|« Back to article||Print this article|
I recently met a student -- let's call him Rahul -- who spent so much time on gaming and organising game tournaments online that even though he was an A-star in Class 10 he did not clear his Class 12 Board exams.
This set me thinking because the purpose of my writing this piece was to encourage students to participate in various activities in college and in turn learn something about the world of work.
So I turned to Zen philosophy to see where my premises had gone wrong. At one place I read "The wise don't strive to arrive. Life is not about getting somewhere in a hurry, but enjoying the journey to the full."
I came to the conclusion that if Rahul's organising tournaments was helping him learn vital managerial skills that mere books cannot teach, then his failure was just a by-product of this activity. Another Zen master said "Gaze at the stars, but walk on the earth."
Being a realist I would like to interpret this as having a larger vision and staying grounded such that you are able to acquire basic skills necessary for attaining success.
So it was great Rahul was participating in various activities but in doing that he probably missed the focus on his primary activity, which was to get grades high enough in Class 12 so that he could get admission in an institution of his choice and appropriate to his calibre. So balance is the key, which he missed out.
My advice to Rahul is to work hard at his academics and watch the clock when doing extra-curricular things.
The author is Director-Career Track
All study, No play
This I say especially in view of meeting students who apart from going to college don't participate in any activity whatsoever. Take the case of Vikram (name changed) who is currently doing his Bachelor's in Computer Science, and in his free time is also taking computer certification courses.
On further probing he replied that he did not want to waste time on "frivolous" activities. One way of looking at Vikram is how focused and dedicated he is.
But, when I look at a kaleidoscope I enjoy the lovely colours and patterns that form in each twist. But everybody is not alike and ready to experiment with their life.
My advice to Vikram was to participate in his college festival and make the official website for the event, or conceptualise a game that would make the festival website more popular.
Since he is a one-dimensional person with no interest in anything else, by creating the website he can learn a new application. He could try to understand the various ways his computer skills can be exploited by society.
He can have a product that can be used to demonstrate his capabilities as a developer. There is another benefit he can get by involving himself in a group event and that is -- learn how to work in a team.
Hone your soft skills
Now, take the case of Neeraj Kookada, a student of IIT Bombay who is currently involved in TechFest as Media & Marketing Manager. Techfest has come to be recognised as Asia's largest Science and Technology festival.
To be a success, the event has to be organised using a systematic method and by being one of the organisers Neeraj in his own words is getting tremendous exposure in "interpersonal skills, team spirit, multi-tasking, time management and delegating" and the festival is an opportunity to "gain lifetime friends and have a blast".
"As Media & Marketing Manager, I am responsible to get in the Media and Marketing Partners for our festival. We get a chance to interact with executives from some top-notch companies and media executives.
It gives us a close look at how deals are made, what does a brand want in our festival and how we should come up with ideas of brand integration.
The media aspect is about maintaining good relations with the editors of various journals, doing deals for our festival's advertisement in various modes of media etc. It's all a great learning experience," he elaborates.
On quizzing, it's evident that Neeraj has a very clear idea as to how he can utilise this experience in job interviews and search. It is this ability to relate one's immediate experiences to long term goals that is crucial for success.
Niyatee Oak, a student of Ruia College helped organise 'Bioanalyze' a department festival for two consecutive years.
"It was a great fun experience, nice team work and a sort of management task that I learnt to handle successfully," she says considering she was a bio-science student the opportunities for demonstrating hard technical skills were plenty in the form of various projects that she did.
But by being one of the main organisers she learnt how to coordinate an event, fund raise, as well as network with outside experts who could potentially benefit her professionally.
Getting the edge
Ms Kaveri Mukherjee, Director of Specialise Instruments Marketing Company states, "I think participating in various college activities and festivals is an excellent way that students can build their CV and show that they are capable of handling responsibility."
She, of course, knows that through personal experience as she herself was a sports secretary in college and was responsible for scheduling and organising of events.
However, some employers are more cynical and think that fresh graduates "don't know what they don't know". So Prahlad Chabbria, founder of International Institute of Information Technology (I2IT) Pune advises, "Career-related extracurricular activities are extremely important and can help you secure that job you'd love to bag. It will help you polish your CV. Lots of recruiters out there look for young, fresh minds, if on top of that you can exhibit a decent level of acquaintance with the subject matter in question, there is no doubt you will be the preferred choice of the recruiter."
Prep for your first job!
Choose to play roles in a college festival, which don't essentially go hand in glove with your degree, that challenge you out of your comfort zone and enable you to acquire a different skill set. So if you are doing marketing, offer to coordinate the specifics of an event such that you learn more about logistics.
Or if you are doing Psychology, pick a marketing role such that you could play with your professional views and see if they can be utilised in a marketing or branding situation. For an Accounts or History graduate, learning people skills and team skills in your spare time could be of prime importance.
For most employers, it's not just participating that counts but taking a leadership position or measurable role that makes the difference. So if you did not win the role to be the president or secretary then become part of the organising team. Even conduct something in your building society and learn something from that. Learning opportunities are sprinkled everywhere, you just need to think creatively.
It is very easy to go to an interview and say all these things. But unless you are able to demonstrate it with examples it is not going to convince your friends let alone a hard-nosed recruiter. So, here's an action plan for for making the most of your college.
Having a blast at a college festival and enjoying yourself now has a new meaning. The skills and knowledge you get out of them can be used to ward off adults who assume that you are wasting your time and having too much fun!