Dear Indians, stop saying this to youngsters!

Interesting incident happened today. I was at the church, at the end of the normal Sunday service with a lot of people gathered in small groups all around the premises greeting and talking with each other.

Churches and the Sunday gatherings are very important in ones social life. That’s when you meet your childhood friends, share the news and stories and the happiness. All in the 10 minutes after church.

But this was my first time to this particular church and I had hardly anyone whom I knew around me. While waiting for my wife to come out of the church, I just got too curious to eavesdrop into the conversation two young gentlemen were having just beside me.

One, near 25 years of age, neatly dressed, very evidently in the early stages of a successful career. Other, 18-ish, in his polo tees, is the confused teenager.

Elder: So, what plans next?

Younger: Not made up my mind, but thinking of going for ‘degree’ (the vernacular for under grad courses other than Engineering and Medical)

Elder: Oh… (definitely not impressed!) So… which course?

Younger: Thinking of B-Com or Humanities

Elder: At least choose B-Com. Humanities have ‘zero-scope’ (again another vernacular, meaning job opportunities)

Younger: Yeah, everyone is telling me this. So B-Com would be better, right brother?

Elder: Yeah, any day!

I know what you might be thinking. You might have heard similar conversations a hundred times, if not more and many a times, might have been one of the two in the conversation. But this time, it got me thinking.

  • Is it the right thing to say to a young boy who is trying to decide where he wants to go next?
  • Why are we so obsessed with the word ‘scope’?
  • What’s the best way of advising someone at that stage?
  1. NO. Talking about ‘scope’ of a course is not the right thing to tell someone who is trying to choose a line of study that might live with him for his lifetime.

Why are we obsessed about the ‘scope’?

We live in a country where the employment rates are not ideal, the society is wired to think about education as just a means to get a job. And they cannot be blamed for thinking about the most easy paths towards a job, any job, as the education with the best ‘scope’.

This forced the trend-wave of ITIs and ITCs (skill training institutes) 30 years back because they had huge ‘scope’ in the middle east.

This forced thousands of youngsters from my home state kerala choose nursing as their career a few years back, though many of them had zero interest in it.

This forces us to think that Engineering and Medical education are the only good education systems because they get you a job sooner than the others.

Was it completely wrong to be obsessed about ‘scope’? NO.

Because, in many ways, this has led our society forward and helped millions of our people be financially stable.

But is it wrong to be obsessed about scope still? YES.

Because, the world around us is not the same anymore.Gone are the days where job was a hard-to-grab thing. It is easier to get jobs. But the jobs themselves have changed.

Jobs are no more a commodity. Jobs these days, demand more than just ‘skills’ and ‘education’. Jobs these days, demand creativity, aptitude, enthusiasm, and most importantly the love for the job. Computers are getting better skilled than us in commodity jobs. Jobs of the future will demand more and more creativity from the humans, and only the love for the job can get one to be creative at the job.

Going into something that you do not love, just for the ‘scope’ would make you join the league of thousands of nurses (by education)doing the accounting jobs (the most basic ones) and thousands of engineers doing everything under the planet other than building stuff.

What is the right advice you can give someone at his/her late teen-ages?

I would do it this way. I would ask them this question:

“Think of this hypothetical situation. All the jobs in this world — a teacher, a software engineer, a cricket player or a singer — every single job has the same salary, the same job security, the same work environments. Which would you choose?”

I would give them days to think about this and encourage them to go ask everyone around for advice, not about which to choose, but about how each work is. I would encourage them to think. And their answer will be the way forward for them.

Because when money, job security and everything similar are out of the equation, you would choose what you LOVE the most. And that LOVE is what will create the ‘SCOPE’ for you.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius

What is in it for the HR professional in me?

The HR professional is probably one of the most affected by this healthy practice of people going after ‘scope’. We get people, aplenty of them. But we get very few who do things out of the interest. We get tons of people attending our interviews, but all of them ‘job seekers’. They are stuck in the suit that does not fit them, nor do they like wearing that suit. Each moment they sit inside our walls doing the job that we give them, they curse the choice they made and they curse the job. They do not love the job! That will be the root cause for low employee morale, high attrition, constant complaints, lack of belonging, low productivity, lack of innovation and all other issues you are fighting with in your HR job.

Here are a few things you could do as an HR professional.

  1. Measure the interest at interviews. We are running into a time where along with the skills and cultural fitness, we will need to measure interest as well. Armed forces offices interviews have traditionally employed a lot of psychometric analysis to gauge the interest that a person has towards the job. It is high time we start employing them too.
  2. Allow your people to cherish their interests AT work. Make sure your engagement activities are centred around interests of people. Identify what is the ‘other’ thing that the members of your team are interested in, make sure you give them all recognition and opportunities to do those AT work. They will start lovin the workplace.
  3. Talk about this. being HR professionals, you will be heard as the voice of the industry and job market by people in your circles. Be vocal about how interest, creativity and enthusiasm would drive the workforce of the future and not the choice by ‘scope’.

