Follow by Email

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Graduates are trained as athlete and are then forced to chose one sport

When a footballer plays his first match, he is using 100% of the knowledge and skills that he has gained while getting trained in playing football. So too other sportsman. Even musicians, who perform on the stage for the first time, use 100% of the content and methods that they have got trained on. But this is not true for knowledge professionals like Engineers, Accountants, Doctors, Designers, Consultants, Trainers, Researchers and Entrepreneurs.


Knowledge professionals get trained with lot of generic firepower. For instance, an engineer will learn a lot about different subjects, technologies and generic concepts. A civil Engineer, for instance, while graduating will learn about building dams, bridges, houses, roads and what not. But when he starts his first job, he will typically be working in one area, say bridges and so use his knowledge of 'bridges' in the job. Of course, he also uses the basic concepts of science that he has learnt in graduation, such as tensile strength , foundations, and compression strength, although he uses them in specific area of 'bridge construction' ( and not as scientist uses them).

The same is true for any other graduate, be it commerce graduate, Arts graduate or English graduate. A graduate uses limited amount of subject knowledge plus some specific concepts in his first job. As a guess estimate, most of the graduates in their first job, use 5% to 10% of the content learnt while getting trained as a graduate. 

To borrow an analogy from sports, most of the knowledge professionals get trained as an athlete for 4 years, but at the end of 4 years, are told to chose only one game: football, cycling, squash or some other sport. How does this affect the achievement potential of knowledge professionals as compared to achievement potential of sportsman and musicians?

Professional's potential of Work-achievement remains unfulfilled  

Unlike a footballer or musician, knowledge professional typically make 3 common mistakes that prevents him from achieving big results in his work:

1. A footballer wants to play his first match quickly while a knowledge professional will keep on delaying his first job until it is 'right'. I had met an Engineering graduate who passed in 2010.He did not get the 'right' job in the first year. So he did Management for two years. He got a job, but was unhappy with the job. So once again he left after five months to give the MPSC exam. He is still trying to get his first 'right' job.

Work is the place where graduates achieve their goals. A footballer will never delay in getting inside the match arena, but the knowledge professional will keep on delaying in getting inside his work-arena. By delaying their entry in the work arena, the knowledge professionals are delaying the start of their achievement cycle. They are not aware of this fundamental rule of achievement. 

2 Unlike a footballer, the graduate keeps on changing jobs for wrong reasons:When a footballer fails in the match, he looks at his 'flaws' and tries to correct them. He deepens his 'result producing skills' because he is committed to his work-path of football. On the other hand, a knowledge professional changes his work-path too quickly. Instead of finding a way to produce results on his chosen path, he quickly quits his work-path. I met an Engineer changing 3 jobs in unrelated fields in 4 years: Maintenance Engineer to BPO to Bank.

A graduate keeps on changing jobs as he compares his salary with his friends. A footballer never does this. A footballer focuses on producing results; because he is aware that money will follow if he produces results. A knowledge professional sacrifices his long term achievement because he cannot control his aspirations. He breaks the second fundamental rule of achievement.

3. Single achievement makes the professional jump from one job to another for small gains: A football player knows that winning one match is not enough. If he has to sustain his achievement, he must constantly produce results in different conditions: when his team is down, when a new team member arrives as replacement, when he has to perform with injury, when he is playing in the final crunch match, when the rain is falling during the match and so on. He keeps on honing his result-producing skill.

A professional, on the other hand, makes the mistake of encashing his achievement immediately. Instead of chasing work achievement, he keeps on chasing positions and salary increases. He keeps on changing his performance system - his job, his team and his boss - thus making it more and more difficult to achieve anything meaningful. Instead of practicing and honing his result-producing skill, he develops the defensive skills necessary to survive : the skill of appeasing bosses, taking credit which is not his, using his power to dominate others in the team, finding people or situations to blame for poor results and using his communication skill to keep others on the defensive.

Summary

A professional's  tool of work-achievement is only by honing the skill of producing results in a job, under varying and difficult conditions of team composition, nature of boss, industry related factors and other work-pressures. But a professional is neither trained in building this skill like a footballer or musician. Nor he allows himself enough time to get trained ( to develop this skill), because he is ignorant of the rules of achievement. A graduate is really unlucky in that sense. He has to depend on himself to 'achieve'.  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

To maximise benefits from 4 years of graduation, graduates must have a robust plan

I read this newspaper article on Phd's applying for the post of peons. More than 2 lakh applications for the post of peon ( out of 23 lakhs) were from graduates like BTech, BSc, MCom and MA. Does this represent the real demand-supply gap of job-market conditions of graduate employment or does it signify the incapability of graduates to make a robust workable plan ( that can also counter surprises) to find the jobs? 

