Mary Dinah: Eyes on the job
Mary Dinah is one woman the phrase ‘prim and proper’ describes aptly. With passion for connecting people to their dream jobs and shoring up their employability level, she comes across like Mother Teresa of the Nigerian job market. Mary runs Nigeria’s first real job centre – JobLink Recruitment Services.
“Anyone from different walks of life can come into our centre, drop off their resume or fill a form. From there, we add them to our database; we then connect them to the list of vacancies we have from employers.”
“We have a network of about 1 million job seekers in Nigeria and about 500 employers that use our services daily,” she says. These numbers are growing in terms of the job seekers and employers that we attend to.”
Mary did not start her career life as a human resource manager. She was formerly in the hospitality industry working with the top global brands such as Hilton, Marriott, Four Seasons, Le Meridien and Sheraton, an industry which by her own admission is an artificial world. “The light never goes; there’s always a car, free food and room services to do your chores for you. It is not the real world.”
Eventually, armed with an entrepreneurship training at Harvard University, she left that world to start her own firm.
In 2008, Mary established M.A.D Hospitality, a London-based hospitality consulting firm with particular focuses on the management of boutique hotels and service excellence training. The company has since grown and diversified into corporate hotel bookings with international clients which include Fortune 500 companies.
In 2014, the human resource department of M.A.D Hospitality metamorphosed into JobLink Recruitment Services, Nigeria’s first job centre.
In the real world of the sometime choking Nigerian business space, Mary is constantly evolving, tackling and surmounting one barrier after another.
“Working in Nigeria has been interesting,” she says. “Staffing was easy for us to do because we are a recruitment service company. But there is that challenge of financial support. We have been lucky because our company is of social importance and national interest. We have been enjoying the support of corporate organisations.”
But the challenges are not deterring Mary. Her main task now is to ensure low-level professionals have employability value.
“We are currently working hard to train people on employability. We found out that as we are connecting people to jobs, what about the people who have a minimum level of professionalism? So we are working with British council on training that was designed from the studies they have carried out. Also, corporate organisations have told us what universities don’t teach students: time management, teamwork and using initiatives on the job. These we teach to people.
“Last year we trained 2000 people. But this year we planned to train 500, 000 people. We are partnering with Lagos State Government, who have been very supportive, and a few companies, televisions and radio stations. Companies like Forte Oil, Sahara Foundation, Dangote Foundation and First City Monument Bank have all been supportive.”
As a woman, Mary Dinah believes it is sexist to limit a woman to a certain aspect of the economy.
To her, it is grossly inadequate to say women have certain things they must contribute to the growth of the Nigerian economy, especially now when the country is in dire strait. “We can contribute a lot of things, especially when we have women in leadership positions,” she says with a serious look on her face.
“Women are not completely different creatures from men. I believe if we have more women in leadership roles such as president, governors and ministers, things will change.
“But I believe women also need to rise and go for it. The ceiling is made of glass, and to a large extent, it is what we created for ourselves. I wouldn’t say men have tried to keep women down. But if we continue to let men be the only ones to apply for top jobs, let men be the ones to be recommended for ministerial appointments, it won’t work for us. ”
She is of the opinion that women may not be getting better deals in the Nigerian economic space because they do not have a better network. She suggests that women cultivate an expansive network that includes people of influence in different aspects of life. She opines that having strong resumes would further enhance the ability of women being in leadership positions.
“But then with about 50 per cent of women not working, how will they contribute meaningfully to the economy,” she asks rhetorically with a slight laughter. But this is not a funny issue, she is quick to point out. “It is only if you have worked that you can build a CV and build a career. Then you can start to take up leadership positions.
“I don’t assume that they should give us positions just so they can increase the quota of women in leadership positions,” Mary says. She emphasises the need for women to work hard the way some men do.
However, she recognises that there are societal barriers that women have to surmount. And there’s one she considers pet peeve: the idea that a woman holding business meetings at late hours with men is considered a no-no.
“Before, women were not allowed to work. Men wouldn’t want their wives to work for a male. In fact, my own mum, Adesqueen, never worked for any man. She was a movie producer with a lot of Nollywood movies to her credit.
“But now we have a lot of women in the corporate world and government circles. That entails meetings, networking, business relationships and relations with people of opposite sex.
“A lot of my young male friends can afford to go to Aliko Dangote’s house or to his boat and have drinks at 10 pm. By the time they finish, they would have already signed a contract. But for a lady, that may not be possible.
“For instance, if a man asks me to come to his boat for a meeting at 8 pm. I will probably say that it is too late and suggest 5 pm. In broad daylight. Even then, when people see me at 5 pm walking towards his boat, they probably will say we have something going on.
“Another issue is that when women forge ahead and get to leadership positions, people automatically think that they slept their way up.”
Mary believes these societal conceptions are detrimental to the woman and preclude her, sometimes, from getting to where she should be. “But there is a solution,” she says, again with that signature laughter.
“The solution is for young women to keep working in an honest way. You have to have morals. You have to understand you cannot relate with men the way you bond with women. There will always be a difference in terms of decency and being appropriate.”
She concedes that there is nothing wrong with women having business engagements with men insofar the parameter are well defined, the relationship is not secretive and is kept decent. She notes that if more women do clean businesses with men, the society will change its view of such relationships.
Mary’s advice has obviously worked well for her. In just two years of being in business, her company has won five awards, and she has been conferred with the fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Brand Management.
However, Mary is not new to such level of acclaim. In addition to numerous awards, Mary received the much coveted Marriott Golden Circle Award for her outstanding achievement and contribution towards generating millions of Dollars in revenue at the Marriott London Sales Office. Her academic profile includes graduating Best in Class with Distinction in MSc International Hotel Management from the University of Surrey which is rated Number 1 in Europe for Tourism.
For these successes and positive press she has enjoyed since she decided to start her own business, Mary is thankful.
“I am very grateful to Starwood for bringing me back to Nigeria and for giving me a very soft landing in the country.
“I’m also thankful to Kemdy McErnest of the McErnet Company who has been helpful to our cause.”
But Mary still has lofty ambitions; ambitions to make her recruitment company the go-to centre for job seekers.
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