adjusting to these new changes were daunting. However, I managed to adjust to the times despite my intermittent frustrations. On a very ordinary day, I chanced upon a “half- faced man” design on a friend’s WhatsApp status that stirred my interest. Although I had no knowledge or skill in graphic design and art, I tried to fabricate one. After several failed attempts to duplicate it, I sought the help of a friend who gave me some useful ideas and tools to design it.
This was the beginning of an enterprising journey to becoming a visual designer. I steadily became acquainted with a variety of tools like the Adobe technologies suite which I used to design front end of website, flyers for various events and logos. By doing this I improved my skills in graphic design.
With this newly acquired skill, I asked myself severally what I could do and which organisation would be a perfect fit, taking into account my academic background of social science. Little did I know what life had in store for me.
The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) came as a recommendation from my friend. It was the first time I heard of civil society and about this civil society organisation. So I had no prior knowledge of the kind of work one does within such an organisation. Therefore, I was skeptical about deciding whether I wanted to work in that sector or not. Nevertheless, I went ahead to send an email and my personal details to the Institute. After a couple of emails, a virtual interview date was set for the following month. I was excited and nervous not knowing what was in store for me. This was my first ever interview! My nervousness heightened when I saw three persons on my screen, “how did I not think of the possibility of being interviewed by more than one person?” I quizzed within myself. The panel however made me feel comfortable throughout the interview and I eventually got the job. Specifically, I was attached to the communications unit of the institute.
A smooth induction into the world of work
My first day at work was on 18th of October, a usual busy Monday morning. Everything from the general staff meeting, introduction to colleagues (who were very nice to me) and a quick tour round the premises was new to me. The most surprising thing was the absence of titles like “boss” commonly used in the world of work. Although each unit’s line of work differs from the other units, there was no such thing as subordinate or superordinate. Later, I was made to understand, the intention is to increase staff’ self-esteem, boost confidence and encourage face to face professional communication as well as maintaining mutual respect and discipline. Routine weekly staff meetings are religiously held. These meetings enable the Institute to keep colleagues abreast with the progress and current state of activities of each other’s unit.
Another thrilling revelation for me was working with colleagues from different parts of the West Africa sub region. For example, my unit head, Jimm Chick Fomunjong is from Cameroon and another colleague Abimbola Sadare. My unit head was working remotely from Cameroon. His immediate, Fiifi Boateng, programme officer for the communications unit made sure I quickly got acquainted with tasks carried out by the unit. Virtual unit meetings were held regularly.
My core duties
Starting off with updating the Institute’s social media calendar, my knowledge in excel paid off here. I was taught from the basics of checking my mails each morning to replying appropriately to these mails.
Gradually, more tasks came to my desk. I designed flyers, posted content on different social media platforms, updated calendars, answered internal telephone calls, set up virtual meetings with colleagues, sent block mails from mailing lists, among others.
Joining WACSI, I have learnt to take photos using a professional camera which to me was a plus because I knew nothing about photography, talk less of holding a camera. These and other tasks I still do as a programme assistant in the unit I work within. Private grooming sessions on soft skills like teamwork, leadership, communication and even celebrating my achievements are part of the whole package as I like to call it.
These have shaped me professionally and stimulated me to achieve more.
Some valuable lifelong lessons
With the experience I have gathered so far, my philosophy is, a person must not possess the quality of a fixed mindset but rather a growth mindset. A person with fixed mindset believes that one is born with specific talents and that there are certain things he or she will excel in therefore limiting his or her potential of acquiring new skills.
However, a person that possesses a growth mindset, believes that talent is just a small part the equation and that focus and effort makes one good at whatever he or she decides to achieve. It has been four months since I joined the Institute. Weeks of trial tasks have gradually turned into months of a buildup from where I began, as a cocoon transition into a butterfly and this is what I term “becoming a butterfly in the civic space”.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WACSI or its members. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WACSI concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.