“Never complacent until we hit the oasis” – Big Sean
I am sure if you scroll through my articles since January 2020, it will be easy for you to conclude that I am more inclined to social issues than business issues. In November 2020, when I experimented with making short videos (vlogs), an acquittance reached out and advised me to do more videos that are focused on business.
Well, his advice is quite valid, because if I were a social media consultant to myself, and I scroll through my feed, I will tell myself to focus on business issues if that is what I want to be known for. And if I want to be known for social issues, then I should focus on social issues, which is the advice most social media consultants will give.
The image below is to put your doubt to rest that the above paragraph is not a product of my imagination.
My Why on Social Media
However, knowing the ‘why’ behind my social media presence, won’t let me succumb to what is easy, or what I am certain will quickly yield me vanity metrics, on social media. Since, this article isn’t about why I’m on social media, allow me to be unequivocally clear that some reasons that make me appear in the feeds of my followers are when:
1. I want to curate an idea for posterity.
2. There is a pressing issue; my conscience will haunt me if I don’t air my stand.
Allow me to add that before I resort to social media regarding an issue, I have expended or tried other direct options to solve the issue myself, or perhaps, it is an issue I can only lend my voice to indirectly.
Evident in my first video, which was prompted by the heaviness in my heart. Towards the blatant disrespect for human lives, by the Nigerian Government, in the Lekki Massacre of October 20, 2020.
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And, my second video was prompted by my witnessing a conversation between an African generation X and an Arabian Millennial. I was upset to witness an older man encourage a younger man that discrimination exists, and he should accept it because I believe it is the responsibility of an older generation to ensure that the pains or inequality of life that was witnessed in its era, should not be witnessed by the younger generation.
Now, that we are getting to the crust of this post, you must know that this article is the first part of the three to four series, where each of these posts will center around the below themes:
1. Impact Investment.
2. High-Income Countries.
- North America.
3. Low and Medium Income Countries.
- Latin America.
- East Asia.
4. The LRE Solution.
Let’s continue from the paragraph before the above paragraph. I too have experienced inequality. I overcame it in my way, and I came up with a solution to ensure that international students that will come after me, won’t have to experience what I experienced. Hence in this article, I will discuss:
1. My experience with inequality.
- Its Effect on My Mental Health and Studies.
2. How I overcame it.
3. My solution so others won’t experience it.
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau
My Experience With Inequality
I know that from the above subheading, you’d think this will be another sad story of discrimination. Believe me, it is not, because from where I am reflecting, it oozes privilege to me.
First, some dates. If you watched my first ever political speech, you will understand that I arrived, in Amsterdam, on Tuesday, 26th of November, 2018, without sorting out my accommodation. Yet, with lady luck on my side, by Thursday, 28th of November, 2018, I had gotten my accommodation.
A Feat that still baffles my imagination, because it’s a popular belief that getting accommodation in Amsterdam is a hassle, with a long waiting list.
Before the end of January 2019, I was a full-fledged volunteer in a church I joined, which I joined, with the aim of finding out if religion in this part of the world is the same as religion in Africa. However, during my volunteer duties, I had built several relationships and made several friends.
Me during my volunteer duties; handing out Bibles to new members and new converts.
In February, I realized that my monthly expenses exceeded my allocated monthly funds, which amplified my need for a job. This made me think, maybe my reason for being part of this church exceeds my curiosity. This caused me to share my need for a job with other members.
By March of 2020, it stooped being flattering when a member informs in the presence of a friend or acquaintance that there is an unskilled vacancy, and the friend or acquaintance respond on my behalf, saying “No, Fisayo is more skilled for that.”
My Secret Zeal For An Adventure
Apart, from the financial need that intensified as the days passed, in March 2019, I secretly yearned to experience what it feels like to work an unskilled job in Europe.
If you ask why? Well, back in Africa, or to be precise in Nigeria, there are 4 major templates to success:
- Politics: It’s either your family or you have a family member as a top political official, who then uses the political influence to get you a job in the public sector.
- Stardom/Fame: It’s no mistake that Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) is second to Bollywood, and ahead of Hollywood, due to amount of movies produced annually. And, the biggest musicians on the continent happen to be Nigerians. In addition, the advent of social media has birthed social media celebrities.
