Before you quit your 9-5 for full time study – Read this

Are you thinking about resigning from your job to pursue a postgraduate degree?  

The decision to leave the security of full time employment is a huge one. So, you should not make it without thinking it through thoroughly.

Here are some things that you will have to consider before you hand in that resignation letter.   

First of all think about why you want to leave your job, are you leaving because you are unhappy with the job that you are doing or you want to change careers.

If you are simply unhappy at your current job, would your decision change if you were offered work somewhere else? Now, If this is the case then why not simply find another job where you will be happier?

Also, if feel that you need to study towards a certain degree to secure a promotion at your current job then discuss this with your manager and find out for sure that you need the degree for the promotion. If there is another way to get the promotion other than leaving to study further may not be the solution that you are looking for.

Before you quit your 9-5 for school, think about why you want to resign from your job and study full time rather than studying part time Click To Tweet

But if you are looking to pursue a different career or a career in research or academia, then you definitely need a post graduate degree. Find out exactly what you need to secure that job, I mean if you are going to risk this much, then you may as well be super prepared.

Also think about why you want to resign from your job and study full time rather than studying part time. Is this really necessary? Some ladies have been able to work 9-5 and work on a side hustle at the same time.  

Resigning means that you do not have an income, so think about this:

  • How will you pay for your studies?
  • How long is your degree? Reality is that studying can be expensive.
  • What happens if you do not get a job straight after you finish studies?
  • If you have been saving for it then GREAT but if you are thinking of getting a loan, then how will you pay it back?

You really need to plan for it. There is also the issue of maintaining your current lifestyle, truth be told sister… shopping for you may be a thing of the past without an income. And yes….it could also be goodbye to ladies night drinks with the girls.

So be ready to cut down on some of your favorite past time activities. Be REALISTIC with yourself about what this means for you.

If you plan on job hunting after you graduate, it will not hurt to volunteer where you would like to work on a part time bases while you study, this will increase your chances of getting a job there when you graduate.

Quitting a 9-5 job to study will not work for everyone. But this being said, you should not be discouraged if you are sure that this is what you want to do.

Just be prepared for what this will mean for you. Now go out there and get it done, hun!

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Lifelong Learning: 5 Lies You Tell Yourself

What comes to mind when you think of “lifelong learning”? Oh, wait. Did you just roll your eyes and give a defeated sigh? Girl, we know the feeling.

Some of your feelings might be valid but here are some thoughts you might have that are definitely wrong.

Here are some of the lies you probably tell yourself all year round which eventually hinders your growth:

I have a degree. What am I still learning?

Big mistake, sister. When did you graduate? 2, 5, 10 years ago? The world is changing fast and we need to evolve.

 Standing in one spot only means that others are going to overtake you and take opportunities that should’ve been yours.

Look at Nokia. How long did it take for them to lose their position as Number 1 phone maker? To be a successful Motherland Mogul, you need to keep learning the new trends in your industry.

I am an expert in my field

It’s very easy for us to settle for what we think we know is best. But does learning ever stop? If you have plans to branch out and innovate your brand, you need to prepare yourself!

Are there other things you learn from other industries that may be linked to yours?

There is so much more to learn about your passions, hobbies, and interests. Ask yourself questions such as ‘how badass is my excel skills’? When was the last time I gave a presentation that was wowed my audience?

Take the time to improve and build on what you already have and what you need to make yourself better.

I don’t have money for courses.

In this day and age, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to learn! With a stable internet connection and time, you can access so many free resources online.

From Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, YouTube and the many blogs and articles out there; the options are endless.

But once you choose to make this investment, you start the journey towards a successful and educated life.

I don’t have time to learn.

Let’s rephrase that as “I don’t make out time for learning new things because it’s not a priority.” Doesn’t sound nice, does it?

Well, it’s true. We all make time for things that we consider priorities. Catching up on social media, binging on Netflix, attending owambe parties. But if we think about it, we spend many hours every week on things that aren’t really adding to our bottom line.

