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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


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

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