Preparing for after-school success, Dr. Esi Ansah’s perspective

October 9, 2018
“What do I do to be successful after college?” is a quested faced by most young adults. “How can I leverage my talents, find a sustainable source of income, and give back to society?” Sharing her point of view, Lecturer Dr. Esi Ansah and owner of a human resource firm, Axis Human Capital Ltd., replies:

“There’s no single answer. First off, it is important for young people to identify what success means to them. Do they define it regarding the intrinsic or extrinsic values they can attain? The ideal would be on the top right of a quadrant, meaning one has attained maximum purpose, meaning, as well as material value. However, a lot of times, that isn’t the case. There are many cases of young people becoming the breadwinners of the family right after college, making the material value of the job more relevant than internal fulfillment. Other times, we let people dictate to us what success should mean.”

In our collectivist society, where the group usually takes precedence over the individual, deciding what path to take in life can be tricky. Since our actions and choices have effects which can spill over to our immediate group such as family, choices about one’s life tend to be a collective decision.

“We live in a context where career planning cannot happen without parents’ input,” Esi explained. “You can motivate young people up to follow their heart, to follow their passion, but parents want to know that what you aspire to do can support you, and they don’t have to worry. So sometimes parents tend to be an obstacle. Their own experiences shape their perception of what their young ones should do or shouldn’t do, and a lot of young people don’t know how to handle that. So, a really  important gap that must be addressed is training young people how to negotiate with their parents respectfully.”

One might wonder though, “What happens if I have no idea what I want to do yet still want to be successful?” According to Esi, two things will make a person unsure about future career paths. “Such people are either very skilled at a number of things and find it difficult to choose one over the other, or on the other hand, they are not aware of the options available,” she said. “Unfortunately, we don’t do career exposure early enough. It is missing in our primary and secondary schools. However, it is important for people to understand that everything doesn’t have to be a career.”

With career planning being quite a foreign concept in the Ghanaian educational setting, Esi shared her framework to guide students and recent grads on carving out their professional paths.

“I call it SWITCH ON, which stands for strengths, weakness, interest, threats or obstacles one might face, core values, hopes and aspirations, opportunities you can leverage, and what next,” she listed. “People assume that career planning means you know exactly what you want to do. However, it is pretty much just an awareness of the key things you would like to do and identifying your capacities. It is important to know however that not everything has to be a career option. Some may be categorized under hobbies, business ideas among others. Additionally, a good career plan won’t make you feel like you need to finish everything at the same time. It is important to figure out priority areas and work at it one at a time because attempting to do everything at once, and at the same capacity level, is like trying to run after four toddlers. So it’s good to begin one and put whatever systems in place before starting something else.”

As a talent recruiter for corporate institutions across industries and levels with ten years under her belt, Esi shares some characteristics that managers look for in potential hires.

“For me, it is not a requirement per se to have experience in the specific job sector,” she said. “I look for someone who has technical competence, some basic knowledge and can piece things together and think critically. Someone who is eager and willing to learn. Secondly, I look for people who are interested in the industry and the organization. It is not uncommon to find people who are looking for something to pay the bills, but I don’t work like that. Also, having good writing skills are a must considering that they are so terrible in the job market these days. Lastly, people who continuously add value to themselves. I come across a lot of people who totally dismiss their input into family businesses and small businesses, people doing fantastic things but who feel like they haven’t achieved because of pressure from society and family regarding things they should do or should have done by now. All experiences matter and count on your CV.”

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