The student needs a Map and Compass to guide him. He needs map to equip himself adequately to negotiate the expected hurdles, while he also must have a Compass to negotiate the unexpected hurdles and opportunities. Let us talk about making the Map today.


Make a Map to find most suitable job

We all get educated to do work, be it the work of a production engineer or a researcher. One of the common objective of a graduate is to acquire job-skills to convince a prospective employer of his usefulness.

Map helps a student to achieve this objective. He has to move from his current unemployed destination to employed destination. Map, to be useful, must therefore include milestones ( of what to achieve when) and Expected external hurdles and internal mind hurdles. Once he knows the expected hurdles, he can prepare in advance.

To achieve this objective, he must produce 5 results.

A. List KRAs to achieve the objective of finding the job

To reach his destination the graduate must focus on at least 4 Key Result Areas ( KRA):

1. Develop primary cognitive skills related to his chosen discipline, be it English, Engineering or Design.
2. Develop secondary cognitive skills that will help him perform any job such as Planning, Communication, and Team working.
3. Develop ancillary skills ( such as Additional training on Java Programming for a software graduate, using an accounting software for a commerce graduate, or Learning second language like German) which offer him unique advantages visavis other students.
4. Develop the marketing and selling skills to find a job-position and employer that is the best possible fit.

B.Set Milestones for each KRA

A graduate student must set milestones for each KRA so that he knows his progress over the 4 years and take corrective action in time. Without a milestone, the graduate will not know if he has slipped .

KRA-1: Develop Primary cognitive skills from first year onwards

Primary cognitive skills help graduate to perform the basic work, be it designing or repairing cars, making a balance sheet, or drafting an article for a newspaper.

While graduating, a student is busy acquiring Cognitive 'abilities' when he is learning subjects such as VLSI, English, or Commercial Law. To do a job in a company, however, he has to combine these cognitive abilities with his behavioural abilities (such as diagnosing to decide what to do, sequencing them into separate actions, testing the output of his actions, correcting the action if required and so on). In other words, he requires Cognitive skills. A graduate therefore has to convert his 'Cognitive Abilities' into useful primary 'Cognitive Skills'.

Some subjects/disciplines are skill-friendly, because the environment offers practice grounds for converting them into skills. For instance, internet offers an English graduate various opportunities to write, such as writing in blogs. These opportunities enable students to get real practice to develop cognitive skills of English language. Disciplines like Accounting, fashion design, and Management are skill-friendly. On the other hand, Disciplines like Engineering are not skill-friendly.

When disciplines are skill-friendly, student can set milestone targets for every 3/6 months, because he can get constant practice and help from other experts on his progress. For instance, if a child is learning accounting, he can prepare a Trial balance of a small Shop by Year 1 of graduation. Or prepare the income tax papers of his father. If the student is graduating in English, he can write blogs and articles every month or write articles for a Local Newspaper.

KRA-2: Develop Secondary cognitive skills in first three years 

These skills are necessary part of any job. As we have discussed earlier, these skills have to be learnt from the actual work done in the college, and not as a training done in a classroom. For instance, Planning skill has to be learnt from planning college events such as Engineering Day, Annual events like Gathering, or even small events like Expert Talks.

For KRA-4, finding a job-position and employer, the student must achieve this by Year 3. At this milestone, the graduate should find the possible options of job-positions he can opt and the employers he can approach. If his college is Tier 1 and his marks are excellent, he can execute his plan easily. Here are the marketing and selling required to find a job.

However, if his college is Tier 2/3 and if he is scoring less marks, he must prepare alternate plans. In such situations, KRA-3 of acquiring ancillary skills becomes important.  Using KRA-3, he can learn a new language like German that can help him find a job which is otherwise inaccessible through primary cognitive skills. I have met an Engineering student who started his career in a good company based on his "German certificate course' despite scoring below average marks in the final year. Ancillary skills are important in career, because they offer an option to combine skills in a unique way.

C. Anticipate the possible hurdles in developing the above skills 

From the above, first hurdle in developing the primary job skills is obvious. When subjects are not skill-friendly, like Engineering, one has to take special efforts. Some colleges offer internships, that help the graduates work in a company for a period of 6 months. In this job, the student learns to apply the learnt facts and procedures in different situations, problems and conditions. But, if you are not studying in a college that has this facility, Engineering graduates must use other options such as working in Summer vacations in companies to get this experience.

