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General News of Thursday, 6 April 2017


A KNUST graduate was a cleaner for 6 months, then this happened

Lemuel Nsiah-Kusi

It was just another day for Lemuel Nsiah-Kusi as he scrolled through his Twitter timeline catching up on tweets he had missed. His eye caught a tweet from one of his followers who tweeted about being jobless and a readiness to accept any job which will pay him GHC700.

This tweet led to several people responding to say that you need to know your worth and not accept low pay for anything. This prompted Lemuel to go on a realest tweetstorm by sharing his personal experience as a KNUST graduate who had hopes of finishing school, landing a good job and making it in life but life apparently had very different plans for him.

I met up with him over at Mango and Wheat and he had this to share.

What degree did you undertake at KNUST?

I studied Development Planning as I have a major interest in real estate development. I completed in 2014.

What were your plans after school? Did you make any?

The thing is most students like myself create the perfect picture of how we will finish school, put in job applications to several organisations which will generate several calls and you have to decide which job is suitable for you. It's really not like that at all in reality. Even students who are from well-to-do families find themselves having to wait a while to get a job. Even though I had made such plans, it didn't turn out that way.

What happened after school?

Well, I completed my National Service at SSNIT in 2014 and found myself home around September. Even though I wasn't home for long, I nevertheless felt uneasy after almost 2 months of doing nothing. During the period of September to November, I had put in about 70 applications to several organisations but nothing positive came out of them. I emailed some soft copies to family friends and I went personally to some organisations to submit hard copies. My parents were also asking their friends for any openings and assistance. My parents would go to work and I would be left alone and when they returned home they would inquire about my day and if I had had any success with any of the applications. I would reply in the negative. My Dad for one was very confident that I would get a job after school because of his strong network connections. That actually didn't work.

Did you apply for jobs related to your field of study?

I did but after awhile I just didn't mind which job came my way. Development planning is interdisciplinary which makes it flexible to work anywhere. I was ready to start out to gain experience to enable me branch out into an area of my interest. One time I was close to getting a marketing job at an IT company. I passed the first round after convincing the panelists that I was good with people. It was a strength I could use to get customers to buy their product. I however didn't make it through to the second round.

What thoughts went through your mind during your period of waiting?

I started losing hope or faith during that waiting period. My parents however didn't understand why I was stressing as other's before me had to wait a year or two before getting jobs. I still persisted on getting a job.

What changed?

My Dad's friend who was in the real estate industry as a facility management service provider asked me to come see her. So I dressed up immaculately because my mother always advised me to be mindful of how I dressed irrespective of where I went. I wore a tie with my long sleeves shirt and made sure my shoes were well polished. I gave her my resume after I sat down in her office. I have always done internships during vacation periods which over the period made my cv quite interesting for a first-degree holder. I had done several stints as a sales rep after JSS, SHS and even in the University, I interned in several companies and hotels. So after she perused my resume, she said, 'I have an opening in cleaning if you are interested'. My initial thought was, 'Did you not see my CV?' This was what I asked in my mind not out loud. Was she joking? I realised she was serious so I asked for some time to think about it. Even though she okayed my request, she reminded me not to keep long because the position could soon be filled.

I went home and told my Dad what happened. He was shocked and surprised! But he asked if I was going to take it. I hesitated a bit on his question. I told him I was going to accept the job offer because being at home wasn't helping me and it was way better than just waiting and moping. I think he was shocked. He did say however that he was proud of my efforts and all that I was doing. I started the cleaning job by first going for a Cleaning training at the cleaning company to understand the basics of how to clean effectively. I learnt how to measure the various detergents, how to clean windows, which equipment to use etc. The training took place at the Barclays Club House because my employer had a contract with the bank to clean some of their branches in Accra. I met another KNUST graduate who worked as an Operations Manager in this same cleaning company. He also faced a similar dilemma of not finding a job after school and ended up in this role in the cleaning company. For us, this wasn't the end. It was a means to an end and that was the advice he gave to me on the first day of the job. That's what got me running because I realised I wasn't alone in this.

Share your experience during your time as a cleaner?

