By Shubika Bilkha
The high of graduation and finally moving on from the ‘student’ phase of life is somewhat dampened for a number of graduates as they come to terms with the ‘what do I do with my life’ question. To add to these woes, parents and those around always seem to find that one person to cite who secured a job within the first month of the final year and is well positioned for a robust career. The truth is, however, that most people graduate with uncertainty about their career trajectory. In a survey conducted by EdTech Review in March 2017, they found that less than 10% of the engineering graduates surveyed were able to define their career path.
So, if you are one of those confused millennials, RELAX!
Storming out of the living room at the mere mention of a career or job won’t help. Taking some proactive steps to understand yourself and your interests is a better use of your time and energy.
When I graduated from college in the US, there were only a few finite career options ahead of us. The on-campus placement opportunities had fierce competition for the better-paying banking, finance and consulting job roles. The techies went on to engineering job roles, while the more creatively inclined went on to marketing or advertising or design firms. And then there were a host of others who worked at not-for-profits, or went on to graduate school in law, medicine or do their doctorates or masters degrees.
Today, however, with the proliferation of the digital medium and disruption to almost every industry by technology, the job roles available for new entrants are varied. How then, as a fresh graduate, do you decide on this defined career path in a constantly evolving world
Having worked with and recruited a number of new graduates over the course of my career, I have listed a few key learnings to help young aspirants streamline their thoughts as they embark on their first jobs.
Go where you can learn: The first few years of your career are about ‘getting paid’ to acquire the key skill sets, as well as to understand the world/industry/the market you operate in better. It is therefore important that when you hone in on a particular job role, you think about what it is that you can learn from the organization, your bosses and your colleagues. The foundation you build here will take you through for the rest of your career.
Go where you build lasting professional networks: Don’t underestimate the importance of building strong and lasting professional networks. They serve as a great source of reference and can help with future job opportunities. Get yourself a mentor in your first job and maintain that relationship/connect throughout your career.
Go where you can grow: Find an organization that has a strong HR department and sets a clear career trajectory for their employees. Select organizations that invest in your growth and development through training and mentorship. Organizations that value contributions, invest in succession planning, offer benefits and a good work environment for their employees should be the preferred choice for your first job role. Check Glassdoor before your sign on that offer letter!
Don’t fixate on the money: I have seen a number of graduates turn down great work opportunities at reputed companies for the promise of a slightly higher pay at a lower growth enterprise. According to a recent Monster.com survey, employers said that 19% of the mistakes made by graduates at interviews was a fixation on the compensation. According to a recent 2018 report by the US-based search engine Indeed, 83% of millennials would switch a job for a pay rise. While earning well is, of course, important, in the initial period millennials will need to balance the long-term investment in themselves versus the short-term gain.
Focus on building your personal brand equity: A strong personal brand can be a key distinguisher between one candidate and another. As a new graduate, don’t underestimate the importance of selecting job roles, organizations and upskilling programs that contribute to building your own personal brand. It is important that you select organizations, mentors and work with leaders that help enhance your personal brand equity, as well as build on your strengths and work towards your weaknesses, as this will be a continuing differentiator over the course of your career.
About the Author- Shubika Bilkha: Shubika has an ideal blend of corporate experience and entrepreneurship in India and Internationally. Her experience of over 12 years spans the finance, technology, e-commerce, education and real estate sectors. As the Managing Director of two early-stage start-ups in technology and education, she has hands-on experience in strategy, execution, operations management, marketing, sales and customer experience, HR, recruitment, and finance.
Shubika is a published author and a prominent media spokesperson for the real estate and education sectors having contributed to publications, portals, panels/events, the radio and television channels in India. Shubika is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College, USA and Columbia Business School, USA; an Associate Member of the Chartered Securities Institute (CSI) in the UK; and has completed the “Building Excellence in Higher Educational Institutions” at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.