Second hurdle is less obvious. Every graduate discipline - be it Psychology, Accounts or Engineering - have various subjects to study. Student may encounter a difficult subject or a professor who cannot teach the subject well. If this happens, the student has to alter his Plan. He must drop the subject from his plan, and pick another subject to deepen his learning and develop the cognitive skills around that subject. For instance, if the Psychology graduate finds Clinical Psychology difficult to grasp, he may plan to deepen the cognitive skills in Education psychology. Although this is not ideal, the graduate student has to find a way to build his confidence by finding a practical alternative.

Third hurdle emerges from the second. When a student does not understand a subject well, he may fare poorly in the exams in those subjects. But he has to 'find a way' to get good marks in those subjects. Because, without a good percentage in the exams, he may lose opportunity to apply to certain employers. So getting good marks in difficult subjects, which was not a KRA earlier, becomes a KRA-5 in such a situation. As you would observe, KRA-5 is a default KRA that every graduate must achieve.

D. Anticipate the internal mind hurdles in taking the required timely actions

Student, despite a brilliant plan, cannot take the requisite actions because of the four big mind hurdles: Stress, Emotions, Aspiration and Habits. They look as small irritants but they have the capacity to derail a student in reaching his destination. And because they work without our conscious intentions, they are more powerful because we ignore them completely.

For instance, I have observed that the biggest mind hurdle that graduates face is their unbridled Aspiration. For instance, many IIT graduates shift their path from Engineering to Management while during graduation because of the lure of bigger salary. They get derailed from their path and shift to other cognitive skills due to embarrassment of getting lesser salary than other students, not because they want to shift. They miss an opportunity to deepen their learning in the engineering subjects. In a way, they lose time in their career, which is irreplaceable. They never understand what 'achievement' they have missed in their career.

For more details on Stress as a hurdle, check this out. For more details on emotions as a hurdle, check this out.

Summary

Please note that this map will help a graduate to meet his objective of finding a job after graduation. But the graduate must also achieve other objectives in his career, if he has to succeed in his life. For instance, getting satisfaction from relationships is another objective of many achievers. We shall later discuss of what a graduate can do in these four years to produce results in relationships.

A graduate also encounters unexpected opportunities while graduating. For instance, a graduate may want to do post-graduation after finishing graduation, instead of taking a job. Graduate can negotiate such unexpected opportunities ( and hurdles), only if he has developed a calibrated Compass. We shall discuss Compass values and beliefs later.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Are you job-ready ?

"I finished BE electronics in 2013 with 58%. I took 7 years to complete graduation. I started my work in Maintenance at a salary of 8000. Job was boring. So i left the job last year and have since been trying to find a job in BPO. I could not get one. I am losing hope. Do I have a  future?". Vikas asked this question in a newspaper column last week.

Since last 3 years, I have been meeting many graduates like Vikas. Last year about 8.50 lakhs Engineering graduates passed. Every year more and more seats are remaining vacant in Engineering colleges. Last year about 8 lakh seats were vacant. Given the current situation of supply exceeding demand, you will find many Engineers like Vikas. What will you advise Vikas?

Job readiness develops only while playing the match , not by watching the match 

Vikas is making three mistakes - in sequence - which he would not have made if he had adequate CIQ- Career intelligence. 

Mistake nos 1: Believe "High-paying first job guarantees sustained achievement" 

Many graduates ( and adults) believe that first job guarantees success in career, or 'makes a career'. They will tell you that 'So and So started his career with the first job of 12 lakhs'. They assume that if one can get a first job with high salary , their sustained achievement is guaranteed. This assumption is simply untrue. It is like a married bachelor saying 'If I can find the right partner, my married life will be wonderful for rest of 25 years". 

First job simply helps you develop the job-skills, at the least, which help you produce results in a job, using different processes, teams, and bosses. For more details read this. Without this result-producing job-skill, no achievement is possible. With these job-skills, you become job-ready.


And earlier one starts developing this skill, the better it is, because we have limited life to achieve our goals. A footballer knows this. He keeps on playing even friendly-matches, so that he is match-ready. However, most of the graduate students are not job-ready, and expect to achieve results from their first job and still expect to 'succeed'. If a footballer is not match-ready, opportunity of playing the first match cannot help him. So too, if you are not job-ready, getting the first job is not going to help you achieve anything in the job, even if salary is 1 lakh per month.
  • Dumb CIQ students believe ' A high paying job guarantees sustained achievement". 
  • Smart CIQ students believe ' Becoming job-ready at the earliest makes it possible to achieve anything meaningful in career'. 
But some smart CIQ students make the second mistake, even when they do not make the first one.

