I moved home to Lagos (aka Las Gidi) after four years of a liberal arts education in rural Massachusetts. I was excited at the prospect of going home and making the fun of the Christmas holidays a permanent fixture in my social life and working my way seamlessly up the corporate ladder. Let’s just say Lagos had some surprises in store for me.
Getting the job is just the beginning
I did interview after interview, more assessment centers and tests than I would like to remember, made “interview buddies” all while chasing the best job offer possible. I spent countless hours poring over Nairaland to find tips and advice on what to expect at each step of the process at different companies. For the most part, it took months to go from test to interview/assessment centre and final offer. I definitely learned a thing or two about patience.
The commute is literally a killer
The process of getting to work is just problematic. On average, I spend an hour and a half each way on my commute. Sometimes after a long day in the office, the last thing I want to do is get in a car and sit in traffic for ninety minutes. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have used this unexpected time to find all the best restaurants in Lagos and I often literally sit-out the traffic over a nice dinner and a fancy cocktail (or two).
Your “foreign” approach is unwelcome
Then there is work itself. I was expecting the modern, somewhat casual approach to work that social life in Lagos would suggest. While there are some people who certainly take a relaxed and “foreign” approach to work, the majority exhibit the “Nigerian factor” which attempts to explain bureaucracy and cultural conservatism that makes getting things done extremely`a frustrating. They want to put you in your place by reminding you that things have been done this way long before you were born and your “innovation” has no place. Coming to terms with this and learning to take a back seat when necessary has been difficult at times. I have learned to read people and strike a careful balance between going with the flow and attempting to find better ways of doing things, depending on who I was working with. I have been very lucky in that regard as the people I have worked with directly have often allowed me to run with my ideas and been patient enough to teach me and let me learn from my mistakes.
9-to-5 or 9-to-9? Expect crazy hours
Nothing could have prepared me for the crazy hours Lagos had in store. I didn’t think Nigeria was a place where people easily work 15-hour days, weekends, and public holidays. I’ve left the office past midnight more times than I would like to remember and worked many a weekend and public holiday. Unlike abroad there’s no over time or perks involved; all the work, none of the glamour. The only good thing I got from the crazy hours are lifelong friends in the colleagues who were right by my side binging on caffeine at 1 a.m. as we worked frantically on a project.
Moving on up
Then there is the climb up the ladder. Some people are patient and hang on to the same company for years hoping to get to the top. Others hop from one place to another constantly looking for more and the quickest route to the top. For me, I have constantly looked at skills and growth. I know I’m in the right place as long as I’m learning and challenged. There are those little old ladies and men who look at you as a young thing who doesn’t deserve a seat at the table purely based on age but then you work your a** off and eventually you’ll get that seat.