If you’re one of those superwomen who resists all such temptations and still can’t find the time to learn, what about the time you spend in traffic? With the developments of education and technology, you can learn anywhere and everywhere!

So, don’t make excuses for wanting to learn. If you believe in investing in yourself, then you will make the time to learn more.

I’m too old to learn

Lol! Did you know the oldest person to graduate college was 95 years old? We’re never too old to learn. Even if you have started a family and gotten 7 children, it’s never too late! It’s all about prioritizing. We can always learn new tricks!

You’ve probably run out of excuses now. But don’t let this daunt you. The trick is to start small. Pick one skill and set yourself a target of one hour a week to develop it. If you don’t know where to start, Google resources and create a learning calendar.  

Once you set milestones and give yourself small treats every now and then, you’ll be surprised by what you learn in a few months.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Degree in view: Five things you must start now

Don’t pause your life in university, you can't expect to play it back after your degree Click To Tweet

Shout out to those of us that are yet to officially stop getting monthly allowances and still basking in the euphoria of the school life freedom.

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Undergraduate life can be amazing, and besides attending lectures (and partying non-stop), there’s a lot more you can do while still in the ivory tower which would be healthy for you and your future, sista.

So before, you join the 9-5ers or labour market or whatever it’s called, here are five things to start now to save you some stress in the future

Be independent and explore your options. (Yass girl, start learning to do things on your own).

how jessica gifTake responsibility for yourself and your actions now and start gathering up skills and those sorta things you would require to be your own #MotherlandMogul. Start making great and valuable decisions that would do you good years from now.

Regardless of the course you might be studying (whatsoever course) try your hands on a couple of other extracurricular activities and studies. You could learn a second language or some photography, or even try participating in an art exhibition. A professional job and a side hustle never hurt anybody, plus you never know where your big break would spring from in the long run.

Talk to your career counsellor, get a career mentor...and other things to start while in uni Click To Tweet

Get all the advice you can and enjoy the process

Talk to your course adviser or career counsellor (inasmuch as it might be boring). Get yourself a mentor, gain as much mentorship knowledge as you can about your career path. The internet is also a great stop for amazing career advice.

Read with a lil’ dash of fun

Immerse yourself in schoolwork, attend classes, never miss an assignment, read, read, and read, anything to come out with a turn-up degree, and do this while having a good time (cause we girls, are smart like that). You could try organizing a creative and fun study group with a few smart friends, that way, studying wouldn’t be so boring.

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Have safe fun as much as you can, but whatever you do, don’t stay partying on the eve of your exams, you are on your own.

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Spice up your profile

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Create a professional online presence for yourself towards whatever path you are looking to take in the future. Know what you really want to do; the kind of job that excites you and start building yourself and your resume in that direction (you do not want to come out of school with only your name and personal profile barely half page on what should be called your resume, nah).

You can start building yourself and your career strategy while in university Click To Tweet

Research on specific companies you’d love to work with in the future and apply to intern with them, chances are that they might want to retain you after you get a degree, or not (anyways, you still lose nothing).

Jumpstart your career

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School is the best place to start your career and your friends and classmates are the best customers you could have. However you start up, chances are that you will likely get loyal classmates and friends that’ll want to help your hustle. Don’t dull, take advantage of the university environment before you are shown the door out.

Start gathering your Oprah money:

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I know everybody talks about money, and honestly, we all need money to survive. So whether you’ll be gathering up from the tons of free money that comes your way while in school or from all the monies you’ll come to earn from doing jobs or having a business, start investing your money and saving enough cash for you and your great future of responsibilities.

Start making every second count now. Don’t pause your life, expecting to play it back after you’ve gotten a degree- nah, because when the degree comes, you’ll be in for some shocker reality check. Don’t take it personal though, everybody faces the check.

How to start a PhD with no money

We understand that some Motherland Moguls are working towards a career in academia. It could be because you’re looking to add Prof. before your name or you just want to further your studies. Chances are you’ve looked up the cost of studying a PhD and balked at the price tags.