Mistake 2: Use only cognitive skill, not the other three skills, to get job-ready


A footballer cannot get match-ready only by developing physical skill of dribbling the football. So too, the knowledge professional, cannot get job-ready just by using his cognitive skill. That is not enough. To be match-ready, a footballer must at least mix four skills:  

  • One is the physical skill of dribbling, kicking, or tackling the ball. And build his stamina by running around the ground every day. 
  • Second is the Strategic planning skill required to develop appropriate strategies to play a specific match. 
  • Third is using mind skills to avoid all the distractions, including the distraction of winning. 
  • Fourth is people-interaction skill to implement the desired strategy while working in a team.  This necessitates thorough knowledge of his team players 
In short, to get match-ready, he prepares himself with all the four skills: Physical skills to tackle the ball, Strategic Planning skills to develop useful strategies, Mind skills to avoid distractions, and people-interaction skills to collaborate with his team members. 

Similarly, a knowledge professional, cannot rely only on content knowledge to succeed in his job. To get job-ready, he must mix four skills

  • Like a footballer primarily uses physical skills to play a match, a knowledge professional primarily uses cognitive skills to work in his job. Unlike footballer, who knows which game he is playing, a knowledge professional does not know which job he is going to do while graduating. He therefore first acquires large amount of content of interrelated subjects, even though he may not need all of it in the first job.
  • Secondly, he should use strategic planning skill to produce results in a given situation of his job: his available team, the value chain in which he is working, and the boss he is reporting. 
  • Thirdly, he must use people-interaction skills to collaborate with colleagues while doing his work, because no work in a job can be done alone. 
  • And fourthly, he must use the mind skills to avoid distractions that will hinder the production of results in the job.  
In short, 
  • Dumb CIQ students just use cognitive knowledge, to get job-ready
  • Smart CIQ students mix four skills to get job-ready  
Although some CIQ students know the requirement of 4 job skills, they make the third mistake of using the wrong method of developing these job-skills. 

Mistake 3: Learn to mix 4 skills of job-readiness without doing a 'simulated' job  

A footballer knows that his four skills can be learnt only while playing a real match. 
He cannot learn these skills by just practicing in the empty playground. To become match-ready, he must play a real match, real team players, actual competitor, and real desire to win. So to develop these job skills, he plays in small club matches, district level matches, charity matches.  

Surprisingly, the graduates do not use this time-tested method of becoming job-ready. They develop each skills independently. Medical graduates do not make this mistake. They use internship program. They work in a real hospital before graduating. But engineering graduates do not get this opportunity. 

Few engineering colleges have now started using internship programs to provide this opportunity. They help the students to solve real problems in a company by helping them interact with real working professionals. They make them work on real projects that help others to solve their real problems. They work on real assignments, interact with real people, and solve real work- problems. 

But if your college does not have an internship program, what can you do? We shall discuss another method to help the graduates mix the four skills 
( to become job-ready) in the later blogs.

What happens when you are not job-ready

You will become like Vikas. 

Vikas is not aware that job-readiness depends on the static factors of role, domain, function of a job. But it also depends on the dynamic factors such as processes followed in a company, the team in which one is working, kind of boss one has and inter-dependency between the team members. 

Vikas has done a job of Maintenance Engineer for a year, but is searching for a job in BPO where all the factors - static and dynamic - are changing. He is completely job-unfit for BPO. Even if he gets a job in BPO, he is most likely to fail in producing desired results. 

On the other hand, if he 'controlled' his aspirations for next 2-3 years, and focused in delivering the results in his current job, he would have become job-fit for Maintenance Engineer. With some smart approach, he could have got job-fit for the higher role of Maintenance Manager. At that time, he could have searched for jobs that fetched the desired salary, which were closer to his 'aspirations'.

But, unaware of this, he is making another mistake. He is digging a bigger hole for himself. He is out of job.  He is watching the match from the sidelines and hoping that he will get ready to play in the match. From the sidelines, he is not improving his job-fitness even a bit. He is making himself 'obsolete' every day. 

To achieve anything meaningful in life, you must first become job-ready for a specific job. Only this will help you become achievement-ready. You will be ready to achieve your goals using the corporate systems available for you. The more you delay working in a job, the more you are delaying your time of being achievement-ready. To find your job-readiness, see if you can take these 3 steps in your current job.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Four steps in building career intelligence of graduates


If you check your career intelligence, you will know where you stand. But that is half the battle won, the next battle is won only when you take the effort to achieve career intelligence.

By working with students since a year and half, we have formulated a 4-step process which seems to be working most of the time.

Step 1: Re-build the confidence of graduates by helping him understand the working environment

I call it re-build, because i find that majority of the graduates are low on confidence, especially from Tier 2 colleges. So they must believe that they are good enough to have a wonderful career, that low academic score is not the bottleneck, and that they can use other resources to make a deserving career for themselves.

