For the first-time job seeker, the market is teeming with opportunities. In the bargain, the new job seeker, with no experience to back her up, could feel a little lost choosing between different jobs. The result: wrong choices and, often, short tenures in the first job.
Says Ambarish Raghuvanshi, chief financial officer, Naukri.com, India's largest online job search website, "This explains why most B-school students leave their first jobs in less than a year."
While, in a career spanning 30-35 years, a year may not make such a huge difference, it is, nevertheless, a lost opportunity. With a little bit of planning, however, it can be used to make one's career take off quickly.
Says Dony Kuriakose, director, Edge Executive Search, a recruitment company, "The first step is crucial as it often sets the pace for future career growth."
For most, job seekers, the opportunity comes knocking at their campus itself. Earlier, the employers' focus was mainly on the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management, and other select institutes. Now, even the better general stream colleges are on the employers' radar for campus recruitment.
So, how do you pick the right job?
What am I good at? Will I fit the job? Confusion, apprehension and dilemma are common. Says Pervin Malhotra, director, Career Guidance India, a company where you can get information about job-related issues, "To overcome such worries, it would be vital to know one's strengths and weaknesses and choose a job according to that." Experts believe that one's job should help further a person's skills, so that she specialises in a certain area over time.
But, right out of college and with no experience to bank on, it is not easy for everybody to recognise one's own skill set. Especially, for those from a general stream course. Here, skills assessment tests can prove helpful. MeritTrac conducts such tests. They cost between Rs 500 and Rs 700 and are recognised by companies such as Accenture and ICICI Bank during recruitment.
There are online tests, too. One such is the i-opener test conducted by Career Guidance India (costs less than Rs 500). This particular test takes candidates across more than 3,500 career options.
Do I have a career vision? Is it viable? Zeroing down on the skill is not the only step one needs to take before embarking on a career path. "Skills assessment should lead to a viable and a practical career vision," says Malhotra.
One needs to see whether the job would help lay out a path that leads towards one's goal. Says Kuriakose, "Clarity of vision is a must. While choosing a job, think what you would like your next job to be and how this one will lead to it."
Many HR consultants argue that internships can be helpful. Srini Srinivasan, chief HR officer, Amtex Systems, a Chennai-based IT services company, says, "Companies are willing to take enthusiastic youngsters willing to gain some quality experience. The new-comers get an opportunity to explore the corporate world."
Know the job givers
Organisation's philosophy. Different organisations have different philosophies about career advancement of their employees. Says Shabbir Merchant, former HR head of Wipro Infotech and now the chief value creator, Valulead, a consulting firm that helps organisations in their leadership development, "Wipro would promote its own employee, even if he is 70 per cent fit for a senior post than recruit someone from outside who is 100 per cent fit for the same post. Some other companies might do just the reverse."
However, this does not make one company better or worse than the other. Both the policies have a logic behind them. While some believe that new people bring in freshness, others would prefer keeping people for a longer time and moulding them according to their needs.
For newcomers, this is the key. Just as companies have different philosophies, so have people. Some like experimenting with their creativity and interests, while some others like to stay put at one place and excel there. "Candidates should choose a job that is in line with their interest," says Raghuvanshi.
Training programmes. Initial training can go a long way in helping out an employee. In most professions, if the basics are strong, the rest comes with hard work. "Choosing a company with good training programmes is advisable," says Malhotra. Hindustan Unilever and IBM have well-structured learning programs, she adds.
"The training that newcomers get in their first job is beneficial for as long as they are employable," says Srinivasan.
Brand name. Brand names are always attractive - whether it be clothes, or jobs. But, choosing a popular brand over one's career interests could prove costly in the long run. Says Hitesh Oberoi, director and chief operating officer, Naukri.com, "Brand name helps but not at the expense of a candidate's career vision."
A lesser-known company and brand can provide a lot of growth potential, say experts. "The final decision lies with the candidate, who may choose a fast-growing company over an established one where the rise (in most cases) is restricted," says Merchant.
Says Srinivasan: "Many websites and magazines do research on the 'Top 20 Workplaces in the World' or 'Most Preferred Workstations in the World'. These can be handy as their results are based on sound parameters."
How good is the fit?
The final call, of course, would depend on the job offer that one gets. Says Malhotra, "The candidate needs to see whether the job profile is in sync with her career interests and also the sort of growth prospects that it offers."
A discussion with the seniors of the organisation can give some useful insights. Professional networking sites could also throw up interesting perspectives. Says Mayur Singh, an active member of such sites like techTribe.com, "I get to know a lot about companies through these sites."
Those 5-figure salaries sound great to a first-time job seeker, but "salaries should be the least of the worries for an applicant", warns Srinivasan. The need for money, however, may vary across individuals and, hence, there is no thumb rule for it. Kuriakose feels that it is important to evaluate money, while not going overboard.
"Set a reasonable market benchmark. Use surveys, past year's data from your campus and salary growth predictions to arrive at a range," he says.
So, take your pick. Carefully.