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The World of Work Has Changed, But Our Parents Don’t Know

Greetings, friends.
Long time, no see?

Mgbe onye jị teta bụ ụtụtụ ya. When one wakes is their morning.

There’s an explanation for my hiatus which I’d rather keep to myself, but I’m back parararararara! I am so back that there’s a lineup of blogs in my drafts that I have yet to share only because I want all of them to have interesting titles like this one. It’s true that I obsess over the little things. Blame it on perfectionism, on capitalism, on OCDs – blame it on anything but me. I shall not be welcomed from my sabbatical with blames. *Flips hair* Before we get right into the post, I hope everyone is holding up fine? Great.

If you’re a Nigerian born to parents from two to three generations before, you’d understand the point of this blog’s title. It appears there’s a generational gap in the perception of work opportunities in today’s world. I have observed this difference not only with my parents, but with many other parents of their generation, located in the same environment as them. My parents’ perception of work opportunities is grim, as grim as the current economic realities in Nigeria, so grim that it often leaves me astounded how far removed they are from the present-day nature of work. I mean, they both started using smartphones long before me, which is partly the reason I struggle to understand how analogue they should be when they have had longer access to digital information than me, and are very educated.

My parents encouraged me to learn tailoring during my long vacations in secondary school, since I had little use for holiday lessons. I learnt it really good, but somewhere along the line, it got rusty from lack of practice. I started learning to sew in my second year of junior high, and stopped in my first year of senior high. I first learnt from a woman whose shop was down the street from where we lived. Then I learnt from a man who made both male and female clothes. They were both great experiences, and tailoring is a skill that I appreciate having. I have eccentric tastes in fashion and knowing how to sew empowers me to make the kind of clothes that I like to wear. Sewing is also one of my first introductions to entrepreneurship, and contributed greatly to making me the enterprising teenager that I was. I made good pocket money at the time selling clothes and beads that I made with my own hands. That was an empowering feeling. I remember feeling more flattered than upset when the school uniforms I made for myself were stolen in boarding school. I did not feel too bad because I knew there was more where that came from. So, I sincerely appreciate knowing to sew, and thanks to my parents for investing in my acquisition of the skill.

Last year, however, my mother suggested that I go fine-tune my tailoring skills with one of the tailors at our regional open market. She often made this suggestion with the authority of the all-knowing elderly Nigerian who believed there would be consequences for not heeding their advice. The way that she often preached tailoring to me felt as though she thought it was the only way I could ever amount to something. Also, the way that she emphasized learning in a physical environment betrayed her incomprehension of other possibilities. It was a complete oblivion to digitalization and it baffled me. Many times, I talked myself out of feeling offended that she thought so lowly of my potentials, by acknowledging that she was operating on her awareness level of the opportunities that abound in the world today.

I remember that just two years ago, my parents were reluctant to allow me travel to a different state to attend an interview. The conversation went something like:
“How did you see the job?” My father asked.
“Twitter,” I said.
“What’s Twitter?” He asked.
“A social media platform,” I answered.
He gave a condescending laugh.
“How do you know it’s real?” He interrogated.
As a protest against his mockery, I wanted to say that I just knew, but that would be impatient. “Daddy, I googled them. They have a solid internet presence.”
“Hmmm,” he said. “The country is bad. They could be ritualists using the job advertisements to lure victims.”
It was at this juncture that my mother interjected. “Because the company is online does not mean it’s not 419.” 419 is a Nigerian slang for fraud. I didn’t know what to make of this, because I was unsure she understood what I meant by a strong internet presence.

When my mother learnt that I made money online from freelancing, she was puzzled. She asked questions that told me that it was unfathomable to her how that was possible. However, having this information has not stopped her from inferring that I needed a more serious job because working from home and typing away at my laptop did not look serious enough to her.

She has also recently mentioned intending for my younger sister to learn ….you guessed. I sighed. There was no saving them from their restrictive worldview. Why tailoring? I thought. Why not web development? Again, tailoring is a great skill, but if the idea is to acquire a skill for economic empowerment, then one had better make a killing off the skill. I don’t suppose that mechanical skills like tailoring would do much for anyone in Nigeria who’s neither exceptional nor intend to leverage modern technologies.

Nigeria has an abysmal rate of unemployment, but the world has become such a global village, that one should not be restricted to work opportunities in their home country. Why learn tailoring when you can learn to become a six-figure earning virtual assistant right off your couch? Virtual assistant jobs are some of very few jobs with a low-entry barrier. What this means is that you don’t have to have fancy skills to land one. This brilliant training covers all that you need to get started. Virtual assistant jobs are also some of most published jobs on freelance platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer. Upwork publishes thousands of virtual/administrative assistant jobs daily. Go figure. Virtual assistants are high-in-demand because they’re valuable to every organization due to the administrative services they provide to ensure the smooth running of business operations.

Why learn auto repairs when you can learn to be a freelancer like myself who has absolute control of her time? This masterclass anticipates all your burning questions about freelancing and answers them dutifully. The training is also bomb in the way that it teaches you the tools and skills you would require to succeed as a freelancer. The world of freelance is so broad that you’d be shocked by the areas of work that are covered. Any kind of work you can imagine going to a physical office for, you can also do as a freelancer. The possibilities are endless.

I visited a household recently where the father lamented the irresponsibility of his elderly son, and compared him to his younger son whom he said was focused on learning to be a mechanic instead of wasting his time on get-rich-quick schemes. I remember thinking on my way home how unfortunate it must be to be so unaware of the opportunities in today’s world of work that they’re polarized into either learning to be a mechanic or indulging get-rich-quick schemes. To my parents and most other parents of their generation, you’re either learning to do mechanical things like sewing clothes or auto repairs, or you’re gambling with your future. It follows reasonably that being raised by such parents could cause one to lack imagination and prospection, and consequently limit one’s potentials.

If one has a real passion for manual work such as tailoring and auto repairs, then these are great skills to have. I just have a problem with this impression our parents have that they’re the more serious and lucrative skills to learn. That’s untrue, but then our parents don’t know any better. The internet age has brought us many work opportunities that are more lucrative and require more mental than physical effort. In fact, there’s no better time to work smarter and less hard. The hardest working people are usually the poorest for a reason: they often lack information and the resultant access to smart work opportunities. If you have the information on how to work smarter, that’s a privilege I hope you take advantage of.

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