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2021 Workplace Superpowers – The Must-haves

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If I was asked what my special skills were a year ago, it would definitely differ from now. You will agree with me that 2020 came with a twist and remote work forced each and every one of us to learn how to Do It Yourself (I don’t just mean cooking). In this article, I will be sharing with you some of the must-have skills for 2021 that would make you more sellable to recruiters.

I have divided these skills into hard and soft skills and you can find the complete lists of these most in-demand skills globally below:

Hard Skills

1. Data Analytics: The workplace today requires us to think in data. This requires us to do a bit more research, crunch those numbers, understand raw data and drive business growth based on concrete analysis.

2. Content Creation: Your ability to produce entertaining or educational material that not only caters to the interests and challenges of a target audience but increases engagement and conversions definitely sets you aside from others in your field. The content you produce can take many forms, including blog posts, videos, graphic designs and newsletters.

3. Marketing: Businesses worldwide need analytical people who understand what sort of tools are available in the growing digital toolbox, and know-how to dig in’ through trusted channels.

4. Sales: This can pass for both a hard skill and a soft skill as sales involves persuasion, but for a specific commercial end in mind. Your ability to convert leads to revenue would give you a spot in any business.

5. Video production: The average person watches 25 hours of video each day. Video content is quickly becoming the dominant form of all communication and companies are fighting to create effective digital video assets.

6. Product Development: This involves managing the process of developing a product or enhancing existing products in order to meet customer expectations effectively. If you haven’t noticed, times are changing and the direction of products being developed is too.

Soft Skills

1. Creativity: Developing new ideas, applying new solutions to address existing problems.  Some people are naturally creative on their own, but a lot of us need to bounce ideas off others to get the creative juices flowing. An ability to learn continuously and a willingness to adapt to change.

2. Communication skills: Interpreting information through speaking, listening and observing. Organizing thoughts and data points into a comprehensive and holistic narrative.

3. Collaboration: Collaboration suffers when roles and goals are not defined. The next time you take on a group project, strike up a conversation about what success looks like, and who’s doing what. Just this simple act can get everyone rowing together faster and more effectively.

4. Adaptability: Manage your mindset. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances starts with a mindset that’s willing to adapt to changing circumstances. If you tend to balk at change, reflect on the reasons why — and then see if there are any reframings you haven’t explored.

5. Emotional intelligence: Practicing control, knowing when to push, expressing yourself and observation of interpersonal relationships among people in a workplace is very important when working with people.

6. Leadership: Leadership in the 21st century is much more about influence than authority, learning to appreciate and adapt to people with different perspectives, priorities, and personalities is a key skill to develop.

Having a difficult time figuring out your superpowers? 

Here are three questions you can answer to guide you:

  • What unique contribution do you bring to projects, conversations, and meetings you attend?
  • Why do team members come to you for help?
  • What would be missing if you were to leave your current place of work?

If you are unable to answer these questions yourself, ask a colleague or friend. If your answers do not reflect the skills listed above, don’t relent or give up. The internet is packed with so much information, take some short courses, seek guidance from a work buddy, mentor or your boss. 

A superpower isn’t just a skill but a perspective, a mindset and a way of working that enhances everything you touch. 

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Chinwe Egwim: The Quintessential Economist

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Chinwe Egwim; Economist, Author and Advocate (Source: Lilian Madu)

Chinwe Egwim is currently the Senior Economist at a leading financial institution in Africa with over 500 published economic notes primarily geared towards macroeconomics. An award-winning economist, a highly sought after thought leader and an Executive Council member of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ). She consistently applies rigorous analysis to ensure Africa’s economic landscape is better understood. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Chinwe talks about her career-path, challenges, the causes close to her heart and Africa’s economy. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about your background and career-path?

Chinwe: I always find this question interesting because I’d like to think of myself as dynamic and so a succinct description may be difficult to achieve but I will try my best. I am an unapologetic goal-getter, consistently seeking ways to push boundaries and a firm believer of living a purpose-driven life. I also happen to be an Economist with specialization in Macro and Development Economics. I currently work at FBNQuest Merchant Bank (a subsidiary of FBN Holdings) as the Senior Economist.

My role as an economist is refreshing as it gives me an opportunity to critically analyse macroeconomic trends (growth, inflation, reserves, policy rate, oil prices, national account, and trade activities amongst others) for business, policy and investment decision purposes. I currently have well over 500 economic notes under my belt, multiple economic research reports and I have led the analysis of several Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) reports among others. Aside from contributing to the advancement of my firm, I offer recommendations to public office holders as well as investment and economic strategy advice to business owners.

