It was a bright sunny morning in Buea. In fact the sun was so bright that it melted away the clouds and Mount Fako was clearly visible in all its majestic splendor. This day was special. Excitement filled the air as we all stood clad in our solemn academic robes, ready to mount the podium and collect that piece of paper which would pave the way for us into an anticipated bright future like the weather that day.
And so we stood, excited to be leaving the campus after four years of a rigors double majors program. It was time for us to go out there and scout around, ready and ever so eager to put all the knowledge acquired those four years to push ourselves, families and country forward. Dreams of jobs practically materializing on platters of gold passed through our minds. After all, we are graduates and the corporate world had better get ready to hire and assimilate us.
Dreams!! Everyone has them I think so we all freshly graduated novices into the job market just had to dream big. And so, we excitedly looked forward to the award ceremony so we could be able to launch our ship and set sail into the waters of the job market.
Reality check! At least in my case! With all those dreams and passion to work, the years steadily began to add. At first I was not very worried. I still had youth to my advantage. One year, two years, three years despite writing applications to every possible place I could think of, the doors were permanently closed. It was as if someone locked all the doors to the job market where I was concerned and threw away the keys.
Four years and no jobs forthcoming. The tensions began. What would I do? There was no pressure from my family thankfully, but how long was I supposed to stay with family? What was the need of going to school all these years to come back to the family? I dropped applications and thought of what I could do to keep myself busy. I searched for schools abroad but everywhere was a dead end. I decided to try ENAM and my hands at apprenticing… tailoring, hair dressing but had to abandon half way. I now decided to put my culinary skills to work and started baking cakes to sell. That too was abandoned after some months. I just felt it wasn’t worth it having just at most two regular customers despite doing all I could to notify people.
Five years and I have made it to assistant CEO of Chomecam. There was just no way I could continue like this. With schools abroad refusing my applications and applying for a Masters Program in UB which list never materialized, I went back to school after five years of rigorous job hunting this time to PAID-WA Buea where I read Development Studies and Human Resources Management.
After one year of rigorous studies, I again entered the job market. I was hopeful that I would pick one easy this time after all; I just finished a top professional program. Well, my health had other plans so for one and the half years; I had to suspend any attempts at job hunting as I had a hospital marathon to run.
At this stage, I have steadily climbed the rank of sub inspector of Chomecam. I mean what else could I say? The years were piling up and I was still moving ‘up and down’ with files looking for work both offline and online. Maybe my approach was wrong but one thing remained for sure, the jobs were not coming.
Ten years and I am still in Chomecam. I am finally the CEO of Chomecam! That is how I spent ten years of my life job hunting. During these years, I felt frustrated especially with all the road blocks I encountered. And the fact that I was now getting older was not helping matters. I could have folded my hands and blamed the powers that be for my plight. I could have equally blamed my family for not using whatever positions they have to get me a job all these years after all; it is the policy of man know man which holds sway in the job market in Cameroon. I could have also blamed that uncle or aunt in the village who had decided to tie my progress with witchcraft. I could have even blamed God for refusing to answer my prayers.
In all these years, even with the frustrations I felt, I didn’t grow bitter. Despite the many road blocks, I didn’t give up fighting. And after every good cry, I picked myself up and tried to figure out what to do. What talents and skills do I have? This is where my writing came in handy. I have always loved writing so just to while away the time while hoping for some doors in the job market to open, I got an exercise book and pen and just started scribbling away and before I realized it, I had a first person narrative of my life as best as I could remember during those turbulent years before me. A good friend helped me edit and found a publisher and that is how I got my first book published and unbeknownst to my friend, it was the perfect boost I needed that trying moment to keep facing life.
Youth unemployment is a nightmare that has plagued many ambitious and brilliant youths into the pits of depression and frustration. The ten years I spent looking for a job didn’t by any chance enrich me financially. Yet, it taught me patience, perseverance and empathy. It helped me discover a unique talent that is proving very helpful today and opening doors for me. It also taught me that in the battle for survival, we should get out there and get our hands dirty and stop blaming the people around us. Reach inside and discover strengths we couldn’t know we possess if we had everything delivered to us in a gold platter. Unemployment is not going away anytime soon but we can do better than wallow if we are ready to rediscover ourselves and take bold calculated risks.
*This testimony is brought to you by Ms. Arrey Echi a passionate Better Breed Cameroon member