We have discovered that the best way to build this confidence is by exposing the graduate students to the different parts of the working environment such as Stock market, banking, insurance, taxation, governance, advertising, industry structure. This helps the graduate study the environment in a 'systematic' way, have his 'individual viewpoint' on each of them with a tightly reasoned logic, and start a virtuous cycle of information building more information.

But this study of working environment has another beneficial side effect. This study, if done smartly, can help the student to build his skill of communication, which is very important in his work-life. After studying the environment, we ask students to 'present' his/her thoughts on the subject studied. This presentation and communication enables the student to learn the 'art' of communication not in abstract manner, but by 'engaging in something'. Please remember that skill like communication (or cooking) cannot be learnt by reading communication books ( or recipe books); it can be learnt only by actually communicating your own thoughts cogently ( or cooking dishes). Similarly, presentation skills do not develop by taking classes of 'How to do presentation' in a class room, but by doing actual presentations of  'ones own ideas' and getting a feedback from others.

In communication, most difficult part of learning communication is expressing 'disagreements' in an effective manner without getting flooded with emotions.

Duration of Step 1: 6 months to one year, with sessions every fortnight

Step 2: Use the 'generic' confidence in developing one's primary cognitive abilities 

Generally students assume that their main task in college is to score high marks in the exams. However, smart students know that their main task is to build the confidence in one's primary abilities.

Whether a student is graduating in arts, commerce, engineering, design or hotel management, he encounters many subjects. Some subjects are more logical while some require more 'memorising' before logic can be used. Some make more use of language, some make use of 'numerical abilities'. Some demand narrow learning in one subject area, such as embedded electronics in E&T, while some require integration of different subjects, such as 'design' in product design  Student may dislike a subject. Or may find a likable subject being taught by a poor teacher.

But, despite all the difficulties, a student has to gain sufficient confidence in his/her abilities by the end of graduation. He should spend more efforts in converting his ' learnt information' into 'skills'. It therefore requires combining 'what information' ( that he gains from books and college classes) with the 'how' and 'why'. To combine these three items, a graduate has to work in a real project, do tough academic assignments, solve difficult problems in academic field, or work in a company for a specific problem. Student should use the entire college system ( like visiting professors, colleagues, labs, alumni students) apart from using the professors and classes to develop these skills. Use all these three methods to develop the confidence in primary abilities.

Duration of Step 2: 3-6 months, with sessions every fortnight

Step 2A: ( Optional) Develop the planning skill with real world engagement 

Planning skill is another skill, akin to communication, which is very useful part of any Job. Planning skill includes understanding the components of planning and then using that knowledge to plan an actual event. Knowledge part is very easy to learn, but learning the application part is tough.

Planning skill therefore does not develop by reading a book in planning, but by doing actual planning for say an event in college, like Annual day and Robotics competition. College clubs, Planning annual events, Culture clubs are part of ' College Systems' in good colleges.

Another good planning event to use is the planning for the exams. This is also a good event to use for learning the real-life application of planning information.

Duration: 3-6 months, simultaneous with step 2

Step 3: Utilise your mind fully to take actions/decisions 

We are often distracted by emotions, habits, stress and aspirations. We have to learn to keep these distractions away to use our Mind. Self awareness is the first step. It helps us achieve two objectives: one short term and one long term.

In the short-term, self-awareness helps a graduate to use his time most effectively and therefore produce better results. Without self awareness, a graduates wastes time and opportunities. It is therefore important to introspect and understand one's propensity to take stress so that one can take proactive steps in preventing it's buildup. The same applies to other three distractors: Emotions, habits, and aspirations.

Duration of step 3: 6-8 months or less depending on quality time spend on Step 1 and 2

Step 4: Learn the functioning of skill-market to find how one's skills can be mixed in different combinations 

Understand skill market conditions to enter job arenaWork-skills ( comprising of key and support skills) are very different than skills learnt in college, because college cannot simulate the exact conditions that are present in a job. Please read these three challenges of converting academic abilities into useful Job-skills. It is therefore important to get a job and learn these work-skills asap. Many graduates like Mike and Paras do not understand the importance of these work-skills and waste opportunities of learning these critical work-skills asap. The earlier one learns these job-skills, the faster one can achieve. Very few graduates have necessary marketing and selling skills to find their first job.

Duration : 3-6 months

Summary

As you would observe, learning the CIQ in four steps in the right sequence is very important for developing CIQ over  a period of 2-3 years.Undertaking step 1 looks long but is necessary. Without the necessary confidence build in step 1, the student is not able to question oneself, which is step 3. For an academically good student, step 2 may not be urgent because he is confident in his core abilities. But other students cannot miss this step. Step 4 is the most important step because without this skill-marketing knowledge, your mistaken beliefs of talent building can derail your career.