Outside my position as the Senior Economist at FBNQuest, I have engaged in high-level projects which align properly with my career trajectory. On the back of my extensive knowledge on market insights and ability to actively engage multilaterals, government and sub-nationals,  I was appointed as a National Consultant by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; where I led the services trade project partly driven by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Furthermore, my contributions have also supported notable committees’ setup by development agencies like the World Bank.

I kicked-off my career as an economist in the fiscal analysis division of the research department at the Central Bank of Nigeria (Abuja HQRS). However, I have spent the larger part of my career as a professional economist in the private sector.

Alaba: Why Economics and what sparked the interest?

Chinwe: To be honest, before securing my second degree in Economics I was not completely sure on how I would like to apply myself as an economist. The spark came during my first professional stint as an economist. I must also highlight that proper and well-appreciated guidance from my father contributed to this spark. I also gained mentorship very early and this assisted with my increased interest in economics. It also unlocked the different ways I could excel in my career as an economist.

Additionally, through volunteering activities, I discovered my flare for social impact and the interlinkages it has with macro, financial and development economics. Furthermore, my passion for economics was strengthened when I realised, I could use it as a tool to shape conversations that assist decision-makers and stimulate actionable steps for relevant impact.

 

Alaba: How has your purpose, mission and values shaped your journey thus far?

I personally believe that life is not just about you as a person, fulfillment for me comes from helping the next person or largely contributing to initiatives that positively impact others; this forms a significant portion of my value-system and is at the center of most of my decisions. I am deliberate with using my role as an economist to add value to my organisation which by extension, is contributing to development via the financial services industry. I am also intentional about working beyond my desk. Therefore, you are very likely to see me offering my expertise to specific impact-driven projects within and outside my current industry.

 

Alaba: What have you sacrificed for your professional journey? Any regrets?

Chinwe: Interesting question. I will say a lot of play or travel and leisure activities and this is not just due to limited time on the back of increased focus on work but mainly due to channeling financial resources towards tools and resources needed to equip and strengthen me as I climb my career ladder. The opportunity cost has been well worth it and so, no regrets. I also believe that life is in seasons. There are times when laser focus on building and climbing is required and other times when fun, play and ample relaxation can be done with no guilt.

 

Alaba: As a female executive, kindly share some of your biggest challenges, biases and learning curves?

Chinwe: Well, this is no longer a current issue for me. However, earlier in my career, being the only female or in some cases, one of the very few females in an industry meeting or engagement was somewhat challenging as asserting my voice and making relevant contributions in a relatively loud room was a struggle. I quickly nipped this challenge in the bud. The antidote – ample and very extensive preparation before every external meeting or engagement and understanding that you tastefully seize as many opportunities to contribute/ speak as opposed to waiting for a microphone toss which rarely happens.

As for biases, I will share that the narrative of being ambitious is not a feminine trait stuck with me to an extent, but I am glad that I didn’t let it linger and I was able to get past it early in my career. There is also the narrative of successful career women being aggressive as opposed to assertive. It is good to see that these biases are gradually being phased out.

 

Alaba: How can women leverage on sponsorship and mentorship to achieve the success they want in their business and career, especially in male-dominated industry?

Chinwe: I have personally gained a lot from being a mentee to strong leaders within and outside my industry such as sharpening my technical skills. I have also been given opportunities to add value to high level projects, exposed to opportunities that have had a direct impact on my career progression, built very strong networks and strengthened my CV. But let me just say this, understand that the onus is on you as a mentee to make this relationship effective. You must be able to communicate value to your prospective mentor and have a sense of direction. Also, you must understand that time is a luxury for many and so every mentor-mentee meetup should be utilised properly.

I have a few mentees that were paired with me through mentorship camps or programs. A few examples are WIMBIZ Mentorship program and the Leading Ladies Africa mentorship camp. When you are paired with a mentor, dynamics are a bit different. My advice is to find ways to build organic relationships with your mentor while you both progress during the mentorship scheme. It should be a symbiotic relationship.

It is also worth considering peer mentorship. This allows you learn from your peers. Nobody knows it all and so we should all be willing to adopt this style of mentoring as well. Through peer mentorship, I gain fresh perspectives that enable me to do better at work and I also usually get first-hand knowledge on industry related matters which is good for me, especially for my role as a senior economist in the banking and finance industry.

