Eight ways to improve your employability
With a college degree barely being able to help you land a job, we ask the pros what it really takes for students to improve their employability while still in college.
- 47 per cent graduates are NOT employable in any sector because they lacked English language and cognitive skills.
- More than 50 per cent graduates do not know how to perform simple functions like copy-pasting text nor are they able to differentiate between hardware and software.
- Not more than 25 per cent of the graduating students can apply concepts to solve a real-world problem in the domain of Finance and Accounting.
These are just some highlights from the National Employability Report released by Aspiring Minds, one of India's leading employability solutions companies.
According to the report, of the five million, six lakh are engineers, the one field that most parents want their children to be in.
Even so, these graduates need anywhere between six to 12 months of training before they are made 'billable' to the client depending on what sector they are a part of, says Amit Bansal of PurpleLeap, an organisation that works with colleges to make students employment-ready
"Companies have no option but to invest in training their staff in skills they should have picked up at the university in the first place."
So if a degree doesn't necessarily land you a good job, how can students can improve their employability while still in college?
Sarvesh Agarwal of Internshala.com, a prominent portal for internships across the country, Amit Bansal and Varun Aggarwal tell you just that.
Polish your English language skills
English is one of the key parameters in any role in the knowledge economy and ass many as 47 per cent graduates lack even basic functional knowledge of the language.
In our research, we have discovered that candidates with English skills garner 30 to 50 per cent higher salaries than similarly-qualified candidates without English language skills.
You cannot write-off the importance of English and you certainly cannot wake up in your final year of graduation to its importance.
The sooner you start learning the language, the better it will be for you.
Sarvesh Agarwal agrees. He points out:
- Of the 30,000 to 40,000 applications we receive each month, 70 to 75 per cent are abysmally written. There are grammatical errors, spelling mistakes; SMS-style language and an absolute disregard for a coherent sentence structure.
- By the time we have received these applications, the damage is done. The key is to start learning early.
- Develop your reading habits. Pick up a book; start with Chetan Bhagat but also move on to PG Wodehouse and Ayn Rand.
- Make it a habit to read a book a month.
- Simultaneously improve your writing skills. Just select a topic that interests you and write about it.
- Look for a group of like-minded people and engage in group discussions with them.
- Share your knowledge; that's the best way you can learn.
Photographs: Mark Blinch/Reuters
Take up projects
The closest you can come to applying what you've learnt in to what the industry wants is through project work," Amit Bansal says:
Most students from tier two and tier three towns are at a disadvantage because unlike their counterparts from larger cities, their horizontal skills sets are weak.
Usually, students from larger cities are intrinsically sharp and their learning ability is pretty high and therefore their time to deployment is low.
The only way you can better prepare yourself is by taking up college projects and seeing them to their logical conclusion.
Sarvesh Agarwal says:
- Your projects needn't always necessarily be directly related to your college work. They could be hobby projects too.
- If you're an engineering student, participate in the many tech fests that keep happening around the year.
- These projects will help you apply what you've learnt in the classroom in real life.
- Working on projects will also push you out of your comfort zone because you will have to research, interact with people, work in a team -- all these attributes will come handy when you're facing that all-important job interview.
- Look out for teachers in your colleges that are working on academic projects. Assist them. If you're considering a career in academics or research, nothing else will help more.
Image: IIT Techfest is one of the most prominent festivals in the tech fests circuit.
Photographs: Courtesy IIT Techfest's Facebook page
Don't write off your college degree
There is a popular notion that courses are outdated," Varun Aggarwal says. Students are often told that it is not important to study to end up with good jobs. This is the biggest myth."
- In every single domain, people are looking for knowledge of basic concepts.
- Unfortunately, majority of the students don't know it simply because they haven't bothered to study!
- Domain skills are important.
- If your basics aren't strong, you don't have anything you can build up on.
- Don't ever make the mistake of writing off your course
Image: You are first and foremost a student. Write off your course at your own risk.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
Work on your critical reasoning skills
Critical thinking means being able to reason and analyse before reaching a conclusion," Varun Aggarwal explains.
"We have found this lacking in many young graduates.
Whatever field you are from, if a person can reason critically s/he can do well in any job."
The key to it he says is pretty basic:
- It really just boils down to exercising your brain.
- Stop being a bookworm and start questioning everything.
- Read newspapers, participate in debates, analyse subjects, arguments and understand how things come together.
- If you study well and take the effort to find answers.
Image: Participate in debates; engage in discussions.
Photographs: Courtesy IIT Techfest's Facebook page
Develop your soft skills
Varun Aggarwal cannot emphasise enough on the importance of learning soft skills.
- Whatever line you choose, soft skills will play a very important role in your career.
- Simple things like learning to prioritise your tasks, or handle rejection or just simply how to respond to your boss or your customer makes a world of a difference.
- The easiest way to get started on that road is by participating in college festivals, being part of committees in your own college.
- Being in the thick of all action can impact your personality a great deal. Don't ever shy away from that opportunity.
Image: Participate in college festivals. It can be educational AND fun!
Photographs: Courtesy Mood Indigo's Facebook page
Take up internships
Nothing prepares you for the real world like a job in the real world, says Sarvesh Agarwal:
- Very often you don't get to apply what you lean in the classroom in the real world.
- Taking up internships is one of the most obvious ways to bridge that gap.
- Besides being able to put your learning to practical use, you get the added advantage of being part of a professional set-up.
- You learn how offices work and hopefully become responsible about deadlines and quality.
- The sooner you start interning, the better it is.
- You don't have to intern only during your vacations; you make the most of your time after college too
ALSO READ 10 things we wished interns knew
ALSO READ What to expect when you're interning
Image: Internships prepare you for the real world jobs. They also offer great opportunities to put into practice what you've learnt in college.
Photographs: Francois Lenoir/Reuters
Take up online courses
Admittedly, a college degree alone will not get you a job," Varun Aggarwal says.
"But that shouldn't stop you from taking up online courses, should it?
- Universities such as MIT and Harvard have opened their doors to students sitting miles away from their campuses.
- MOOCs or Massively Open Online Courseware are a great way to stay updated about the latest development in your field.
- Currently, thanks to the trend of targeted advertising, there are several jobs are being created in the fields of Analytics and Big Data but the Indian market doesn't provide these skills. This is where MOOCs come handy.
Sarvesh Agarwal adds:
- Besides online courses, participate in open source initiatives.
- Follow forums, develop something you can show.
- Think of it, if you're an engineer, would someone who only speaks theory stand a better chance than someone who has, let's say developed an app and readily presents it to the interviewer?
- If you don't invest in yourself, who will?
Image: Think your course isn't good enough? Take up online courses. Right away!
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
Be prepared to do the unsexy work
We often find that students have unrealistic expectations," Sarvesh Agarwal says.
- Many young graduates don't appreciate the ground reality
- They only appreciate the end product but never understand the work that has gone behind it.
- You cannot expect to be doing all the sexy and exciting work right at the outset
- We are a twitter generation everything needs to be quick.
- But know that the route to success is a long one
- There is no shortcut to success.
Image: Be prepared to do the least sexy of the jobs.
Photographs: Babu Babu/Reuters