Current reality of the job market

Issue 1:

Today if one takes a look at the job environment, in India, one notices that a large number of students are looking for jobs. Although there is a massive increase in the number of employment opportunities, especially in some sectors, these are able to accommodate only a fraction of the total talent that is available (“Engineering, MBA seats go abegging”– Economic Times – 05/07/2011. See also NASSCOM Report 2009). So in many institutes, students who have performed reasonably well, do not get the jobs they want. That is the first issue.

Issue 2:

The second issue is that the jobs a student wants are the jobs that other students want. Put differently, job seekers, at least in India, suffer from a herd mentality. In many parts of India, the engineering sector is facing a strange situation.

For example, in Orissa, engineering colleges are operating at a low utilization of capacity. (“15000 in engineering college seats vacant, private colleges in Orissa cry foul” – Economic Times – 23/09/2010)

In our study we have found that students do not join many engineering colleges because they are not sure of getting jobs after graduation. On the other hand, there are many small and medium-sized industries who want engineers, but are not getting them!

So on one side there are colleges who are saying that their students are not getting jobs, and on the other side, there are employers who are saying they are not getting engineers! Though there are people available, there seems to be a failure of some kind.

This failure is there because of a gap between institutes (which are training students), and employers (who are going to receive them).

Continuing the Orissa example, one sees that all the students apply to the same top IT and other companies. Naturally, some of these students get jobs, while others do not get them. On one side, there are 20,000 to 30,000 applications for a few hundred jobs. On the other side, after engineering, for months on end, graduates do not get any assignment or job. And there are entrepreneurs in Orissa who do not have engineers!

What is this gap? This gap comes about fundamentally because there is a deep flaw in the whole approach that is being brought into the career context.

The path of acquisition

The approach issue is: if one has an ‘acquisitive mindset’,
i.e. a mindset which says that one’s purpose of getting a degree is only to get a high paying job that allows one to go abroad and have a good lifestyle, then one sees opportunities in a very limited way.

With this limited purpose when one looks at a small business or a medium-sized business, one is not able to see opportunities. But one is able to see the opportunities in a software company very easily. So one says that one would like to take up a job in software!

Many new possibilities could come up but they are shut off in one’s mind, because one does not see oneself as a person who is trying to create value or contribute.

One sees oneself as a person who is going to receive something for his degree – one has a degree and one has to receive a certain salary for it.

The consequences of the path of acquisition

We find that, in our society,  there are many areas which are understaffed and undernourished in terms of human capital. On the other hand, there are some sectors where there is an oversupply of human capital.

The problem is not about the number of engineering colleges in the country,  nor is the problem limited to the engineering profession.

Some years ago, as part of a study, we met 15-16 finance managers of various major companies in and around Mumbai. What we found was that B. Com. students did not necessarily know enough book-keeping to make the finance managers feel comfortable. In fact, one manager who worked in a multinational actually gave a spot test to his own accounting people on book-keeping skills. What did he find? Only 40% passed that test. 60% of them were below the benchmark that was needed in terms of book-keeping skills!

The focus on acquisition alone ensured that these B.Com. graduates stagnated after graduation and resulted in their learning only those ‘basic processes’ that allow them to survive in an organization.

Now if B.Com students went into a job with a different purpose, that says, “I have to learn book-keeping skills in the job context”, then in 3-5 years, they will be far greater than any test. If a test was given, they will find it very simple, elementary.

Shifting the purpose of a career to contribution

With a contributive purpose,  one does not have an “I will only do what I like” attitude to work.

Let me share with you the case of a person who was posted as a Branch Manager in a small desert village near Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan. Unlike previous branch managers, he chose to stay in the village, learn the language, and engage with the villagers. The village had no electricity, no proper place to stay. There were sand storms too. He says, “Any new work will always have its challenges. If you leave that challenge, thinking ‘this is a problem’, then you won’t go anywhere. I saw this posting as an opportunity where a lot of good work can be done.”

Once the purpose of a career shifts from acquiring fruits to a career where one is contributing to oneself, one’s organization, and society, one’s competence and capacity to deliver keeps going up over the years.

Payoffs of  becoming a contributor

If students choose to remain acquisitive, and talk the language of qualifications and salaries, they risk becoming irrelevant to their employers in course of time.

Those who choose to become contributors, who talk this new language, are likely to get substantial long-term rewards. If their boss feels they add value, they get good assignments leading to ever greater challenges and contribution opportunities.

Going back to the engineering student example, if one were to join a small business, or a medium-sized business with a contributive mindset, one may actually have much bigger and better career opportunities. One may become a key person there. And that may mean that one gets a far more challenging assignment than one would have gotten in a large company where one is just another employee doing the same job as hundreds of others. A person with such an experience may also be able to start his own company after a few years, because he would have had the experience of running an entire small-scale unit, and not just a small part of the job.

Every student who is graduating has to realize that a degree is not equal to contribution. Rather, a degree only offers one an opportunity to contribute. What one makes of that opportunity, is entirely in one’s hands!

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