 

Alaba: As a senior economist with a leading financial institution in Africa. What is your take on the impact of the global pandemic (COVID-19) in Africa?

Chinwe: So far, Africa has been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in terms of cases and deaths, but its economy has not been so lucky, especially the poorer, smaller countries dependent on a single resource or sector. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing macroeconomic weaknesses – reflected in high ‘twin deficits, rising public debt and soaring inflation in the majority of sub-Saharan African countries. Private capital flows, including foreign direct investment (FDI) and portfolio investment flows, were at historical lows and remittance inflows to Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to shrink.

Of course, in Africa it is a case of different countries, different impact. So, what do I mean by this?

  • For diversified economies – such as Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana in West Africa and then Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in East Africa, activity has slowed significantly but they are still managing to grow according to the IMF.
  • Meanwhile, oil exporters such as Algeria, Angola and Nigeria suffered significantly from the plunge in crude oil prices, especially in the earlier months of the crisis. For oil exporting countries in Africa their collective GDP expanded by 1.5% in 2019. However, this is expected to decline by over -4%, due to contractions in Angola and Nigeria.
  • Now as for tourism-dependent countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and the Seychelles, they have experienced sharp contractions as downturns in international tourism severely impacted the services sector.

Again, the picture is mixed when it comes to how different countries manage debt and raise fresh funds. On one hand, there is Zambia, which is heavily dependent on mining and became the first country to default on its debt last year, while Ivory Coast later easily raised funds on the market through a Eurobond issuance in November 2020; it was about  the equivalent of USD1.19bn and it was five times oversubscribed. Since then, the financial markets have found their appetite for risk again, and especially for African debt, but investors remain cautious. Another important source of funds for African countries is remittances from their foreign workers and inevitably this has also suffered due to the pandemic.

Now let me shed some light on banks – African central banks were resilient in 2020 compared with central banks across countries in other continents. Central banks, in a coordinated effort with fiscal authorities have used expansionary monetary policy in the form of increased money supply through traditional, open-market operations as well as quantitative easing. Some central banks have used their monetary flexibility to promptly lower interest rates by c.300 basis points (bps), as we saw at the Central Bank of Egypt, while others have adopted a more gradual approach, like the South African Reserve Bank’s trimming of 275 bps between March to May of last year. All central banks have been attempting to calibrate their actions with government fiscal support measures while preserving their inflation targets. Another tool that central banks are deploying is macro-financial assistance, which comprises medium/long-term loans or grants to businesses or households given the pre-existing difficulties for many with accessing loans from banks.

 

Alaba: Do you think Africa can fully recover from the economic consequence of the pandemic? If yes, How?

Chinwe: Africa is expected to rebound in 2021 with growth varying across countries. Many African countries have seized the opportunity within the crisis to move faster on necessary reforms and investments that will be crucial for long-term development. However, concerns of a second wave are fueling further uncertainty. In such context, the road to recovery will be long and will require policies and investments that focus on connecting people to job opportunities, which can help end extreme poverty, particularly post COVID-19. In a time of lockdowns and social distancing, investing in the digital economy and infrastructure will also be crucial to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and foster a sustained recovery.

 

Alaba: What causes are closest to your heart?

Chinwe: Economic and Financial literacy, inclusion, gender equality and youth Empowerment.

 

Alaba: How do you unplug and manage your work-life balance?

Chinwe: Binge on feel-good tv series. As often as possible, I try to get uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep. I try to take walks as often as possible and vacations are also a must -have.

 

Alaba: If you were a brand, you would be like? Why?

Chinwe: I consider myself as a brand. However, I will take a stab at answering this question. So, Nike is my answer. Nike embodies overcoming of one’s limitations, the pursuit of a mission or calling. This brand is about realizing one’s full potential, taking down barriers, being brave, bold, hardworking and resiliently moving forward, hence the “Just Do It”. It evokes fundamental values needed to thrive. Therefore, it strongly resonates with me and my personal brand.

 

Alaba: Your top picks to read, watch and listen?

