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Here’s Why Just “Academic Excellence” Wouldn’t Get You Hired

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By Hardik Vaidya:

Exams ask: x3 + y3= 100, find the possible solutions of (x, y)
Employers ask: So tell me something more about yourself. Tell me about a time when you faced a really tough challenge, and how did you sail through it?

I hope you get my point. No?

Ok.

If the youth has worked incredibly hard to enter & graduate from their universities or schools, and cannot land a decent job for a living, something is terribly wrong somewhere in the process or the expectation gap of the individuals who graduate, the educators and the companies that hire or maybe both the reasons mentioned above. This, no doubt, will lead to angered and frustrated individuals, who have expectation for the stars in their eyes & are under heavy debts under their belts.

human-resource-consultancy-placement-firm-hr-outsourcing-executive-search_3

A recent McKinsey report titled Education to Employment, carried out a study to assess the extent to which the Employers, the Educators (providers of education), and the youth themselves, agree that the new graduates/hires were adequately prepared. The results were quite startling.

Employers: 42%
Providers: 72%
Youth: 45%

There is a huge expectation gap between the Employers, Educators and the Students. Currently in my role as a primary school teacher, I hate to admit that the community of educators, even in the higher learning institutions, aren’t a 100% sure that the education provided is certainly making the graduates employable in today’s market. If the metrics used while admitting the students in universities were the same as the metrics used by companies to hire, then I would’ve completely agreed to give all the relevant exams their due importance. But I’m quite curious to know, home many companies actually ask for these test scores and take a call on whether to make the hire. But I definitely think that is clearly not the case.

Institutions are preparing the kids to master some skills so that they ‘score’ well in the exams. In this process, something very significant is getting compromised; the individual’s learning curve. Because we need to ‘fit’ on a scale, everything is designed around these numbers. Institutions are trying to force feed the minds with the hard technical skills to pass the exams, but in the bargain are losing out on teaching the finer points of life which are incredibly important to face the challenges of life. Exams such as the ones we use for undergrad or grad schools admissions, aim to quantify the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing and critical thinking skills that have been acquired over a significant period of time. Taking these forward, entire curriculum is designed to fit the numbers. I can safely assume, that since these types are easily quantifiable, it is easy for the institutions of primary, secondary and higher order learning to quickly brand someone as ‘in’ or ‘out’. Employers don’t easily such calls on hiring so easily. Employers look, not so much at the technical skills, but at the process that individual uses to think and arrive to solutions.

Popeye says, “I y’am what I y’am”. He explains my point quite succinctly. Employers look for the right fit and not really a person who scored 800/800 on the GMAT or full score on Economics 101.To give you a brief glimpse, even the most premier consulting firms often offer MBA-like training to their new recruits to learn the business knowledge required to solve problems and sends many of its non-MBAs to a 3-4 week mini-MBA boot camp to learn the most important tools and concepts. That essentially says something if I’m not mistaken. So, employers are not only hiring for problem solving skills, but also hiring for a much broader range of traits.

When I spoke with founders, CEOs or hiring managers in various organizations ranging from for Profit to Not For Profit companies, besides the minimum threshold of intelligence, they heavily look for qualities like;

1) Initiative
2) Willingness to learn and work hard
3) Professionalism
4) Written & Oral Communication
5) Personal values
6) Integrity
7) Commitment
8) Team player
9) Flexibility
10) Problem Solving Skills

How exactly are the educators or policy makers of higher education making sure these extremely important soft skills are given their due importance in the educational journey of a youth? According to a NASSCOM-McKinsey report, in India, only 25% Engineers and a mere 10% generalist fresh graduates are employable. This is a really sorry state of affair. Curriculum at higher level should be designed to educate the youth broadly and not train them narrowly.

As I end this, I’d like to make some implementable suggestions to try and narrow this gap in some way:

1) Mandatory Internships, beginning right from primary schooling, are an excellent way to build connections, understand the world and test the learning in classrooms in real-time.

2) More face time with the employers and speaker sessions from industry experts to seek what are the current hiring trends and needs in the market.

3) Curriculums designed to include Public speaking, Writing, Presentation and value based learning.

4) Instead of creating a pipeline of job seekers, it would be extremely useful to the country’s economy to create a pipeline of job-creators. So, courses designed to allow entrepreneurial thinking will prove to be of great value in the longer run.

3.5 billion people are expected to be a part of the global workforce by 2030. Are the concerned people listening?

You must be to comment.
  1. viewfrm

    Absolutely true..!! What I’ve seen, all institutes are interested only in showing 100% placement of their students whether it’s as per their skill or not. Employers too hire them in bulk and pay meagre salaries.Whatever stream may be, whatever skill, they don’t bother. I think, instead of book knowledge which students hardly learn, the institutes must focus on practical and vocational training so that in future the students can justify their skill. And, i’m sure this type of knowledge can open many doors of employment.

  2. Neha Jha

    This is absolutely true. I’m 21 and I have been working for past 6 months. I hadn’t even completed my graduation when I joined. It was immensely difficult for me initially because I was a complete fresher who didn’t know a thing about how to carry oneself in the office. Google can’t help you after an extent. I practically knew nothing and had to learn hings from scratch. Had there been any other person in place of my mentor as my boss, he/she would have thrown me out! I had problems in internship as well and had to leave it only after a month. It was a jolt to my self-confidence. I was excellent in co-curriculars. Dance, drama, debates and all of that were my strength and I enjoyed it immensely. But, once I entered work-force or the ‘real world’, I was made to realize the repurcussions of having an idiotic education system. It really doesn’t matter!

    1. Raj

      Seriously, it was that bad?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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