Land that Interview – How?

The available data surprises me to the core. On the one hand, corporate India is dealing with a 63% talent crunch, which is way higher than the global average of 56% ((Money control article) and, on the other hand, 50% of college students in the country are landing up jobless (Business insider article). So what is the problem? Why is there a talent crunch and unemployment both at the same time? 

Today, I will share my insights derived from the research that I did around 19 months ago to find an answer to a few questions that my students asked me. As per me, the answer to the above question lies in this research as well. Students often ask me, how did you get your first break? How did you get your first dream job? What magic do we need to do in interviews to get the right jobs? You are lucky that you get to do what your passion is. How did you figure that out? These are the most common questions on every student’s mind.

It took me some time to dive into the past events and map my professional journey that started 20 years ago and figure out what worked well for me. I did not want to give my students a reference point of just one journey, so I started to reach out to my corporate circle to get insights from more people and then consolidate all of that gold together for the 2000+ youths I was working with then. Thanks to my main job as a public & corporate relations lead, I managed to reach out to 50 senior & successful leaders in various companies and learn about their enriching journeys. My now co-founder, Chalam, was one of them as well. I also asked all the leaders I spoke to about their qualities in hiring managers while interviewing/shortlisting candidates for their teams. While going through my notes later, I saw a clear pattern that emerged. That was the pure gold that I finally shared with my students and was the answer to all their questions. What I found out was not significantly different from this article published by Forbes India sometime back. (Forbes Article)

Those insights also made it very clear that there is a considerable gap between what most students are preparing for and what companies are looking for. This research also became the reason why I reached out to Chalam again as one of the things he said during our conversation was stuck in my head and made a lot of sense “We need to ensure that our youth learn how to take charge of their success. That’s what leaders are looking for in their teams,” that’s what he told me. So we started spending hours discussing the solutions for bridging this gap and then finally decided to quit our well paying, happy jobs to start RaiseToPi.org with the vision of building a fleet that knows how to take charge and is equipped with the right skills to do so. 

I will share a summary of the insights from my research here and hope that it will provide a new perspective for many of you. But, summarizing something as rich as this in a thousand-word article would be quite tricky! But I am going to try my best.

So a standard answer that all the industry leaders I spoke to and I had was that none of us had any magic-potion. The majority of us came from humble backgrounds and had the same worries about the uncertain future as today’s students. So what changed the way our lives shaped up? And what made us successful in the worldly parameters? The typical pattern that emerged from all the interviews was that all these 50 people, and the 51st me, took charge of preparing ourselves for an uncertain future very early in life, somewhere between the age of 18 to 22. An expected quality that stood out was that all of these 51 were very socially aware students who kept track of the changing world and the needs of the new world. That’s step 1 of taking charge. Somewhere between our UG and PG, we all worked towards upskilling ourselves and gained tremendous real world-skills that were uncommon then and are uncommon now, and this was Step 2! These skills have become our tools to survive in a highly competitive and changing world, and most of us could land that interview sooner or later. 

Now comes the most crucial question: how did we gain those skills to take charge of Success? The answer is again surprisingly common across all 51. We all worked on live projects and got our hands dirty with real-world experience. A couple of leaders had stories of organizing the biggest music festivals that India could think of (the late 90s). In contrast, a few of them had stories of solving social problems for not so fortunate people. Some worked on wildlife conservation, and the majority of them unknowingly got involved in solving huge pending issues in their immediate community/locality. A couple of them had no choice but to work along with their undergrads and support their fees because of financial issues. These real-world experiences of working on live projects gave us all the skills and, even more importantly, the confidence that made us shine in job interviews. Even though almost all of us were technically freshers, the stories of our live projects gave our resumes a positive twist, and it stood out! Today, almost 20 to 25 years later, when these leaders recall their first interviews, they all have just one common memory. Their stories of taking charge and problem-solving at a very young age amused the interviewers and landed where they wanted.

Now let’s talk about what these leaders are looking for in the new age candidates? When I asked them this question, the common answer I received was most candidates, especially freshers and also sometimes the ones with 5-6 years of experience, lack the basic survival skills. So what are those hard to find skills? The list is quite common across all leaders, across diverse companies and sectors. The qualities that these leaders are looking for while hiring are survival tools for the future!

  1. Problem-solving, 
  2. Critical thinking, 
  3. Assertive & democratic communication,
  4. Collaboration skills, 
  5. Project & stakeholder management capabilities,
  6. Flexibility & adaptability
  7. Continuous learning & growth mindset 

After I finished my research, I finally got back to my students with the list mentioned above. One of them asked me, why do they expect us to have all of this? Are we just freshers? My answer was- yeah, you can be a fresher and get a really low salary and learn this after joining a company and feel overwhelmed with slow growth and be one out of many. Or take charge, prepare yourself while in college, join the corporate world with a bang, stand out, get recognized, and accelerate your growth. I will again reinforce that learning to Take Charge for Success is a survival toolbox, and the skills we spoke about are the tools for getting future-ready in an ever-changing world, where today’s jobs may not exist tomorrow!

So take charge, gain the right skills and pave your way to the future! 

 

Sudeepta Banerjee

Co-Founder 

RaiseToPi.org

Take charge for Success! 

 

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