Feature Article of Thursday, 23 February 2012

Columnist: Mensah, George Oko

The woes of a job-seeker

Story by George Oko Mensah

“Has the newspaper vendor brought the daily papers this morning”? Yoofi asked sleepily. He was still in bed half awake. He suspected somebody had sneaked into the room. A shadow fell on him. She was standing beside his bed. He knew it could be on other person than his Job’s comforter. He was right. She was her own darling sister, Naana.

“I don’t know but let me find out from mum,” she responded as she walked out of the brother’s room. And in a few minutes she came back with a couple of daily papers she was holding and dropped it on the center table. Naana was a junior sister. He coddled her like a child. Yoofi was very fond of her because they shared a lot of interests including sports, birthdays and politics. She did not come to wake him up as she was wont to doing that often times but to ask him a question that worried her mind for sometime. Should Yoofi brush her sister off he would never know peace for the rest of the day and beyond. She would push him for an answer, even if he was not in the mood. Despite the fact that he was smarter her, she had a way of cajoling her brother into doing her bidding. She had succeeded in many ways than one. Her only weapon was to shed tears. If she did not get what she wanted, she suddenly became very tearful. At the very worst, Yoofi would feign sick so that her sister might leave him alone to brood over his own problem. But the sister would have none of that. She persisted, and he gave in eventually. She was cute, very intelligent and courageous. “Now ask me the question that is eating you up” he mocked her metaphorically, “mind you, I can not take more than two for now” please, reserve the rest for the evening,” he assured her. She was about to nod her head in disagreement when a voice uttered her name from the sitting room. Mum was calling her. In fact, mum saved the situation. She was always asking questions. Everything and anything she would ask and Auntie Kate disliked that. “But mum, they say he who asks questions never goes astray”, Yoofi said in defense of his sister one day. The mum was not satisfied with that. “Instead of talking it over with your sister to exercise restraint, you seem to be heaping sand around her weight”, she corrected him. Naana was reprimanded several times but she cared no hoot. She could look straight in the face of people no matter whom they were and did what she knew best----asking questions and intelligent questions at that. People misconstrued her assertiveness as a sign of insolence. She would drop childish things as she advanced in age. Yoofi consoled himself with that thought. Getting out of bed, Yoofi stretched and yawned. He told himself yesterday’s job hunt worn him out completely. By the close of the day, he had visited scores of offices. It was a tiring experience for him after combing the whole capital city, hunting for a job from office to office, but he was unsuccessful. He was often told to leave his A4 brown envelope with the front desk. And that ended it. Not even his frequent follow up was yielding any desired results. Sometimes, as he walked to the reception before he could utter a word or two, the frowning faces of these saucy and ill-mannered secretaries portended that he was unwanted. But other times, if he managed to get through to the Human Resource Department, he got the response that for now all job vacancies were occupied but his application would be kept for future’s consideration. That was only a ray of hope he consoled himself most times.

Alarmed by the thought that his sister may perhaps come back to pester him, he quickly picked up the Daily Graphic paper and started scanning through the pages. He saw a lot of job vacancy advertisements at page 9 of the newspaper, though he met the requirements of most jobs, he did not feel pushed to apply. He had written hundred and one letters already but had never been shortlisted. He could not fathom the reason and wondered the magic wand people waved to get jobs through newspaper publications. But something caught his attention like a magnet on the next page. He almost shouted Eureka! It was a job recruitment firm advertising for prospective job seekers. He was delighted at the idea but at the same time scared of numerous tales being spun by many people falling prey to the fraudulent activities of job recruitment firms. His own friends were victims of such scam before. When he heard the story he thought they were not wise enough. He did not tell anybody about his intention. He kept it secret as he decided to get in contact with the recruitment firm in question.

Quickly, he scribbled something on a piece of paper and headed towards the sitting room.

