National service is undoubtedly one of the most defining periods in the life of a fresh tertiary graduate in Ghana. A few months ago, a fresh batch of National Service Personnel began their service to the nation.

I was there too. At that point, I was trying to get used to the freedom of not having to go to class and write exams anymore and the responsibility that came along with this new found freedom.

If you are a national service personnel, I have some advice for you. If you are not a service personnel but you’re preparing for the next 1 year of your life as a young person, you’ll still find a lot of the content of this post useful.

The next one year is a wonderful opportunity to build your capacity in the areas that matter. Only 1 year is between you and the real world now and trust me, it will come real fast!

Here are a few ways you can build your capacity and improve yourself within this one year.

1. Build useful skills

Build skills that are useful for the job market and for the career you are interested in. You can do this by taking online courses related to your interests or attending seminars or short courses. Sites like edx.org and coursera.org allow you to take a wide range of online courses in different fields for free. Take advantage of them.

2. Take a basic course in IT.

It is MANDATORY. Any potential employers will be surprised if you don’t have any IT skills. At the very least you should be proficient in the use of Microsoft Office and Google Drive.

3. Build your social capital

Build your social capital by forming strategic relationships and connections with people who will add value to your life and help you along your career path. You can do so by attending events in the areas you are interested in. At these events, you will get the opportunity to meet and network with people who are moving in the same direction as you are.

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Make a conscious effort to build as many of these relationships as possible. You may never know whose help you will need a few years to come.

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4. Take part in a volunteer activity.

Volunteering is great. Being able to give back to society is a good feeling. There are many non-profit organizations you can volunteer with. Volunteer Match helps you find volunteer opportunities near you in the areas you are interested in. You may not make any money from volunteering but trust me, it is a great addition to your CV and could be the reason why you are offered a job.

5. Update your LinkedIn profile

If you are serious about getting a job after National Service, you should at least be on Linked. LinkedIn helps you package yourself professionally and it is one of the first places potential employers go to find information about you.  If you do not have a LinkedIn profile create one now! If you have an outdated LinkedIn profile, update it now! Check out my LinkedIn profile for ideas on how to improve yours.

6. Prepare  a good CV

If you ever intend to apply for a job at any point of your life, start learning how to write a great CV. It is one of the essential documents any professional should have.

7. Start a business if you can.

Many of you have been posted to places where there are lots of opportunities to do good business. Explore those opportunities and take advantage of them IF YOU CAN.

8. Read a lot of books

Read as many books as you can in the areas you are interested in. One book a month is okay to start with. I try to read at least two books each month.

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9. Keep up with the times

Be abreast with what’s going on in the world and in the country, especially as far as the economy is concerned so you can position yourself to take advantage of opportunities before service ends. Most news outlets have apps you can simply download onto your smartphone.

10. Open an Investment account

Open an Investment account which allows you to add money anytime and let your bank automatically channel a certain percentage of your NSS allowance to that account every month. 10% is a good start. If you can invest more, do so. You’ll thank me later.

I wish you all the best as you serve the nation.

Do you have any suggestions on National Service personnel can build their capacity during national service? Please share them in the comments section below.