Because SLA always has your back we spoke a self-funded PhD student. Oreva Olakpe is not only studying for a PhD in international law focusing on African migrations, she’s also an entrepreneur and a hustler. She’s self-funded her way through school so we knew she’d give some great tips.

Why self-fund a PhD?

Finding funds for a PhD is hard. Most of the funding out there is based on the interest of people that have the money. If they are not interested in what you are doing, there’s nothing for you. If you’re from a country that doesn’t have the money to fund research on their particular field. Don’t feel too bad though.

Well, the issue with funding is that it can suck out the creativity of your work. Especially when funders want to dictate where your research goes (and if they can, they will). When you self-fund, your research is in your control and you can go wherever you want with it.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s very difficult to be self-funded. In Oreva’s program, there’s just one other self-funded girl. And guess what, both of them are African. There’s nothing Oreva didn’t do to pay for her living costs. She says, while there is a joy in knowing that your efforts are paying for your research, it’d be wrong to glorify it.

So if you’re ready to walk down the self-funded path, be ready to do all sorts of things to make money…

Save up

First of all, don’t jump straight into your PhD from your masters. Have a year to figure out things financially. Find a 9-5 that pays well and start saving ahead of school.

“For me, I only managed to save up a bit of money. What was able to help me get through the stress was doing entrepreneurial activities.”

Apply for (small) grants

Any PhD student is familiar with the grant application process. Grants can be very competitive and the trick to get through them is to apply for many.

“I got tiny grants from different organisations as opposed to the big funding that most people get.”

Small amounts pouring in from different organisations can come up to a lot. For Oreva, grants paid for all her international flights. For her fieldwork, she spent a couple of months in China and grants paid for all that. When money comes in from different sources, you can take care of annoying things that suck up your funds without you knowing (like transport and food).

There’s no shame in applying for all the grants. Also consider applying for a scholarship. A fair warning though, there is not much out there for Africans in social sciences.

Have a support system

“The most important thing that helped in cases of emergency, was family members.”

Just because you’re self-funding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help when time calls for it. For Oreva, family came through when she needed her tooth removed and did not have cash at hand. Her mom and sisters are deep in the entrepreneurship vibe and this supported and inspired her hustle. Oreva credits them as her motivation to try business ideas as a source of financial and intellectual freedom. Friends came through when someone smashed her laptop screen —the most important thing for a PhD student— and she needed to repair it.

Another way family and friends pull through is with connections. If you need to do fieldwork in certain locations, they can help make things easy for you. The important thing is to have a support system, whether its your family, friends or the investment your parents put in your name.

Get your hustling gear on

Oreva has sold clothing (ankara), artwork and jewellery that paid her a lot. In addition, she does a lot of freelance writing and has worked with blogs while also writing academic articles for companies. While she lived in China, Oreva was also an IELTS tutor and French tutor.

It seems if there’s one thing self-funding a PhD will do, it’ll improve your entrepreneurial spirit. Academics are associated more with the library than the marketplace but the truth is entrepreneurship fits into any career. Academics can also be entrepreneurs.

“A lot of the African students I know are hustlers.”

In SOAS, where Oreva studies, there’s a market for students. Maybe it’s unsurprising that most of the people selling at the market are African students. Some sell jollof rice, buns and chin-chin while others sell jewellery, bags, homemade beauty products, soaps.

Find ways to cut cost

“I don’t stay in London but in my family home in Nigeria. This way I don’t have to pay that high rent.”

You don’t have to be physically present at campus for most PhD programs. To cut costs further, you may also consider studying something that relates to you or to your country. Oreva’s case study is focused on Nigeria.

Pick research topics that will be cheap for you. This way your networks will come through. For example, when you have to travel to conduct research in your home country, chances are people will be more willing to help you.

And it doesn’t have to be people you know. It can be local universities coming through because they see the value of what you’re doing.