He dialed the phone number provided in the advertisement and spoke to a lady on the other side of the line and she gave him a direction to the location-----Nos: 9 hibiscus street, Nungua. “Bring along your application letter together with the curriculum vitae,” she reminded him. Before he could ask a question or two, the lady hung up the phone. With that, he submitted it within a week. Not after he had been made to squeeze GHC10.00 for the registration form, to start with. After filling in his particulars, he made inquiries as to the next line of action.” You would hear from us later”, the fat woman behind the computer in the office assured him. Later, he received a text message inviting him for an interview which he attended. It was then that he discovered that there were other job seekers. He could count as many as 50 people. For almost three weeks, he did not hear anything and began to suspect something. Just then, another text message came not only congratulating him on passing the interview but more surprisingly that he had been shortlisted for job training ,and the cost of training was GHC150:00. With this news, he did not know whether to jubilate or cry. The irony of it all was that he was unemployed and without money, he was asked to pay that money. Desperate for the job, he played tricks on his parents to get the dough. He was happy that the sister was not around when he asked for the money or else she would have made life uncomfortable for him.

But his worst fears were confirmed when he started the training, and all his efforts to see the Chief Executive Officer of the firm with his concern proved futile as nobody was prepared to tell him his whereabouts. It dawned on him that the so-called resource persons were academically a suspect. As they fumbled through out two weeks the programme lasted. Simple questions that were fired at them, they could not answer and were found wanting most of the time for the right thing to say. The excuse they gave for their inadequacies was that they were not given the prior notice which he found flimsy and untenable. They simply knew next to nothing! Dull headed!

Yoofi and his colleague job seekers appeared much better academically than them as they took charge of what we were being taught during the training. That is to say, they were in control of the affairs and seemed to dictate the pace as the resource persons looked uneasy and unorganized.

At the end of the training, an examination was organized, and the questions set were full of grammatical errors. When Yoofi and his colleagues pointed out the errors in the paper, they could not correct them and rather assured them that the CEO of the firm would meet them for a word after the exams. And this never materialized! They waited for hours on end without a word from anybody and since most of them were coming from different places of Accra, they left for home disappointed.

Just within weeks, Yoofi received yet another text message for a second interview. He was reading the message when his sister overheard him and asked, “Are you attending some job interview,” he replied negatively. He lied. He decided to keep it to himself until the right time. On the day of interview, he told his family that he was seeing someone in town and wouldn’t be long. He lied again.

“Hasn’t the person gotten name,”?

Who is the one,”?

Where does he/she live,”? asked the sister inquisitively and in quick succession. He ignored her completely. He got used to her constant prying into his personal life. Things even got worse when he paid a host to his lady ladies in the house. Her mantra was who was this, who was that…..so on and so forth. She kept asking.

Fortunately, Yoofi left home early enough to avoid traffic in that part of Accra but his patience was stretched beyond limit as he had to wait intolerably for the interview time, which had long elapsed. And when it finally came on, he was shocked to learn that there were many other interviewees. As the interview proceeded, it became apparently obvious that the same story was being told over and over again.

When it came to his turn, Yoofi knocked the door gently and entered. “Good afternoon”, he greeted the interview panel warmly, still standing. Have a seat, said one of the panel members. “Thank you”, he uttered and sat down. “Who do people say Yoofi Grant is”, asked the only female member in the panel. He went on rattling when another member cut in with a question.

