My Money Mistake is a weekly PiggyVest series that explores the worst money mistakes real Nigerians have made, and the lessons they learnt from it.
For this week’s episode of My Money Mistake, we spoke to a 25-year-old project manager who regrets staying at her old job for too long. She talks about how the uncertainty of the labour market kept her clinging to an environment that didn’t serve her needs.
Could you tell me your biggest money mistake?
I stayed at a job from 2018 to 2021 because of my fear of the labour market. I consider this a terrible mistake because I denied myself the opportunity to work in other spaces, earn more money and grow my career.
Why did you stay for so long?
There were three reasons I couldn’t leave. First of all, I was recommended by a family friend, and it felt like a betrayal to just leave. I started as a corper on a ₦20,000 salary. After my service was done, I begged the owner to retain me. There were no roles I was qualified for, so I had to settle for an internship. I ended up working at the front desk for six months on a ₦50,000 wage. They took a chance on me, so I felt indebted and loyal to them.
What about the other reasons?
The second reason was my lack of sufficient savings. In early 2020, by the time I got employed as a full-time staff member, I barely had enough savings to see me through three months. I was employed as a project coordinator, and my salary was bumped to ₦100,000. I convinced myself that I couldn’t leave just yet.
You said there were three reasons. What’s the third one?
The third reason is probably the most important: I was afraid. My anxiety was through the roof, and the waves of imposter syndrome hit at random intervals. The labour market was scary. I feared I didn’t have enough work experience, and the thought of unemployment wasn’t something I could afford.
Why didn’t you reach out to your family for help?
My family probably needs me more than I need them. I knew for a fact that they couldn’t help me. My father is retired, and my mother is a petty trader. I only got this job because of a church member they knew. Soliciting help from my family was out of the question.
How did you cope?
I worked harder. After an appraisal, I got promoted to assistant product manager. The promotion came with a ₦50,000 raise. However, in the face of inflation, it was nothing. My bills and responsibilities kept piling up, but my money wasn’t matching.
I wanted to get a new apartment, but no money. Most of my clothes were from my final year, but I couldn’t afford to change them. I had to send money back home for my siblings, and at some point, I found myself borrowing money to keep up.
Despite everything, I still stayed. It became worse because of Covid-19. Imagine being unemployed in a pandemic.
What changed for you?
By the time I became a project manager in 2021, I was earning ₦250,000. Everyone I started with had left. I was one of the oldest staff. I saw a junior staff member leave and get a job that paid twice as much for an entry-level position. That was when I was forced to rethink my life. Everyone who left was better off for it. My fear kept me grounded, and it was irrational.
What did you do?
I quit. Not in the cool way I imagined, where I enter the office and toss my resignation letter at my boss, telling him to kiss my ass as he begs me to stay. None of that.
Lol. How then?
I got my ex-colleagues to look for job opportunities I qualified for within their organisations. I reworked my LinkedIn profile, and started applying for all the jobs. It didn’t matter if I qualified or not, I just applied. I became very vocal online about the work I was doing. Ultimately, I found another job, and the pay was almost three times my former workplace.
Amazing. Do you have any regrets?
I ask myself why I was so afraid. My fear was so real that I allowed it to stop me. I understand that things are bad in Nigeria, but I should have had faith in my abilities. If I had dared to apply for other places sooner, I might have made significant career growth.
What’s your biggest lesson from all this?
The quickest way to earn more money is to job hop. If a job doesn’t serve me, I will leave. I’m planning on resigning from my current job for an international role this year. I’m not letting anything stop me from achieving my goals.