Friday, 17 February 2017

Crossing the Chasm between Academics and the Industry - Campus to Corporate

I am often intrigued by the fact that thousands of bright young minds in our country join business management courses with dreams in their eyes. Very soon, they are confronted with the harsh reality that even after excelling well, or very well, in academics throughout, they find themselves on the crossroads, when it comes to landing a good job. This is so sad and disheartening.
Having spent many years in the industry and an equal number of years in the academia, I realize that there is a gap between what we prepare our students for (through regular, sometimes rigorous) academics, and what skills the industry wants them to have at the entry level. This is the chasm we are talking about and it unfortunately only gets wider with time. I am not, at any point, undermining the importance of academic excellence, but at the same time, I am pointing towards the skills that a budding professional must seek to develop. This may not happen overnight, and definitely not in the last leg of the course when the companies start making rounds of the campuses. The skills that I am going to discuss need a careful planning and execution to acquire and the effort has to start early, lets say from 10th standard onward, but not later than the day a student joins a management course, in order to stay on top of the recruiters' lists. Before we discuss these skills, we must first step into the shoes of the recruiters. We need to take a peek into their minds to understand their requirements, motivations and challenges in that order.
Lets talk about their requirements; The requirements of a typical recruiter while recruiting freshers from business administration courses is to acquire fresh talent, fill up vacant entry level positions and make available more hands on the job and sometimes feet on street for their companies.
Moving on to the motivation that a recruiter has during campus recruitment, especially a line manager is to hire such talent that is presentable, adaptable, flexible, coach-able and academically sound. That only makes the job of the line manager easier when the new recruit reports for work.
Finally, taking about the constraints that recruiters face during fresher recruitment, there are many. Having to go through the rigmarole of recruitment in multiple institutions over and over causes boredom. In order to cover so many institutions, spread across the length and breadth of our geographically diverse country, the recruiters are required to travel, juggle between their regular work and this additional workload and do repetitive work for weeks and sometimes months at a time. All of this can be both physically and psychologically exhausting. Thus, they don't want to go and possibly cannot that extra mile to probe each and every candidate's suitability for their organisation. They simply adopt an elimination method which may be highly objective and totally lacks subjectivity. Those candidates who themselves demonstrate their suitability very ostensibly, often get hired.
This brings us to the question that we started off with; What skills then a budding professional must possess to clear all three of the above-mentioned barriers to success? Before I answer, I would like to ask one question here; How do we buy diamonds? We go to a jeweler, look at the display and a well-polished, brilliantly-cut and a very reflective diamond catches the eye. The source of that diamond may be important to a few but only comes second to the polishing, cutting and reflective properties of the diamond. Applying this similarity to our fresher job seekers, I firmly believe that none of them are any less than diamonds, but are only differentiated by their cutting and polishing. The source of the diamond (in this case, the institution they are from) may be a distant second consideration, if at all it matters. The arrangement of the carbon molecules is what makes a diamond a diamond. That is a very rudimentary requirement, which cannot be substituted. The same applies to academics, without which, a student cannot become a management professional. So here I support my previous statement that there is no alternative for academic excellence, and all institutions provide that adequately but the fact remains that both raw and polished diamonds have the same molecular structures, then what makes a polished diamond exponentially more expensive? The answer is that a polished diamond is a ready product and leaves nothing to speculation and is ready to use, unlike a raw diamond, that needs further work before it can grace someone's finger, and then, there would always be the fear of the raw diamond not turning out to be as brilliant after polishing as expected.
So, we will now see what skills a fresher must possess, that are akin to polishing and cutting a diamond? Those skills can be classified into three main areas:

1. Soft Skills - The Outer Packaging

1.1 Grooming and Etiquette

  • Personal Hygiene
  • Appearance
  • Fashion & Accessories
  • Gait & Body Language

1.2 Communication Skills

  • Verbal
  • Non Verbal

1.3 General Awareness & Current Affairs

  • National & International Politics
  • International Trade
  • International Geopolitics and its effects on trade
  • Various stock indices around the world
  • Corporate World Update
  • Fiscal Policies
  • Literature and Light Reading
  • Others’ Opinions on social media about latest events
  • Your Opinions – Critical/Supportive 

1.4 Public Speaking

  • Organize your thoughts
  • Story reinforcing
  • Adapting to listener feedback

2. Employability Skills - The Inner Packaging

2.1 Attitude

  • Skills Issues Vs Will Issues

2.2 Adaptability

  • Cultural
  • Geographical
  • Emotional
  • Temporal

2.3 Coachability

  • Desire
  • Ability
  • Effort
  • Sincerity

3. Technical Skills - Product Contents

3.1 Academic Knowledge

  • Knowledge of General Subjects
  • Graduation Subjects
  • Post Graduation Subjects

3.2 Management Knowledge

  • Definition & Application
  • Theories

3.3 Specialization Skills

  • Skills specific to the area of specialization
Like I said before, none of the aforementioned skills can be acquired in a day. They are a way of life and it will take a concerted effort on the part of all the stakeholders be it the students, parents or educators to produce industry ready professionals in the times to come.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe". Abraham Lincoln

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