Now a days, finishing schools started in big metros attempt to conduct a finishing course of 3 months at the end of graduation to teach the graduates some communication skills like presentation and planning. They also help the graduate to draft a proper resume and prepare him for tough interview. But these well-meaning attempts do not work, because developing these 'finishing' skills is not enough. Graduates need CIQ.

Without these CIQ skills developed over a period of 2-3 years, despite a good resume, these graduates fail in the interview because they cannot defend their claims in an interview. Or the graduates may learn to wear the right dress and become presentable in the interview, but they cannot 'present' their thoughts cogently. And even after getting their jobs, like Adi they keep on blaming themselves instead of the company when they fail in their jobs.And some fail  despite getting good jobs.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Friday, April 24, 2015

Even if you have enough competence, fake confidence in the interview



Dr Tomas distinguishes between internal confidence and external confidence. He advises us to fake external confidence.Why? Because people cannot 'evaluate' competence. Neither they have the 'ability', nor the 'time' to evaluate the competence. And because they cannot evaluate competence, they use 'confidence' to evaluate it. 

Most lack the ability to evaluate competence due to two reasons. One, because our work today is too specialised, we cannot evaluate the speciality. What would you do, for instance, to evaluate a doctor for treating your child? Specialisation has become so narrow, that even a 'gynecologist' doctor cannot evaluate a 'cardiac surgeon' doctor. Even if you are interviewed by a Software executive in a company, he would not know about your specialised course you have taken in Business Intelligence Software. 

The second big reason for inability to evaluate competence is insufficient contextualisation. Even when a senior professional is interviewing a junior in the same field, say in Design, the senior views everything from his 'blue lens'. Senior professional often has strong views of 'what is right' and views everything from his 'own shoes'. This colors the evaluation. 

But the biggest reason, why one cannot evaluate competence, is lack of time. This is especially true in campus placements where many candidates are being interviewed one after another. Time is insufficient and shortcuts are taken to evaluate competence. 

One of the short cut taken is Confidence. So, if you appear to be confident, you will be seen as 'competent'. The correlation between the two has been proven so strongly that it is used in many situations like Selling, Advising or Public talking. Despite knowing this, I often fall in this trap so many times. Yesterday, I had gone on a public talk by a famous celebrity writer. Even though the writer had no credentials/competence on 'why people are successful', everyone was taking her advice of 'success' seriously, because she was confident. 

How to fake external confidence 

So how to fake confidence in an interview, even though you do not like to 'show off'. You can use 5 different mechanisms: 

One, always wear your best dress for the interview. Even if you are going for an interview after a long bus ride, clean yourself and change your clothes before you enter the interview room. If you can afford, wear coat. If you can't at least wear a tie. The dress is good for both the reasons: for feeling confident as well as to show that you are confident. 

Two, always 'rehearse' the answers to the standard questions in front of a mirror.  Standard questions are "Tell us about yourself", 'What are your strengths", ' Why did you do mechanical and not IT', 'Why are you suitable for the job" and so on. While answering these questions, assume that they already like you. If, on the contrary, you believe that they do not like you, your behaviour will be defensive and cold, leading to consequent rejection. Therefore, do not avoid making positive statements. Be as much as positive as is 'plausible' for the interviewer. Frame your responses in well rehearsed statements in a way that you want to be perceived. Remember, when you bought your mobile, you were being told only about all the 'positive features' of your mobile. 

Three, prepare your answers on projects or important assignments thoroughly. Once again rehearse them. Do not be modest about your work or your contribution. Just say it clearly and loudly. And say it slowly, not hastily. If questions are asked, listen to the question fully before answering.  If some question is asked in difficult English, ask them to 'repeat it'. Understanding a question wrongly is a sure sign of 'lack of confidence'. I have seen a graduate from rural area passing in an interview, even though he was forced to speak in his vernacular mother tongue to explain something 'technical'. Root cause of rejection in interview is rarely English. 

Four, if you do not know an answer to the question, say ' I do not know' while looking in the 'eyes' of the interviewer and without 'fidgeting' in your seat. Do not think that you must know the answers to all the questions. Infact, this is the best sign of showing confidence. 

Five, be prepared to ask your set of questions at the end of the interview. Do the necessary homework, but asking questions at the end is a good sign of 'confidence'. Please remember that even though someone is  'evaluating' you for the job, you are also 'evaluating' them as a company. So ask questions about 'why should you join the company'. Many times, i have advised students to go for a important interview after they have a 'job offer' from a lesser known company. This relaxes them and makes them ask questions that shows the confidence.