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Want to go to Harvard Business School? Here’s how these African women made it happen

Maimouna Diakhaby

Harvard Business School is arguably the world’s most popular and influential institution of business education in the world. With alumni leading the globe’s most powerful companies, it’s no wonder that many Motherland Moguls have HBS at the top of their list for their MBAs.

We’ve caught up with two HBS students to learn about why they chose the school, the strategy they used for their applications and their best resources during the application period.

Maimouna Diakhaby - Harvard Business School

Maimouna Diakhaby

MBA Class of 2016

Country of Origin: Guinea

Pre-MBA Job: Business Analyst at Rio Tinto

Favourite Class: Managing International Trade and Investment

Why did you think an MBA was the right step for you in your professional journey and why did you think HBS was the best place for you?

After 4 years of work experience, I knew it was time to round my analytical skills with leadership and management skills. I was also looking for an education that would give me a comprehensive understanding of how different parts of an organization fit together to create value.

While there are amazing programs in the US for any aspiring student, my first choice was Harvard Business School for 2 keys reasons:

First, the school’s leadership focus was not only used for promotional reasons but also embedded in the entire curriculum. At HBS, every case discussion puts you in the shoes of a leader (CEO, head of state…) and forces you to make a decision that could change the course of an organization. The school attracts, selects and shapes individuals who are striving for technical excellence and looking to have an impact and influence the environment they live in.

The other reason I chose HBS relates to the school’s branding in Africa. As a woman looking to contribute to the continent’s development, I wanted to get a degree from a school with a strong reputation. In fact, women are too often relegated to more “feminine” roles and rarely taken seriously in some regions. The HBS network and reputation in Africa will hopefully allow me to break those barriers and focus on creating value.

How did you stand out in your application and show the admissions committee what you could offer the school?

It’s really hard to isolate what made me stand out. The admission office states that it looks for a well-rounded applicant and that all aspects of an application are equally important. In my application, I just tried to convey my story in a coherent and comprehensive way. I made sure to present all aspects of my background- strength and weaknesses included.

I strongly believed that if HBS was truly a place where I would thrive, my true ambitions and flaws would be accepted. I also believe that showing that I was a “balanced” prospective student played an important role. The typical HBS student has had a successful career coupled with strong extra-curriculum involvement that truly reflects their passions.

What area of your application did you spend the most time on and what was your strategy?

I spent the most time crafting my essay. I must have read it a thousand times (no jokes). I really wanted to make sure that it was an accurate reflection of my personality and would effectively allow the admission team to assess the kind of leader I was aspiring to become.

It is really important for prospective students to make sure their essay is coherent with the rest of their application. Also, use it as a platform to introduce yourself without exaggeration or disguise.

What resources/websites/programs were helpful for you during your application process?

GMAT Club is a fantastic resource. Most MBA students I know have referred to it at one point or another. People use it to ask questions, share information with other applicants or just learn useful tips on the gmat. The Manhattan GMAT preparation books were also my go-to reference while prepping for the test.

READ MORE: Founder of MBA Mama shares with us her advice on successful family planning during your MBA

Sola Olaniyan-Bright - Harvard Business School

Sola Olaniyan-Bright

MBA Class of 2016
Country of origin: Nigeria
Pre-MBA job: Adidas Group Finance, Germany
Concentration at HBS: We don’t have official concentrations but I’ve had the most electives in the fields of Entrepreneurship and Start-up Finance.
Favorite classes so far: Three come to mind:
1. Entrepreneurship and Global Capitalism: a business history course that studies the lives and journeys of successful businessmen and women from the 18th century till date. I loved this class because it challenged us to study different aspects of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs and to form our own opinions on the decisions they made from a financial, moral, and ethical standpoint which, of course, ended up being very personal for everyone who took the class.
2.  Entrepreneurial Finance: We studied the mechanics of businesses, mostly start-ups, from idea to execution primarily through the lens of investing and other financing decisions.
3. Business, Government, and the International Economy (popularly known as BGIE): It’s macroeconomics in practice where we study a different country every class to understand the underlying drivers of their performance and sometimes predict the future of their economies over time.

