Nigerians who wish to join the Nigerian workforce are forced to give over a year of their lives to the service of their country by way of a state-mandated
slavery integration program known as the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
I did mine last year at a government agency. I did very little real work, which would have been less soul destroying if I hadn’t been required to be present all the time. But I was, and I spent hour after hour staring at the walls and slowly losing my mind. My supervisor felt strongly that his primary purpose was to critique my wardrobe choices and try to get me to attend the daily office prayer meeting. When I appealed to him to give me something (anything God please literally anything) to do, I was told that simply by sitting in an office environment, I was learning things. He was right, I learned LOTS of things.
And I made a list.
- Contrary to everything you have been taught, the flat area created by the front of your thighs when you sit down is not called a lap. Each singular thigh, whether you’re standing or sitting, is a lap. So rather than having one lap when you’re sitting down, you in fact have two laps at all times. Your “laps” are an affront to all the laws of heaven and earth and they start from your pelvic bone and extend all the way down to well past your knee and must always be hidden from public view . Only a skirt that hits you at granny length i.e. midcalf is deemed appropriate enough to cover your “laps”. Make sure this skirt is at least a size too big- if your skirt is fitted to your body such that the “outline of your laps” is visible, the world will end.
- You may think that you know what a “corporate dress code” means. You think it means that everyone ought to turn up to work in suits or smart separates. You’re only partly right. Men wear suits, but women? Women may wear pretty much anything they like so long as they show no skin whatsoever. That jersey maxi dress you wear on lazy Sundays? Entirely appropriate for work. Add a baggy cardigan to it and you will be hailed the office over as a ‘decent’ girl.
- As an NYSC member, you are generally deemed fair game to every man in the office. How to protect yourself? Don’t go into a man’s office on your own unless you have to, and if you do, don’t let him shut the door. Lower your standard friendliness levels by about 80%. If you don’t, your chatty greetings and polite enquiries about holiday plans will be interpreted as everything from flirting to outright solicitation. Being a bitch gets you respect. Embrace your inner bitch.
- “Are you mobile?” means “do you have a car?” and usually precipitates a request to give someone a lift. It is just about okay to give an older woman a lift but it’s generally a bad idea to give men of any age a lift, no matter how bitchy that might seem (see 3 above) because if you do, you’ll get to work the next day and find an office brimming with gossip about how you “ride around town with men” and the car itself was probably bought for you by another man.
- Long lunches are totally okay so long as you have someone in the office who will say “she just stepped out” to anyone who asks. “Stepping out” is code for anything from “she’s in the loo” to “she’s in an important meeting” to “she’s currently having a two course meal at Tulip Bistro, followed by a pot of froyo at Yogurberry, then a quick stop to get her brows waxed at B-Natural Spa.”
- Your parents can for real call your supervisor and get you a week off work for no better purpose than your sister needs help planning her wedding. Do not waste a single moment feeling embarrassed about this.
- Watching films at your desk is standard post-lunch behaviour. Get involved. There will be someone at work who has a hard drive with every possible film you could ever want. Get some popcorn, plug in your earphones, shrug off your blazer and you’re set till closing time.
- Rather than being crass and inspiring dislike, name dropping will significantly ease your passage. Name drop as if the name in question is a pellet of poo and you’re an incontinent rat. You want the office to be contaminated with your name drops. Do this and things you need to get done, will actually get done. Name drop like a bitch.
- Don’t give anyone at work your number if you can help it. You will get 9pm phone calls from the random filing clerk asking if you can send him something (credit for his phone) or 11pm phone calls from the guy in accounts asking if you want to ‘take a ride around town’ with him. A good way to avoid this is to be a bitch (see above). Say “ I don’t give my number to colleagues.” and walk off.
- There is no such thing as sexism, sexual harassment, or equal rights at work.
- Don’t waste your time being offended or taken aback by questions like “why are you so dark skinned? Are you sure you came from abroad?” or “can I have your iPad?”
- If you do get a bit of work to do, don’t do it too quickly or you will be subjected to a lecture from your colleagues about how you’re making them look bad and you should “cool down.” Stretch 4 hours of work out over about 3 days and make sure you say “Ah, it’s so stressful!” often.
- Try as much as possible to sneak in to meetings between the higher-ups. That’s where all the real work gets done and the best place to learn anything. Offer to take notes, sit unobtrusively in the back and make sure your “laps” are well covered.
- Dedicate about 30-45 minutes of your morning and about 25 minutes of your afternoon to ‘greeting’. Greeting is the process by which you engage in ‘eye service’. Eye service is being seen to be present and willing to work, whether or not you are actually willing or able to work or indeed if there is any work to be done at all. In order to ‘greet’ effectively, go and knock on your supervisor’s door. He or she will probably not be busy and even if they are, they will always make time to be ‘greeted’. Greeting is a mixture of acting, banal commonplaces, prayer, gossip and flattery. Make sure you have some paper in your hands. Say “Good morning Ma!” or “Well done, Sa!”. They will respond with “Ehen, how are you?” or something similar. Compliment them on something they are wearing. Remind them that they are your “Chairman” or your “Oga at the top.” If appropriate, slide in an insult about their immediate superior. Tell them that you hope “God will continue to reward” their efforts. Do this every day.
Do you have any NYSC tips of your own? Get involved in the comments section.