Selling the UK experience in India

Selling the UK experience in India

The past year has seen a tightening of visa regulations for international students studying in the UK.

Rather than staying in the UK to work after their studies an increasing number of Indian students are now looking to return home to take the next steps in their career.

So what awaits these returners? And how can they impress upon Indian recruiters the value of their British experience?

Barriers

First, we have to acknowledge some of the barriers in the way of the returning job seekers.

There is an obvious danger of being out of sight and therefore out of mind to employers as they conduct recruitment campaigns that generally take place on employers premises and on Indian campuses.

And as many of the employers (though not all) who recruit graduates via university placement centres feel that they are perfectly well served by their current recruitment procedures they do not proactively seek applications from alternative routes.

Aside from the problem of physical distance, returning job seekers may also find that their efforts to get a foothold in the Indian labour market are thwarted by some unfavourable employer perceptions of their UK experience. 

Despite the fact that the UK education system generally is highly regarded in India some employers (but again, not all!) do harbour doubts about the value of one year masters degrees particularly when compared to the two year courses offered in alternative markets such as the USA.

Then there can be a suspicion that the student who has chosen to study in the UK has done so with a mind to go on and work there afterwards, perhaps in order to pay off education-related loans.

Employers holding this view would need to be convinced that they were not a fall back option for the candidate in front of them.

There may also be fears that the UK-educated graduate will return with unrealistic salary expectations based on their exposure to the British job market.
 
Keeping up to date and increasing visibility

So how does one reassure employers with such negative perceptions? And how does one enhance one’s visibility amongst recruiters?

Whilst in the UK, Indian students can increase their visibility amongst employers by being proactive in their use of online networks. It would be eminently sensible to create a high quality profile on professional networking sites such LinkedIn and Brijj. A profile should only be the first step though.

To get full benefit from this kind of platform it pays to be a regular contributor of messages. By sharing news items and opinions students improve their chances of being noticed and indeed headhunted by recruiters who will undoubtedly be impressed by any display of interest in and knowledge of their company/industry. A very effective way of building a list of contacts is through LinkedIn groups. There are lots to choose from. Of particular interest may be:

*Industry specific groups, e.g. finance, life sciences.
*Country/Regional specific groups, e.g. India
*Alumni groups, e.g. University of Glasgow Alumni.

The British Council, India also provides networking fora aimed towards Indian students in the UK. They include:

*India-UK Alumni network
http://www.britishcouncil.org/india-common-uk-alumni-relations-network.htm
*The Association of British Scholars (ABS)
http://www.britishcouncil.org/india-abs-all-india.htm
Students who worked in a professional role prior to coming to the UK would also be well advised to join or maintain membership of relevant professional bodies back home to keep track of industry developments provided of course they wish to continue in that particular field.

As well as developing an online presence students should seek opportunities to meet employer contacts face to face throughout the duration of their course. Those returning home during university holidays should look to arrange meetings in advance of their trip. If employer engagement during holidays could be extended to include short placements then so much the better.

Indian students in the UK should also check careers service provision at their respective institutions. Career services are increasingly concerned with supporting international students to access global careers and there has been a real effort in recent times to gain more intelligence of and to build more links within the Indian labour market. As a result you may find institutions advertising Indian opportunities-placements and/or jobs and possibly even hosting recruitment events such as virtual careers in India fairs.

For the reasons outlined at the beginning of the article it may be especially important for returning students to sell the value of their UK experience to Indian employers. Fortunately there are plenty of selling points to choose from.

They may wish to highlight the UK’s strong tradition of higher education with many of its universities being among the oldest in the world. They could point to university world rankings. One could also point to the UK’s research output.

According to the British Council, British universities conduct around 6 per cent of the world’s research. Another strength to underline is the teaching and learning culture in the UK which requires students to critically assess, evaluate, question, create solutions, present and debate. All in all it’s quite a compelling mix.

(The writer is International Careers Adviser, Careers Service, University of Glasgow.)

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