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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.


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.

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