Why did you think an MBA was the right step for you in your professional journey and why did you think HBS was the best place for you?

Pursuing a graduate degree is something I’d always known I wanted to do. Having studied Accounting at university and completed the ACCA exams (chartered accounting qualification), I was initially looking to do an MSc in Financial Engineering or something along the lines of strengthening my roots in finance.

However, after 5 years in asset management and management consulting across various industries, I knew I wanted to go for a degree that would be much more than an academic exercise. I wanted a degree that would better equip me to be a rounded business leader by exposing me to as many different aspects of business as possible while keeping me globally competitive and this made an MBA a clear choice.

I chose HBS for 3 reasons the brand, the learning style (case method), and the network.

  •  The brand is very strong especially on the African continent and of course beyond.
  • The case method puts you in the driver’s seat of the some of the world’s biggest organizations in the most complex situations and it forces you to think critically about key decisions to be made while teaching you the frameworks behind how to think through those problems.
  • As far as the network goes, it’s pretty great, especially in Africa compared to many other schools. The school has graduated very successful alumni that you have easy access to just by virtue of being a member of the network.

How did you stand out in your application and show the admissions committee what you could offer the school?

I spent a whole lot of time reflecting on my life and writing my essays at the same time. I really wanted to make sure I was true to my own voice in my application and I didn’t want to compromise on clarity of thought during reflection.

So I spent about 3 hours every week for about 12 weeks writing down answers to questions I believed were important in showing the real me and telling my own story and then prioritizing based on what I knew my resume or recommendations wouldn’t be able to demonstrate. I also got a few trusted friends and colleagues to read through and give honest feedback along the way.

What area of your application did you spend the most time on and what was your strategy?

Definitely my essay. Having graduated from a Nigerian university from where no graduates had ever been admitted into Harvard, I knew my grades wouldn’t be enough. I knew I was up against stiff competition globally (with a 12% acceptance rate at HBS) and felt I had to work to overcompensate with the quality and authenticity of how I told my story.

I also wanted to make sure what I shared was different from but at the same time complementary to what my recommenders had to say about me in showing a full picture of who I was as a person. I know it takes some successful applicants a much shorter time to write their essays but that was certainly not the case for me.

What resources/websites/programs were helpful for you during your application process?

Number 1 would absolutely, positively be The learning plans, the success and failure stories, the info on upcoming admissions webinars, and many other aspects I’ve left out made it an invaluable resource for me, especially as I didn’t know very many other people who were planning to attend b-school at the time.

Also, for GMAT prep, the entire Manhattan GMAT series as well as the Official GMAT review really helped build my confidence. With those resources and consistent practice, most people are already well on their way to a good score.

Twitter Chat with Yasmin Belo-Osagie: Getting Into The Graduate School of Your Dreams (Mar 14)

Missed this event? Make sure you don’t miss the next one by joining our community today.

Click here to follow She Leads Africa on twitter

Applying to graduate school can be an exciting but nerve wrecking time. Graduate degrees have the potential to help you add advanced knowledge and credentials to your CV and move up in the rankings at work. However, competition is stiff for the best programs and even qualified candidates can struggle when it comes to convincing admissions officers to allow them entry.

Join us on Monday March 14 for a Twitter Chat with our very own Yasmin Belo-Osagie where she’ll help us figure out how to get into the graduate school of our dreams.

Follow She Leads Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SLAChats to ask your questions and participate in the discussion.

Topics that we’ll cover:

  • How to develop your application strategy
  • The best study tools to help you prepare for the entrance examinations
  • How to get letters of recommendations to help you stand out
  • Tools to help you manage all of the different deadlines and requirements

Yasmin-Twitter Chat-Twitter_Card

About Yasmin: 

Yasmin is a co-founder of She Leads Africa where she leads the events and offline programming team. Prior to starting SLA, she worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company where she focused on developing multi-year growth strategies for large organizations. She graduated from Princeton University (majoring in history) and is now mid-way through a JD/MBA at Harvard Law School and Stanford Business School.