Chinwe: To read

  • Understanding Economic “Jargon” by Chinwe Egwim – I authored this book to help its readers stay economically alert and serve as a guide with regards to navigating the macroeconomic landscape. Especially, for those that are keen on staying ahead.
  • The “Girl” of Entrepreneurs by Ibukun Awosika – This book is incredibly amazing. It has been my travel companion for years. The book documents the experiences of African businesswomen in terms of their background, their start-up stage, their growth pattern, their challenges, the impact of choices of spouse on their business as well as their work-life balance.
  • A-Z of Personal Finance by Nimi Akinkugbe – An awesome book that helps you stay woke with your personal finance. The book provides you with important practical information and useful tips on matters concerning you and your money. Every emerging leader should have this book in their book collection.
  • Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, Or Start authored by Carla Harris – This book has served as a blueprint for me with regards to navigating my career path. It offers new ways to conceptualize career strategies and gives proven tools for successful change.

To watch

  • The Last Dance. A documentary that chronicles the rise of Michael Jordan. There are so many career and life lessons to learn from this documentary. A few of them are: you have to start somewhere; to win, you must hold yourself accountable; a great team can make all the difference; play to your strengths; sometimes, you have to take a break and recharge and you need to find your motivation.

To listen

  • Life in BLOOM with Tosin Durotoye Podcast
  • The WIMBIZ Choose to Challenge Podcast
  • The Smart Money Tribe by Arese Ugwu Podcast
  • The Women Who Transcend Podcast
  • Porsha4Real with Porsha Williams Podcast

 

B I O G R A P H Y 

Chinwe Egwim is currently the Senior Economist at a leading financial institution in Africa with over 500 published economic notes primarily geared towards macroeconomics. She consistently applies rigorous analysis to ensure Africa’s economic landscape is better understood.

Chinwe is an advocate for women empowerment and a firm believer of equipping disadvantaged women with tools to enable them to thrive. In 2020, Chinwe was appointed as an Executive Council Member of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ). She has received multiple recognition and awards for her work as an Economist. Some of which include:the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), 100 most inspiring Nigerian women by Leading Ladies Africa, the Corporate Nigeria PowerList under 40 and also a leading woman in banking by the Association of Professional Women Bankers. Chinwe was nominated by Future Awards Africa and won the HER Network Career Woman of the Year in 2018.

Chinwe authored a book titled, Understanding Economic “Jargon”. The book uses a simple approach to breakdown how economic indicators and the investment climate react to economic shocks and upswings. It has ranked as a bestseller on Amazon.

 

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Closing the experience gap in your organisation

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By Nkechi Oguchi, CEO at Ventures Park (Source: Nkechi Oguchi)

The Nigerian unemployment rate was reported to have risen to 33%, making it the second-largest in the world. A lot of employers were shocked at this as they complained about the difficulties they’ve faced in finding the right people. This points to an obvious demand and supply problem. The skills in demand are in low supply.

This is one of the reasons some organisations place a higher priority on an individual’s potential and culture fit as opposed to experience. They hire with the intention of upskilling the person to the necessary standard. This has so many advantages including being able to groom your employees to suit the objectives of your organisation. The downside to this is having experience gaps in your organisation. So you have a company with amazing and motivated people but they do not have all the necessary skills to execute their duties.

However, most companies do not know how to properly design growth paths to close the experience gap for their teams.

Organisational development has moved from just a buzz word to an absolute necessity for a company. A company must plan to upskill and reskill as necessary. The world is fast-changing and even the most competent person in your organisation may find their experience become obsolete due to technological changes or regulatory changes. For a company to keep moving forward and adapt to its environment, the people must also be evolving. After all, an organisation is just the sum of the people in it.

In 2019, the estimated percentage of workforce upskilled was 14%. This figure rose to 38% in 2020 indicating an increasing priority in upskilling to build better teams. 62% of organisations reported that they were upskilling to close the experience gap in their organisations. Some other goals they hoped to achieve were; drive organisational growth, improve employee satisfaction and improve employee engagement. Organisations are fast recognising the need to create a holistic learning and development plan. This means designing not just for technical skills but looking at the entire individual. Thanks to remote work skills like communication, leadership, time management, even listening skills have also become critical to learn. It doesn’t matter how much technically savvy a manager is if they do not know how to manage their time to deliver or if they struggle to effectively communicate their ideas.

Every strategic objective of a company would be delivered by people. So it makes business sense to prioritise company learning and to approach this as a continuous process and not a one-time event.

