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With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.
To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we asked students who are already abroad to share their experiences. Here a former student of Warwick University, Aruni Mukherjee shares his advice on how you can improve your chances of landing a job post graduation.
You're from a middle-class Indian family. You have just secured admission at one of UK's top universities to complete a three-year undergraduate degree. You have taken a Rs 1,500,000 loan from your bank in order to finance your studies. You are obviously thrilled at the prospect of hobnobbing with Europe's elite students and professors, and looking forward to all the new experiences that a life studying abroad comprises.
However, have you thought of the life after graduation when you're straddled with debt? An average Indian middle-class salary will not suffice to repay the loan which will continue to accumulate interest. You will almost certainly have to get a job in the UK to be able to repay your loan and have a decent career at the same time.
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I have seen too many Indian students fritter away their chances by either not caring enough until its too late, or (crucially perhaps) not understanding what it takes to develop the skills that they would need to secure a job.
We need to understand the context in which the whole system works. Employers' attitudes while recruiting graduates vary. Top investment banks or the Big Four accountancy firms don't really care which degree you are studying towards -- they simply wish to ensure that they recruit the people with the appropriate skills for the job. On the other hand, an engineering firm would obviously care whether you are an engineering student or a historian! But the general approach that a student can take to make him/ herself more employable is broadly similar across sectors.
A good result in your degree is very important, albeit not to the same extent as it can be in India. Most job offers are contingent on you securing a about 60 per cent or above, but I have always found that a first class (70 per cent) takes you just that yard further. Remember, Indian students are competing in the labour market with two disadvantages even before the recruitment process begins:
So do the hard work and burn the midnight oil -- it will be worth it at the end of the day!
In India, we generally don't go into employment until completing our studies. In the UK, students often take up part-time employment whilst at university, and sometimes even earlier. Term-time jobs, summer jobs, assistantships, etc all add useful skills to your portfolio, expose you to various situations and in general widen your horizons. Again, we are starting from a position of disadvantage, so plenty of catch up is needed.
You should actively look for part-time jobs, and I don't just mean stacking shelves at a supermarket. Try and liaise with your department professors to see if you can land a research assistant position, scan the local newspapers to see if a part-time administrative or sales position is available in a local business. Remember, you can only work part-time as a full-time student, so make your choices carefully.
I worked part-time in one of our departments, and also did some shifts at a local property company. I have never worked in a supermarket or fast food chain, not because I looked down upon such positions, but because I wanted to acquire skills that would make me employable.
Internships/ vacation jobs
You will get threee months off during your summer recess. The temptation is to fly back to India and laze around being pampered by your parents who would have obviously missed you a lot. But this would just be throwing away a precious chance to improve your skills and job prospects.
The process should start during your first year. Check out the websites of the major employers that you want to target, see how many offer summer internships, and apply. Remember, don't think by applying to one you will get a placement. You probably will get nine rejections before even being called for an interview. Don't be disheartened -- it does not necessarily mean that your capabilities are inadequate. Sometimes the employer is just looking for someone with a different profile.
If you do manage to land an internship at an investment bank or an accountancy firm, make sure you make the most of the opportunity. Work hard and impress your managers with your performance, as this may translate into a conditional offer based on your final results.
If you prefer to do something on your own, find out whether your university offers grants to students to carry out projects. I won a grant in my final year to do a sociological project which meant conducting fieldwork all across India, meeting and interviewing some very interesting people (including Dr APJ Abdul Kalam [Images] and Narayana Murthy), and on the whole having a fantastic experience. I also developed a number of skills while conducting this project.
A lot of the leading employers are very keen to employ future leaders, people that can help them drive their business forward. Therefore, in deciding who to employ they often look at people who have had prior experience of working in teams, leading and managing people, organising events, and so on.
It is therefore a very good idea to get involved in the various clubs and societies almost all leading universities host. Attend the meetings, contribute, participate and hopefully you can attain a managerial position within a society that will add tremendous value to your CV. Sports is another good area to get involved in, to show your networking and team-working skills.
Active participation will add to your repertoire of skills without you even realising it. For instance, organising events and activities will bring you in contact with people on a regular basis, and this will do wonders to your communication skills. Remember, most Indians will not be as fluent in European networking skills as a native would, you will have to work hard to be on par with other candidates.
In the next part of this article I will talk about what the recruitment process actually entails, and what are the challenges you should expect.
Have you studied abroad? Do you have advice for students heading abroad? Helpful tips on how to tackle the visa interview or applications process? Did you encounter unexpected roadblocks when you applied to a foreign university but managed to overcome them? Are there paperwork issues that students should know about but don't? Write in to email@example.com with your advice and we'll publish your tips right here on rediff.com.
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