Want a job ? Get yourself a differentiator

                             whenThe economy in India is expected to grow at 6 per cent in 2009/2010. How does this translate into job hiring? Very well, if you believe the statistics and information in the media today. We see positive news across the board on salary hikes and hiring.
The latest Hewitt report states that salary hikes are expected to be the highest in India at 9.2 per cent  next year.

This is in comparison to other countries in the APAC region, such as China, Indonesia and Australia, who are expected to give salary hikes of 6.7per cent , 8.7 per cent  and 3.4 v, in 2010. According to the Naukri ‘Jobspeak index’,  which is a monthly index of job hiring, hiring is up across sectors, particularly, the ITes, IT, BPO, retail and real estate. Similarly, Nasscom expects 80,000 engineering graduates to by hired by March 2010.

Soap opera

All heartening news, and a definite contribution to the feel good factor for the country and people in general. But if we look at a different perspective for the entire information given above, it becomes a soap opera of tragic proportions.

Why a soap opera? Because soap operas always present us with situations which are exciting to watch, but which are relevant to a very small segment of society.
This is why we have punctured the balloon of optimism that is being rampantly trumpeted across India today on how well the situation looks for 2010. If you look at the entire situation in a different perspective, you will realiSe that for freshers, the situation is not really that good, and it will get progressively worse even if the economy achieves good growth rates in the next five  years.

Why? Because there is a huge mismatch in the supply in education and expectations of job seekers, and the results of this mismatch is not going to benefit our country as a whole.

Supply and expectations

In India, education has become as important a part of our ethos as owning land.
This is especially so in the 21st century as people have seen with their own eyes how education has enabled engineers, doctors, and other qualified people to achieve a standard of living in a few years that their parents took two decades to achieve. The success stories are numerous and prevalent across communities. Across India, there has been a growing awareness that education is an important gateway to success. The problem is that for most people, there is a misconception that any education is a sure shot to success. This is why the growth of educational institutions in this decade has been phenomenal. In 2009, India has a total number of 330 universities and 16,885 colleges.

The private education market in India is estimated to be worth $40 billion (180,000 crores) in 2008 and will increase to $68 billion (306,000 crores) by 2012. But this is not enough.

Demand exceeds supply

As more and more of the Indian population see the benefits of education, the demand for education will be so overwhelming that the supply will never be enough.
The Indian government has unofficially thrown in the towel and allowed the private sector to cater to the mushrooming demand for education.

This is a good attitude to have. But, as in most cases, well meaning attitudes have very often turned into very poor results if the actions are not commensurate with proper procedures.

Corruption, ineptitude and lack of autonomy have seen a mushrooming of colleges, a majority of which are sub-standard and who have no continual regulatory control.

Truly, India has changed in the 21st century. From the benevolence of industrialists in the 1950’s who were interested in starting institutes to provide quality education and for the good of the country, we are rife today with politicians, industrialists, and bureaucrats, a vast majority of whom have started institutions as pure money generating enterprises with no concern for quality. So where does this leave the 99.4 lakh students (the figure given on the Government’s DSHE website) that enter the college system every year?

The job market

A vast chunk of these 99.4 lakh students find themselves unemployable. Those who are willing to compromise, do get jobs which are not in sync with what they expected when they joined the college system. The trend at present is to circumvent the real reasons which made them unemployable, which is most cases is the poor quality of education they received, and further study for an MBA, the panacea of all problems.

Unfortunately, this is a trend that is again recognised by a majority of the people who have given us sub-standard colleges in the first place. So there is a scramble for starting new management colleges. The government again is looking at the statistics rather than the reality, and having large number of management institutions catering to students looks good on paper. So the AICTE (All Indian Council for Technical Education) who is in charge of technical education in the country, has accredited 1500 institutes with an annual intake of 1.5 lakh students. Many of the institutions are sub-standard. At present, the AICTE has 1084 applications for starting new management institutes. So where does this leave the students?  Probably, at the short end of a very, very small stick!

Get a differentiator

This article is mentioning reality today. We cannot change it, and in the absence of a very good regulator (which does not seem forthcoming from the government) the situation will become worse. We have to work within these parameters, and for students we suggest the following:

1. Irrespective of the degree earned, you need to do a few basics, and the first is make sure your English is good. Any good job in a corporate sector insists on good English, and any growth in your career will require a good spoken and written command of the English language.

2 .If you have done a degree in a particular skill, say pharmacy, try and get a job in that sector. Of course you may not get one that matches your expectations, but having spent the time on a particular specialisation, try and carry on in that direction

3. Add additional skills. If you have a general degree, so skills which will help you like computers. If you are already in a specialized degree like medicine, you cannot add additional skills. In this case, try and work for free, attend conferences, where you can learn about your subject.

4.The biggest problem is the expectation you will have. At times you may have to be reasonable and take a drop in expectations. A specialized degree, or an MBA will make you to be eligible for a job but will not guarantee you a job. Performance and ability will. Bring down your expectations and ensure that you learn, rather than earn in the beginning.

5.You don’t have to have an added qualification immediately after your degree. A modicum of work experience is more valuable. You can always do an Executive MBA from a good institute later on. It is easier to get into a good institute for an Executive MBA than for the same one for a normal MBA.

In conclusion, an employer would look at hiring someone who has a differentiator. A differentiator that will help them reduce the learning curve required from an organisational perspective. These differentiators could be courses that tend to help the candidates and the organizations from reducing their time in training candidates. So, analyse your current skills vis a viz skills needed for a job, and plug that gap with a differentiator.

The writers  run a Recruitment Consultancy, Truemen Management Consultancy Services, in Bangalore.

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