 

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The Winning Resume

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Writing a resume can be frustrating, especially when there is a zillion contradicting opinions about what works and doesn’t work. I recently figured why it was tough to write a resume by testing out resume types and personally applying to some companies. This gave me a huge opportunity to measure, analyze, and test the effectiveness of different resume types. In this article, I will be sharing what I have learned as well as provide some valuable tips on the best ways to write a winning resume.

Over the years, I have read various “how to write a resume” blogs, attended several employability workshops and I realized that most of the advice out there had not been proven against the actual end goal of getting a job. It’s easy to say “one page works best” when you’ve seen it happen a few times. But how does this theory hold up when we look at 100 theories against resumes from different industries, experience levels, and job titles?

Here’s what worked and what did not work:

  • Quantitative Results/Achievements 

Most resumes lack them. The goal is to give the recruiter a solid reason to not only look over the full resume but also move you through to the next stage of the interview process. Many of us tend to flood our resumes with a list of job responsibilities/duties forgetting that the recruiter knows what you should have been doing every day on the job. Think about it, the reason for a role is to meet a need, your resume should speak to your knowledge of the need and how you have tackled these challenges successfully. This has been tried and tested by yours truly and I must say, the invitations came within hours of applying. 

Here’s an example:
Executed in-house marketing strategy that resulted in a 15% increase in monthly leads along with a 5% drop in the cost per lead

  • Simple, Aesthetic Design

These days, it’s easy to get carried away with our mission to “stand out.” I’ve seen colorful canva resumes from graphic designers, video resumes, and even resumes with images of candidates in very unprofessional outfits. While those can work in very specific situations, we want to aim for a strategy that consistently gets results. The format I saw the most success with was a black and white template with sections in this format

 

Professional Summary/Objective
Skills/Interests

Education

Experience- focus on achievements)

References (Available on request)

According to research, hiring managers scan resumes for an average of 6 seconds. If your resume is in an unfamiliar format, those 6 seconds won’t be very comfortable for the hiring manager. Our brains prefer things we can easily recognize and digest so you want to make sure that a hiring manager can get the full scope just by glancing at your resume.

  • Short and Concise Resume 

As times change, processes change too. Back in the day, we had 3-4 pages of resumes to prove that we had been successful or good enough for a role. We would even go as far as including volunteer, industrial attachments, and summer jobs just to make our resumes lengthy. Today it is the opposite with the introduction of ATS software and focus being on accomplishments and not job duties. As much as possible, you want to make your cv short, simple, straight to the point, and specific to the role you are applying for. 

Here’s what did not work:

  • Grammatical Issues (typos, spelling errors, & grammatical mistakes)  

In my research and years of reviewing resumes, I found that close to 60% of resumes have some sort of typo or grammatical issue. Have your resume reviewed by three separate sources of spell-checking software, like Grammarly. A friend, and a professional. Spell check should be covered if you’re using Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create your resume.

  • Lengthy Resumes 

Having a resume that is more than one page. As earlier stated, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing your resume and if it’s more than one-two pages, it probably isn’t going to be read. Increase your margins, decrease your font, and cut down your experience to highlight the most relevant pieces for the role. When you’re dealing with recruiters who see hundreds of resumes every day, we want to make their lives as easy as possible.

  • Buzz words 

It is important to not use too many buzzwords. Yes, you’re a hard-working innovator with excellent communication skills but so is nearly every job applicant you’re competing with, at least according to their resumes. Instead of using buzzwords, write naturally, use bullets, and include quantitative results whenever possible. Think about it, would you rather hire a salesperson who “is responsible for driving new business across various sectors to help companies achieve their goals” or “drove $15M of new business last quarter, including the largest deal in company history”? 

 

An example: Creative,’ ‘outside the box,’ ‘innovative’ What you think it says: “I come up with good, new ideas.”

“If you could think ‘outside the box,’ you’d be able to phrase it less blandly,” Scherwin says. These trite descriptors can undermine your case if you don’t back them up with specifics.

In addition to the above, I have also found that resumes with a link to a comprehensive LinkedIn profile have a 71% better chance of hearing back, 76% of resumes are discarded for an unprofessional email address. Resumes with a photo have an 88% rejection rate

58% of resumes have typos. Applicant tracking software typically eliminates 75% of resumes due to a lack of keywords and phrases being present.

Now that you know every mistake you need to avoid, the first item on your to-do list is to comb through your current resume and make sure it doesn’t violate anything mentioned above. This experiment led me to understand that If you don’t know what consistently works, you can’t lay out a system to get there.

 

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