- Internet Fraud: It is no coincidence that in July 2020, the arrest of Hushpuppi, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, was global viral news. Hence, it is a popular menace on the reputation of Nigerians in Africa and outside Africa to be easily distrusted, because a majority of the youth who can afford a laptop, and access to a voodoo priest resorts to internet fraud.
- Donkey Work Abroad: It is an open secret how Africans endure the worst forms of personal torture, in crossing the Sahara Desert, risk the threat of being sold into modern slavery, or overcome being drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, or perhaps do whatever it takes to get a visa to travel abroad, to secure odd jobs in High-Income Countries.
Well, as you read in the caption of my first political speech, you will find that I keep away from politics. I have always found fame burdensome, and a restriction to my freedom. Though with a computer science degree, having owned and used over eight laptops, and a mastery of the English language, yet internet fraud does not appeal to me.
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But, for my love for adventure and a story to share with my unborn kids, grand, and great-grandkids, I secretly yearned to have my share of my Donkey Work Abroad.
Also, I wanted to understand the reason behind the nod I observe that Africans or African Descents who pass by other African Descents, in an unskilled job, give each other.
Its Effect on My Mental Health and Studies
In the first week of April 2019, the gravity of my financial situation was slowly pulling me into a depressed orbit. But, blessed me as always, a friend from church offered to submit my CVs to employment agencies in Amsterdam.
While, I submitted three applications a day, to all the job search websites, with the functionality to toggle on the English version. The Universal Law of Cause and Effect paid off in being called and invited for several interviews.
I remember during one of these interviews, the interviewer asked why I would apply for the unskilled position, as my present qualifications and experience happen to exceed his. Well, the only answer that came to my mind, was that well, the law says, “I can only work for 16 hours, and no organization will want to hire me for my skills for less than 30 hours.”
However, the experience that this subheading covers are two instances after I had been told the date to resume. I was called and informed that my services were no longer required because, the employer required I worked over 20 hours, which stunned me. After all, I made it clear I could only work 16 hours during the three-stage interviews.
The second instance when this occurred, wrenched my heart because I was on a bus back home after I had just received my work boots for the job. This one got me.
Culture and Religion Clash With Reality
And, if you an African like me, and shared a quarter of my growing-up experiences, I am certain you will subscribe to the thought that “Your village people don dey follow you.” (A Nigerian phrase to indicate that a person is being haunted by ill luck from his village in Africa).
So, I called home and narrated my two near-miss experiences.
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As expected, a week after I called home, I got another call from home, informing me that I need to go on 7 days of fasting and prayer. Well, in that state of mind, I was a hair’s breadth from succumbing to jumping in front of a train.
So, 7 days simply served as a valid reason to spend less and a more empowering option than jumping in front of a train.
However, in retrospect, I wished I made the call I made home, a week before I made it, because the week after my instructed 7 days fast, was an examination week for me. And, as expected when the results of the exams were released, my score was 18% away from the passing grade. Trust me, this hurt, because it was a course I tutored some of my MBA colleagues.
Overcoming is just what I do, It’s part of my design.Give me a wall and I’ll break on through, I’ll be chillin’ on the other side. – The Phantoms
How I Overcame It
Well, though the second instance felt like a dagger in my heart, it reminded me that if I succumb to the thoughts of suicide geared by depression, I will have no kids, nor grandkids to tell my story to. Hence, this experience taught me my first MBA lesson, which is to be more data-driven, than to be driven by culture or religion.
I dropped my wallowing hat, for my scientific hat.
The two near-miss interviews seemed to me that the personnel of these agencies, changed their minds during the last minutes, and from the tone of their voice, I could tell it was a reluctant call, which means they were simply doing their jobs.
Results From Sharing
So, I shared my experience with the church member who offered to take my CVs to job agencies in Amsterdam. He agreed to make some calls regarding my experience. And, in less than 72 hours he got back to me and informed me that the reason for the two near-miss job opportunities is because, companies will require to do extra paperwork to employ an international student, which most companies avoid doing because of the extra effort required.
Phew! The root cause of the issue has been found, and it had nothing to do with metaphysics.
Now, that the cause has been found, it was time to explore available solutions.
So, I went solution haunting, and unapologetically asking questions, and making inquiries. This paid off. As I learned that the only way to work as an international student requires starting a business or registering a business, which gives one the opening to offer one’s service to unskilled or skilled jobs.
