Twenty-two-year-old United Kingdom-born Nigerian, Alfred Ajani, employs an unconventional job-search method to break off from the shackles of unemployment.
Alfred Ajani was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The British-born Nigerian whose father hails from Ibadan, Oyo State, struggled hard to see himself through university education.
After bagging a second class upper honours in Sports Marketing from the Coventry University, England, last May, what he dreaded most appeared to catch up with him. Before his graduation, he feared the possibility of joining the league of thousands of unemployed UK graduates who settle for lowly jobs, such as bar tending.
Having been unable to get a job with over 300 applications for various positions in the UK, Ajani decided to jettison the traditional cum online job-hunting techniques that had since proved abortive.
Ajani, in an online interview with The Punch correspondent, notes that many of his associates, including close family members, advised him to relocate to Nigeria with a view to securing a suitable employment and earn a decent living.
But according to him, relocating to Nigeria would seem much like he was a failure.
“My parents are from Ibadan, Oyo State. I live with my mother and stepfather, a prince from Oyo town in Oyo State, and my father lives in Nigeria. My mother owns a catering business here in the United Kingdom, which she is looking to take to Nigeria soon.
“Initially my student fees didn’t come through so I had to get a job and divide my money wisely, for food, accommodation, books and university trips. I was unemployed for three months after my university education.
“I tried calling companies directly before sending my CV. So, my name was fresh in their heads above all other potential employees, but it didn’t work. I also tried assessment centres and that too did not work out, as they were overpopulated.
“Besides, going to Nigeria for work was suggested to me. But I would hate to feel like I gave up in England. I applied for more than 300 jobs before I changed my job search tactics.”
After what he describes as a frustrating three months of job search, Ajani says he came up with the idea of holding up a sign advertising his credentials at the busy Waterloo Train Station, a central London railway terminus.
Dressed in a black suit and armed with dozens of copies of his resume, Ajani employed the unconventional method of marketing himself to chief executives who commute via the terminus on August 19, by holding a sign that stated, “Marketing Graduate (BA Hons 2.1 Coventry Uni) Ask for CV.”
No sooner had Ajani held up the sign than he caught the eyes of dozens of executives who began to request his CV.
Stating that he had a “rush of people” offering him on-the-spot interviews, he explains that he was overwhelmed so much that he had to recommend his other jobless friends for some of the roles.
“I attended about five interviews and had a few over the telephone. Various firms that initially showed interest in me have already interviewed five of those people I recommended. Apart from those five, some potentially have upcoming interviews,” he explains.
Asked how he came up with the idea, which many have described as a stunt, the Woking Sixth Form College graduate states that the gestation period of the initiative was during one of his internships at a youth-led community charity organisation, SE1 UNITED in the city of London.
The Curriculum Vitae and Employability Workshop, which he attended during his internship, he adds, opened his eyes to a new world of possibilities.
He states that he shared the idea with some of his jobless colleagues at the charity, but many of them failed to show commitment to the cause and come with him to the train station.
Insisting that nobody suggested the idea to him, Ajani says he was used to doing things to be noticed.
Citing his active years in the round leather game of football, he explains that he changed his hair colour to stand out of the pack, adding that the intention at the time was achieved.
“This idea came to me when I was working at the charity called SE1 UNITED, during its Curriculum Vitae and Employability Workshop. So, I suggested it to myself during the workshop.
“Then the next day, after the workshop, I went back to the charity and discussed the idea with them. I also thought of a few new ideas as well, and I was encouraged by all and kept everyone updated.
“I knew the stunt would work. When I suggested it to friends at the charity, some wanted to come with me but were not ready to wake up and get prepared at the same time I did,” Ajani said.
But on September 9, exactly three weeks after Ajani pulled the stunt at the train station, he took up a job position he described as “fantastic” at an international recruitment consultancy firm, Asoria Group, in London.
Ajani, now the company’s new Marketing and Public Relations Projects Manager, has the responsibility of handling its press, publications, events and campaigns.
The Asoria Group, he enthuses, has good organisational growth opportunities for him, which, according to him, aligns with his life goals.
Stating that he got the job opportunity because of his out-of-the box initiative, the young graduate says he currently leads a “small team” that brainstorms on ideas.
Not done with such creative moves, the youngster adds that he is looking forward to pulling “a lot more stunts” to get the company noticed.
“I settled for the Asoria Group because it is offering me a role I am interested in. The job role and growth opportunities in the firm are fantastic. Besides, I feel like the Asoria group is happy to have me so I can start my mission to make their roles easier.
“With this new role, I aim to enhance the company’s brand awareness and have our phones ringing more than we dial out, be involved with events and campaigns in the local and outer communities,” Ajani adds.
The young man, who says his parents are proud of his exploit, notes that they feel “their son has done something special.”
He, however, denies receiving preferential treatment during the recruitment process.
Insisting that he also went through the same mandatory three-stage interview process like his colleagues, the 22-year-old declares, “It was not easy for any of us. We all had to prove we had what it takes.”
Ajani, while acknowledging the importance of internships and attending workshops for unemployed graduates, says the participants can gain valuable skills and experience during such sessions.
Asked if the stunt he pulled in the UK would work in Nigeria, Ajani could not give a definite answer.
“I have read comments suggesting the stunt would not work in Nigeria. Some people believe it wouldn’t work in Nigeria. But as a jobless graduate, do something to stand out. Take things to the next level. If you have an idea run with it; it only has to work once to be a success,” he adds.
While Ajani would not want to disclose his salary package at Asoria Group, he looks forward to building his own brand in the next five years.
“In the next five years, I see myself building the community around me; I see myself having my own brand. In the next five years, I want to be working on a lot of self-promotion techniques with young sports people trying to get noticed,” he explains.