Summary

Please remember this is part of Selling skill required to influence the job-market. It is therefore part of Career intelligence. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Check your career intelligence by using these six checks

Irrespective of whether your marks or high or low, coming from urban or rural area or hailing from well connected family or not, you must gain career intelligence if you want to have a chance to succeed in the work-life after college. 

How do you know if you have career intelligence? You will know that you have career intelligence if you do two primary checks. One, do you know the abilities you have and can you grow them, if you do not know and Two, do you know how you can sell your abilities. 

Section I: Awareness of your abilities and how to grow them

Check 1: Do you know the primary abilities you have?

We develop abilities in colleges, but job require skills. Both are different. We have to convert our abilities into skills to perform in a job. But our view of ability and job-related skills is so restrictive that it stops us from exploring good job choices.

Let us take a Howard Gardner's view of intelligence as our abilities. As knowledge workers we have three primary abilities:
  • Logical ability ( which we primarily develop in subjects of mathematics and science) is useful for learning several job-related skills in programming, accounting and even medicine. 
  • Linguistic ability ( which we develop in languages and social studies)  is useful in many job skills such as collaborating with colleagues, selling services or products, developing and promoting innovative ideas and products in companies. 
  • Visual abilities ( which we develop in drawing and crafts) are used powerfully in creating advertising, websites and other related visual domains like fashion and entertainment.
Do you know the ancillary abilities you possess?

Even our 'ancillary' abilities can be used in work. For instance, smell and taste abilities can be used powerfully in jobs related to tea, wine, perfume and cooking domains. Or our auditory ability can be used in jobs related to music industry such as sound engineers. Or our kinesthetic ability of sports can be used in jobs related to sports such as coaches, sport administrators or sports commentators.

Here is a way to list down your entire set of abilities.

Check 2: More importantly, do you know the way of growing your primary cognitive skills?

As we have mentioned above, cognitive skills are developed only after working with real live problems, or working in projects that produce real outputs. If you are studying in a college which offers internships, then these skills can be developed easily. If however, you are studying in a college which does not offer such internships, then a graduate has to find his own way to work in real-life projects.

Check 3: Do you know the methods of developing secondary cognitive abilities that are necessary to survive in any job? 

You need secondary cognitive skills skills - communication, planning and team working - are important in any job.

Remember cooking cannot be learnt by reading recipe books; it can be learnt only by actually 'cooking' individual dishes. Similarly, communication skill cannot be developed by taking classes of 'How to do presentation' in a class room but by doing actual presentations of 'assignments'.

Planning skill does not develop by reading a book in planning, but by doing actual planning for say an event in college, like Annual day and Robotics competition. College clubs, Planning annual events, and college presentations of projects are inherent part of ' College Systems' in good colleges.

Team working skill cannot be learnt by taking training class. It can be improved only by functioning in a real team which is producing an output. It can be learnt in sports by playing in a team.

Section II: Awareness of using available job options 

Check 4: Do you know the available job options suitable for your basket of abilities?

Depending on the understanding of the job market in your field, a graduate chooses possible job positions which suit him the most.

Choosing a job position is choosing the combination of four elements of a job
  • Role of doer, teacher , advisor, researcher ( I am assuming the direct role of manager is not available for a fresh graduate)  
  • Subject speciality to specialise (For instance, audit or tax after doing accounting, or doing animation or art work design after doing bachelors in commercial arts)
  • Function ( Sales, manufacturing, service)
  • Industry domain ( software or telecom) 
A graduate may chose combination of the above four elements. For instance a commerce graduate may chose to focus on work in banking domain, with banking speciality, sales function. He may also choose alternate job positions in say retail and tax domain. Here are some examples of work-path choices.

Check 5: Find the best possible path that will help you find the good employer

Skill-market, like product market, has its own rules. Graduates must understand these rules so that they can adhere to them instead of fighting them.

For instance, many graduates have poor understanding of buyers in the skill market (employers), the jobs available with them and what evaluations they use to hire fresh graduates. Few Tier 3 college graduates understand why companies pay 5 times the salary to a graduate from Tier 1 college as compared to Tier 3 college. They keep on trying to get job in Tier A company which is almost difficult for them, until they have done something unique in their graduation. And they keep on refusing to work in Tier C/D companies because of low salary.

With no work in hand, they do not get the requisite skills necessary to produce result in a job. And on the other hand, neither their credentials improve by sitting in the house. They must find a way to work in a small company and get the requisite skills and credentials, to move ahead so that they can work in better companies in 3-5 years.  In career intelligence jargon, this is called marketing and selling skill to influence the job-market.

Check 6: Present your credentials in a CV and demonstrate them convincingly in the interview

Whatever the decision the graduate takes, the graduate must have the requisite skills in drafting CV, approaching employers and then demonstrating one's credentials in the interview in convincing manner. CV designing and interview-demonstration becomes a core requirement of Career intelligence.