“Could you tell us something about your education background,”? I went to Accra Boys High School and then proceeded to the University College of Accra where I came out with Bachelor of Communication Studies, second class upper division”, he stated. I always offer some fresh courses with IPR, he added proudly. Then another question, “what is your salary expectation”? Yoofi was smart enough to allow the question to floor him. “If you look at the job market now, graduates are taking salaries ranging from GHC600 TO GHC1000”, he revealed, further, I believe the company may have a pay structure and wouldn’t be bothered to stick to that. “Do you have anything to say,”? asked the lanky member. “I have nothing to say”, he answered briefly. “We’ll get back to you in two weeks’ time, Thank you for coming, the panel members almost said in unison. He also thanked them and left. From the look of things, Yoofi did some research before attending the interview. This became clear the way and manner he conducted himself during the interview that lasted for only three minutes. He met other interviewers and conversation ensued. It was then rumored that the company seeking to employ was a newly established organization with its branches at Sprintex, Tema and Kasoa could only afford to pay GHC200. Another rumour has it that there was no existing company like that and the interview was only a ploy designed to defraud unsuspecting job seekers. It came out that a large numbers of interviewees declined the offer, but Yoofi agreed to accept it not only because he wanted to ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of the rumours but more importantly he was sick of sitting in the house virtually doing nothing. He was always depending on his parents. He hated the thought of being fed by his parents at his age. He was a man, even capable of putting a woman in a family way. He wanted to break the cycle of dependence syndrome. There was no food for hands that refused to work. For Yoofi, his hands sought job to do so as to eke out a living and take good care of his immediate family. But it was all to no avail. Yoofi was deeply worried by the state of affairs. He was the mother’s pet. Mothers and their sons! She was concerned about his personal life. It looked like whatever disturbed him disturbed the mother as well. “Yoofi, we know how you have been feeling for some time now,” Auntie Kate said sympathetically, especially as you have made several attempts to get job. “We appreciate you and to tell you that we are with you in prayer, God time is best, only in his time he makes all things beautiful,” she consoled the son scripturally. As the mother was the point of leaving the room, Naana entered and said, Yoofi, this year’s election is going to get keener and keener and politicians are in the news again with juicy-laden promises: robust economy, job-creation and free education. “The economy is picking up very well on paper but we don’t feel the impact as we go to the market. The prices of goods and services keep going up,” she said coolly. For the first time in several months, Auntie Kate had commented on the politics. She always listened to the argument between Yoofi and Naana with rapt attention and admired the latter’s grasp of national issues. The issue of job-creation interested him the more. “After putting freeze on jobs for three years now, because of the conditionities of the World Bank, how does the government intend to wean itself off the strings attached to solve the overwhelming graduate unemployment quagmire, he probed. As if to spring to the defence of the ruling party, she argued, with all due respect, that it was untrue that the graduates’ employment into civil and public services had been frozen and that the government was leaving no stone unturned to create more jobs this year. It appeared that Naana was prepared to face the brother no matter the question she was peppered with. The argument went back and forth, with each side entrenching their position; Auntie Kate had to intervene and announced that food was ready. “Let us go to the dinner”, the mother commanded.

After the two weeks, Yoofi did not hear anything from the recruitment firm. He became more troubled. He phoned the office, but he could not enthuse with answers he got. The more he made phone calls, the more he got excuse. The officials kept giving him one excuse after the other. Enough was enough! He went to the office in person but surprisingly, nobody was tight-tipped. However hard he tried, he could not speak to the so-called CEO. He tried to push the episode to the back of his mind but he could not.

He was mentally disturbed and could not contain the daylight robbery all alone. He had to share it with some one. His friends were out of the question. When they got wind of it, they would surely make fun of him. He could not put up with taunt. On second thoughts, he decided to tell his own mother. “Auntie Kate, I am very sorry for not telling you and daddy the truth in the first time,” he confessed,” the money I requested from you I have been swindled by the fake recruitment firm. “That is all right, my son”, the mother assured him dotingly, “you are a victim of the circumstances.” I hope you have learnt your lesson”, she said, “That would not happen to you again. Evil continues to strive because good people decide to do nothing about it. We must not allow other unsuspecting job seekers to suffer the same fate at the hands of these unscrupulous people of the phantom job recruiting agencies. With the teeming graduates’ unemployment in the country now, only God knows how many souls might have been fleeced. This must be made public to forewarn all and sundry”. She admonished. That was the end of Yoofi’s pathetic tale. “Yoofi, Yoofi,” Naana shook him out of sleep. He woke with a jolt, only to realize that he was having a bad dream.