Jofin Joseph

Head of India Operations, FullContact

His Linkedin profile is at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jofin/ 

This article was first published by NIPM Kerala chapter our 2017-18 Annual Issue of ‘Kerala Personnel’ magazine.

Internship reloaded

India is riding an optimistic wave of becoming a global superpower. The country is set to achieve this on the wings of its burgeoning human capital that is predicted to reach 116 million, with the majority of the new workers to be in the 20 to 24 age bracket. But there is one small problem, a very simple and straightforward problem – only a very small percentage of this workforce is considered employable by the industry. Internships are being touted as the panacea for this problem of unemployability.

The nation as a whole seems to be laying the responsibility of creating and executing internships at the doorsteps of the corporate world. While smarting under the unfairness of this, corporate India, with the inherited arrogance of capitalism tends to shrug it off as an inconvenience that does not add value, thereby accentuating the reputation of callousness.

Thanks to my role as the co-founder of an Ed-tech startup – Fourth Ambit, I find myself equipped with some unique insights into this ecosystem inhabited by three organisms: (A) The Industry (B) The Student body and (C ) The College. While I do not believe that internships are a one-stop solution to all problems related to employability, I am optimistic that they can indeed be used as a tool for bringing about lasting change.

Before we proceed, for the purpose of discussion allow me to define “internship”.

“Internship is a brief period of engagement, with or without pay, between the student and the organisation so that the student may gain experience in a particular field of study. This term of engagement may be conducted during the course of the college education or when the student has just graduated. An ideal time frame would be between 2 to 6 months”

The Industry and Internships

There are a handful of organizations across India that have internships as part of their recruitment agenda and therefore have the attention of top management. This translates to an allocation of resources for this endeavour. However, most of these organizations offer internships only to the premier B-Schools and a few Tier 1 Engineering colleges of India.

For the rest of the lot internships are at best, a bullet point in the annual report and at worst, a knee-jerk reaction to young students who suddenly turn up at their office like an unexpected and often unwanted guest.

Please note that I am not even acknowledging the companies that take money from the students under the guise of internships and end up issuing a certificate at the end of the period.

If you are part of a team or the sole voice for propagating the virtues of internships in your organization, I hope you will find this to be a handy guide for instituting an internship programme.

Groundwork within the organization

  • Plan for internships should be created and approved with the annual resource budget plan. This will ensure that there is buy-in from the top management and accountability at the lower levels.
  • Once approvals are in, the departments that have opted for interns should be mandatorily required to submit clearly defined projects with timelines and expected deliverables from the interns.
  • There should be a mentor for each project. This should not be a force fit as the mentors can create or destroy a good internship programme. Never assume that the mentor is automatically equipped to handle interns.
  • Please ensure mentors are “educated” to guide and mentor the students. Very often you hear mentors making snide remarks such as “What do they teach you at college?”. This is completely counter-productive. A certain amount of sensitizing would be required for the mentors.
  • The mentors should conduct weekly reviews for the interns ( not more than 2 sessions a week of 30 minutes each)

The Intern and the Internship

If you are the anchor for the internship programme in your company, remind yourself that the interns are young and certain things need to be spelled out clearly to them.

  • Create a detailed orientation plan for the student intern. Understanding their project and its implication for the whole organization will ensure their buy-in. ( This should also include company policies, especially on “anti-harassment” and privacy issues. )
  • Spell out the benefits that the students gain from this programme – especially if they are not paid a stipend.
  • One of the key skills not taught at college is time management and creating processes. Ensure that both the anchor and the mentor stresses on this and guides the intern effectively.
  • Create networking opportunities for the interns – either an executive lunch hosted by a CxO or a “Hi-Tea”
  • Ensure that you collect detailed and anonymous feedback from the interns at the end of the programme. This will help with future improvements.

A seamless execution of these would ensure that your interns go back to college as your brand ambassadors.

The College and the Internship

At no point in history has there been a stronger trend of colleges and industries working at cross purposes than in the last one decade. The aim of the colleges is to beat the maximum pass percentage out of the student population. If that means teaching by rote, then so be it.

To expect people with limited resources and unlimited restrictions (I mean the teachers, of course) to manufacture employable graduates may be a utopian dream, but there are measures that the industry can put in place to assist them on this journey.

  • Identify partner colleges where you can make recommendations on the skills that the students need to be equipped with when they appear for internships.
  • Extend “Learning and Development” within the company to the faculty of the colleges on a pro bono basis. Teach the teachers how to teach so that ultimately you do not spend a lot of time retraining the students who enter the workforce.
  • Give candid feedback after the internship is completed, not just to the students but to college authorities. A constructive feedback mechanism will help colleges help their students.

It may not be possible to implement all the suggestions given here in the very first attempt. As with any project intended to make lasting change, internships should also be looked at with a long-term plan for the company. Beyond creating a recruitment pipeline for the organization, internships in the truest sense is experiential learning and a certain amount of preparation will go a long way in making this a meaningful journey for the students.

 

Ruby Peethambaran

Co-Founder, Fourth Ambit Technologies Pvt Ltd 

She can be found on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rubypeethambaran/