Some graduates make a beautiful CV, but cannot handle all the questions of an interviewer that the CV raises. Some graduates design such a poor CV that they cannot even get a interview call. So the balance between CV and interview has to be maintained in a way that will demonstrate one's credentials for the desired job.

Summary

If you can check up all the above questions satisfactorily, you can safely assume to have enough career intelligence.

If you do not develop this career intelligence to a sufficient degree, you may take up a job because others are taking it, or you may refuse the right job because of low salary. Without enough career intelligence, you will follow others like a sheep and miss your career boat.

A student requires enough career intelligence while he is graduating. If he does not have it, he may lose some years in just getting his 'direction' right. If he has it, he can exploit his limited skills for the fullest possible gains. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Do you have enough career intelligence ( CIQ)?



Last week i was going out to Mumbai. I happened to reach the Railway station much in advance. Besides me, two young confident-looking individuals were sitting. Let us call one of them as Mike, an Engineer and Paras, the pharmacist.  From their talk, they seem to be meeting after a long period. Both of them seemed to have done graduation a year back. Listen to this talk. 

Mike : I guess you were working in a big hospital.
Paras: Oh that.  I changed that job. All these huge hospitals suck. They pay peanuts, but expect 'almonds' in job.
Mike: But did you not get a hike of 1000 from the last job. 
Paras: But that still meant i was getting paid 6k. And that too for a job of 10 hours.
Mike: So you changed job twice in last year.
Paras: Oh no, this was my third job. And i will leave this job in next six months. 

After a while, Paras asks Mike. 

Paras: Why you haven't got a job yet? You were in the top 10, isn't it? I understand that many companies had come for placement in your college.
Mike: Oh yes, i had got a job in Bangalore. But they were paying 15 K. How can one live in Bangalore in 15K? 
Paras: These companies are leaches. They will pay 100 K for a IIT graduate, but pay poorly for Nashik graduate. Is there any difference in the course? What about Nashik jobs?
Mike:  Oh in Nashik, they do not even pay 7K. I was working in a company. But the boss was too 'pushy'. Plus the colleagues were also bickering and complaining as i was the smartest..
Paras: So what are you planning to do now?
Mike: Not sure. I may do MBA next year if nothing turns out.

What do you think of Career Intelligence ( CIQ) of Paras and Mike?

Paras has got into the 'victim' mentality. He seems to be over-worried about 'what he was getting'  with no idea of 'what employer wants/needs'. Many graduates, like Paras, only cater to their boss's wants, ignoring what company needs or what skills they need to produce the outputs required in a next job. To learn these skills, they must understand the 'work-output' required in a job.

On the other hand, Mike is unable to manage his 'boss's requirements. Given Mike's high academic score, he seems to be too 'hung' on his individual work-output. He behaves like Avinash who believes in producing best output instead of acceptable output. He seems to be ignorant of  aligning with Boss's requirements (System owner's requirements).

And both, Mike and Paras, seem to be completely ignorant of ability development, skill market and domains in which abilities develop. They are like Nishikant, completely ignorant of skills and skill market. For instance, in the skill market, employers pays higher premium to get IIT graduates, in the same way that we pay more to get Surf Excelmatic in the product market. Or , in skill market, customer pays more only after enough effort has been spent on building the brand reputation. Paras, by changing three jobs in a year, is destroying his brand every day and still expects to get more from his customers - the employers.

In other words, neither Paras nor Mike seem to be having career intelligence. They are just lemmings rushing towards self destruction without any plan.

Summary 

To be employable, graduates do not need secondary cognitive skills of communication and planning alone. That is not enough Not knowing this, many colleges have been calling Trainers in their colleges to undertake  'personality development programs' for their passing graduates. Because of these programs, the graduates have learnt to wear ties, dress well, write good resumes and speak 'better English'. But this does not make them more employable.

Graduates, instead, need higher Career Intelligence ( CIQ). They do not have to speak fluent English, instead they must learn to communicate their 'technical' understanding of a subject in a 'workable' English. They do not have to present themselves impeccably, instead they must explain how a given job aligns with their own goals. Writing 'Error-free' resume is not enough, instead they must learn to highlight their strengths in the resume so that the interview is focused on their strengths.

If they do not enough CIQ, they may simply spend time like Mike in taking more degrees, but lack the basic career intelligence to convert their degrees into marketable skills. Or, like Paras, they may keep on taking and leaving jobs with no increase in their marketable skills. Instead of using free training of 10 hours to develop the marketable skills, for which he should thank his employers, Paras is wasting his opportunities. What are you doing?