As told by Ihegazie Chukwu

Some years ago, when I was working as a manager of a hotel in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. I learnt valuable life lessons from one of the hotel staff – a car washer.

This particular staff by name Nnamdi, was the only applicant among many that applied with a First School leaving certificate as his highest qualification and specifically for the job of a car wash!

It was a 65 rooms hotel including single & double suits. On average 40 cars pack in the car park daily on weekdays & about 60 on weekends.
We weren’t charging fees for car washing. It was purely complementary.

In about a month of his resuming, I was getting excellent reports from guests and supervisors on the good conduct, attitude & professionalism being displayed by the car washer in his work. Within that period, there was an opening for a supervisor in the cleaning department. The number one candidate for the position that came to my mind was the car washer. I called him into my office and informed him that he will be resuming as a supervisor in the cleaning department with effect from the next Monday & that a new car washer will be resuming with him the next day for him to train in our ways of washing cars.

To my surprise and shock, he declined the offer begging me to allow him to remain as the car washer, citing his deficiency in education and good communication skills as inhibitions!

I allowed him to remain as the car washer but it raised my curiosity. I started to study his work as a car washer. What I discovered shocked me to the marrow and changed my orientation & definition of what work is and who actually is working!

On average he washes 60 cars a day including those of suppliers, contractors and customers that came to the hotel in the day time! Since the hotel complementary only covers washing the exteriors of cars, he collects a personal special fee of not less than 1k to wash the interiors of cars for customers that request it. He gets an average of #500 per car as tips from appreciative customers & guests. All this translates to the car washer making on average 35k per day. If he shares 15k to his 2 assistants, he still makes 20k per day which translates to 600k per month whereas my own salary as the manager then was a little above 100k.

Another shocker I discovered was that this guy was actually a graduate but decided to apply with FSLC & specifically for the position of a car washer! What this means is that he knows exactly what he is doing, what he wants & what he was going to get from the beginning!

Why This Story?

Because we have a wrong idea of what work is in this country & that’s why so many graduates & young men are roaming the streets jobless with earphones in their ears, rucksacks on their backs & sagged trousers blaming the government for unemployment when millions of high paying jobs are staring them in the face at every turn! I know of roadside tailors that charge 20k to make a ‘senator’ caftan & could make 5 of them a day. I know of roadside seamstresses that charge 100k to make a simple wedding gown and can collect up to 300k if they are baking the wedding cake as well. Opportunities are everywhere. You can find a way to make it or find an excuse to avoid it. Jobs are everywhere but we give excuses with lack of power, government grants & loans as if those who are making millions everyday from these skills & trades got preferential treatment from government.

We don’t believe we are working unless we wear tie & suit or customs, immigration etc uniforms and go to offices every morning & swell the ranks of those agitating for 30k a month minimum wage even when the opportunities to do legitimate jobs that will pay us that in a day is staring us in the face at every corner!

These jobs and enterprises produce goods and services that grow the GDP, the economy generally and provide employment. We need a change in orientation! We need a new progressive way of thinking! There is more to making a living than just certificates and offices.

In responds, to this story, Dr Strive Masiyiwa said, “This is exactly what I discovered in 1986. Working as an electrician and fixing people’s broken lights earned me more money than working as a graduate engineer but I knew exactly what I was doing too!

Check Out Nicky Verd’s Book titled “Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted.” A practical playbook for dreamers and go-getters who want to create their own employment as well as employees who want to understand the impact of self-service technologies on jobs as well as the threats and opportunities in the Forth Industrial Revolution to ensure they are well-prepared for jobs of the future.

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