I was actually moved to be with the cleaning team which cleaned the NHIA office and my friends kept telling me that I could experience my miracle there as it's a good place to work. But it was challenging. I had to leave home at 4:30am everyday because the NHIA office opens at 8am and I had to commute from West Hills Mall which is where I stay. We had to finish cleaning latest by 7am. In the beginning, I was motivated but because of this crazy dawn schedule I began to lose vim after about 3 weeks. The thing is, after cleaning we had to stay behind for the evening shift and there was no appropriate room for us to hang around in. There was a room beneath the stairwell which was used as a storage space which we often waited around in. It wasn't comfortable at all. I also came to realise how it felt to work in the cleaning industry in Ghana. I was placed in a position which made me realise how people talk to cleaners and how they treat them because of the work they do. It was humbling as I got to understand life from the point of view as a cleaner. One time, an employee at NHIA happened to say hello to me and she was surprised to learn I was a graduate from Tech. After a few months, I was promoted to be a Supervisor which saw me managing the team to make sure the offices were clean and such.

One of my major challenges was not receiving my salary on time. I was paid GHC500 a month. Sometimes, it delays for about two months and I will be forced to ask my Dad for transport money. He didn't understand why I was asking him for money when I was working, I explained to him that our pay kept delaying hence my asking for assistance. He was very helpful.

My time in the cleaning company made me realise how profitable the business was. I was gaining more experience on the job, so I decided to also start my own cleaning company. I registered the business name, hired some young people in my area to clean some offices on the side. So I managed this whilst working at the cleaning company. My Mom's friend spoke to a friend of hers to sub-let some of her cleaning services to me and it was a way to generate money for the business.

How did your friends handle this phase of your life?

Some friends didn't believe I was actually cleaning banks and offices. I remember meeting my former classmate and a roommate also from KNUST. I had just closed from my shift one day and whilst standing outside the bank, the two of them came out and met me. They apparently worked at Barclays and when I told them I was a cleaning super they couldnt believe it. One of them said, 'Chale, you force oh! This one dierr I never go do. What if someone sees me.'

How were you affected mentally? Did you lose your confidence?

I have always been a confident person but there were a few times when I felt low. I prayed alot during this time which helped me. Interestingly, my prayer life increased more during this time. I found myself connecting to God more. My parents also encouraged me through it all too.

When did a light appear in the tunnel?

My mom's friend who helped me with my cleaning business gave me her friends' number to call. She had earlier told me how much my story made her proud of me because not everyone would have taken the path I had chosen.

The number belonged to a CEO of a real estate company. I called the number she gave me but the man who picked up was curt and said he was busy but he would call me back. I got a text from him a week later to come by his office. I dressed up as though I was going for a interview and got to his office at 7am. I then got a call from the cleaning office to go clean an office in another area. I left that office and showed up at work in a tie and everyone wondered what was up with me. After cleaning, I changed back and went to the man's office. His secretary allowed me to go see him as I had waited about 3 hours in the morning. This was the CEO of a real estate company and all he asked me was 'You be hustler? You fi hustle?' I said yes. What did I study? Did I know anything about construction? He didnt even ask for my resume. He made a call to one of the construction managers to give me a job because he liked my matter. I then signed a contract with his HR manager. I had gotten a job without even an interview and the pay of course was much better and it was also aligned with my field of study. It was an incredible feeling! The catch however was for me to start work the next day. So now I had to figure out a way to work as a cleaner I waited for my delayed salary to be paid and then I quit the cleaning company.

Based on your experience, what message do you have for young graduates out there?

Everyone's life journey is different so irrespective of where you find yourself don't see challenges as an end. If someone offers to pay you GHC 700 work as though you were being paid GHC4,000. Your hard work will make such an impact that when it's time for you to leave, people will be reluctant to see you go. Yeah, we all want to earn good money but we need to consider the opportunities that come our way and the realities of life. You need to go out there and make your own decisions. Build your own dream and work for it. There are some graduates who get mobile banking jobs and all they do is complain that "ehh, a whole graduate like me, I dey go walk for sun top." They don't know what opportunity they could be missing out on whilst in the field. This is part of the grind of life.

Ghana Twitter jumped on his tweets with many expressing thanks for the inspiration boost.

I hope you have been inspired by Lemuel's story and that you have more understanding that no situation is permanent. The opportunity that may come your way, don't look down on it. Pray on, think on it and God will guide you towards your vision.