But, to do that it will be important to first find that unskilled or skilled job, to ensure that I begin to quickly reap the investment and time used in registering a business. And, blessed me, I did not only find a member of my church, who will employ me in an unskilled job, but was also willing to accompany me to the Chamber of Commerce to guide me in registering my business – to help me answer questions, and understand the implications in the registration process, due to the barrier that language posed.
And, during the registration, I was asked to choose a name for my company. This was a no-brainer because, in 2013, I had already registered Le Relief Enterprise (LRE), as a digital marketing and corporate branding firm, in Nigeria. Hence, this how LRE was registered in two continents.
I am obviously ahead of myself with the above paragraph, because now that I know that the solution to improve my financial situation was remote from a metaphysical or religious issue. I wanted to make that clear to my loved ones back home.
So I called home and shared my findings, stating that there are two options. I could earn illegally or legally, where the illegal option is that I will need to find an employer that will pay me off the books, which will require that I avoid paying taxes, and the legal option, will require that I register a business and pay taxes.
My dad’s response to my findings created a touchstone to my options from then onwards. His response was, “I did not come to Europe illegally, hence he will be disappointed if I indulge or involve myself in anything illegal.”
Yes, my old man, never tells me what to do, he simply states his take on my actions and leaves me to make my decision – talk about tough love.
My solution So Others Won’t Experience It
Long story short, by June, I was happily employed at the Febo – where my first goofs, and adapting to my new job is a tale for another time.
By the end of October, of 2019, an idea began to bud in my head, from talking to other international students like myself and being a student representative in my school. Each time I meet a new student, especially from Africa, the first question after exchanging pleasantries is, “How do I get a job to support me financially?”
This question is asked because most international students read on websites, before coming to the Netherlands, that they can get a job, and work for 16 hours. However, most of these websites forget to add the intricacies I and others experienced in getting a job.
So, if you combine my experience with the frequent questions I get from other international students on getting a job. You will agree there lies an opportunity.
An opportunity to create a platform where international students who need a job can register and the job of the job platform is to match these students to menial jobs, that will be curated by the platform.
Solving the Tax Regulation Issue
But, the sole issue is how to ensure that the student won’t have to go through the hassle of registering a business, and do the arduous task of the mandatory tax declarations because it took me a while before I got the hang of declaring my taxes, but first I was fined with five thousand Euros fine.
So, again I went out asking questions and talking about these intricacies. And, even on Tinder dates, I will share how I am looking for a solution so that international students can quickly gain employment without going through the hassle of registering a business.
It happens that one of my tinder dates happens to work with Uber. And, about three months of going on that date, Uber Eats became ubiquitous, where international students have the opportunity to gain employment without the hassle of registering a business.
Correlation does not equal causation. – unknown
However, from my findings, the Uber Eats platform does not help its delivery staff with their taxes.
My One-Pager Business Plan
In November 2019, I decided to give this idea, life and named it, ‘TLWS; (The Legal Working Student). And, from my research on the number of international students, I discovered that most international students are Asians. Thus, for my platform to work, I will require an Asian in the founding team.
So, I created a one-page business plan and sent it to the following people: an Asian student in my school, an Asian friend who happens to have studied Law, an MBA colleague, an interested lecturer in entrepreneurship development, a guest speaker whom I met at an Entrepreneurship Seminar, and a member of Amsterdam Student Investment Fund (ASIF). In addition, a friend (a front-end developer) who developed an interest in making TLWS a reality, dedicated himself to work on the data with me.
However, by January of 2020, the pandemic hit. And, all the possibilities of TLWS, had to be paused, as international travel tethered on the balance.
I came up with the TLWS solution to improve the job opportunities for international students nine months into my MBA journey, before the posthumous fame of George Floyd, and before I wrote the article, ‘24 Short Stories of International Students’ Experiences with the G7 + 1 Labor Laws’.
On November 26th, 2020, I completed my MBA. And, in August 2020 I completed the Social Norms and Social Change 1, from the University of Pennsylvania and UNICEF. Recently, Impact Leader and Peace Builder, and trainer.
Hence, it’s only natural that my will and desire to come up with a solution to reduce inequalities should transform to a global scale. And, in the next two to three articles, I will share with you how the LRE Platform will improve the lives of job seekers, entrepreneurs, and industry experts, and thereby globally promote peace and improve collaboration.
Dear reader, thank you, for reading to the end. And, as always, I remain radically open-minded to your comments and suggestions, you have in improving my thoughts. Thanks in advance.