|CAREER GUIDE||Friday, July 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
Use intelligence in your job hunt: counsellor
Given our present economic condition, do our youth have a bright future? Or do they face a bleak one? These two questions are agitating the minds of our younger generation, especially those who are educated and unemployed.
Let’s face the facts. With the population growing steadily each year, the number of young, educated or uneducated, is increasing. However, the worrying aspect is that the yearly increase in the employment opportunities is not keeping pace with this demographic bulge.
How do confirmed optimists view the present situation? They are convinced that our country is passing through an era of prosperity never witnessed before. For instance, the number of people living below the poverty line is steadily decreasing. Those who were poor have moved into the lower middle class by virtue of their new-found economic gains. And those who were in the lower middle class have emerged in the upper middle class space after becoming prosperous in their chosen fields.
Of course, the rich have also become richer, and those who were already rich have become super-rich and so on.
The optimists add that the opportunity for growth and employment are opening up. This is mostly due to the availability of easy credit from banks that has triggered off a consumer boom. Thus, the educated youth, especially the professionally trained or skilled ones, have the entire field of entrepreneurship open to them. If, for some reason, these youth do not have the economic clout to self-employ themselves, business houses are about to create millions of jobs as they expand their operations. These youth can then step into these.
Presently the marketing strategies of big business houses are mostly oriented to cater to the needs of the middle class segment of our population. But this is bound to change as the manufacturers and big business houses turn their attention to target their products at the poor. A beginning has already been made by marketing quality products in small quantities in sachets to bring these within the buying capacity of the poor.
This strategy is succeeding. You have just to visit any small shop or store to see the number of popular items like shampoos, coffee and tea packets, detergents, etc on sale in price ranges of Rs 2 to Rs 5 in small packets. This has resulted in an upsurge in their demand. As this experiment succeeds and leads to greater sales, it will result in more jobs in the marketing and retail sales sectors for our youth.
As people grow affluent, say the optimists, their thirst for acquiring more knowledge and skills will increase. To cater to this, opportunities in distance education in many spheres of life will come up. In short, all this will result in better educated youth getting better paid jobs. Since all educated and prosperous people do not raise bigger families, these youth would also settle down to practise family planning by having one or, at the most, two children. This will naturally put curbs on our population growth rate in due course.
However, at present the employment situation for the youth is truly depressing. Millions of educated youth are either unemployed or under-employed. In fact, the situation is so bad that a graduate in engineering is ready to take up any job with a salary as low as Rs 2,000 a month in a city like New Delhi. Strangely, jobs even at this little salary are hard to come by.
Experts say that for creation of jobs the country should have a well-developed infrastructure without which industrial growth and economic activity cannot get accelerated. Unfortunately, except for certain pockets in the country, this infrastructure is not in place yet.
Again, the job opportunities for the youth instead of increasing are shrinking in the public sector. No new recruitment is taking place in the government sector in as big a way as it used to be earlier.
Fewer replacements for those who retire from government service are taking place. The new-found passion with the government towards winding up public sector units and selling these to the private sector has reduced employment avenues. As far as the job opportunities in the private sector go, the less said the better. They want to recruit people at abnormally low salaries. It is common to find private firms employing graduates as clerks on as low a salary as Rs 1200 a month.
What happens when young people do not find gainful employment? They drift into money-making channels that are neither healthy for them nor helpful to the country. For instance, many unemployed youth are increasingly resorting to many anti-social and destructive activities, like smuggling, selling narcotics, becoming hired killers and so on.
No politician has ever bothered to improve the quality of education being imparted in government schools and colleges. Those thronging the job market are mostly graduates from such institutions. They lack language skills and have deplorable standards in their chosen subjects of study too.
Once a Master of Commerce degree holder from a university in Tamil Nadu presented himself for a job in an international company based in Chennai. The poor fellow could not utter a single correct sentence in English. He also did not possess requisite skills to operate a computer for accounting purposes too. On investigation, it came out that he had studied throughout in Tamil medium right up to his Master’s degree. Millions of such under-educated youth form the bulk of our unemployed army.
It is against this backdrop that one must envisage the future of our youth. It is a dismal scene as far as employment potential goes. Therefore, the Central Government should appoint a task force of experts soon to suggest ways and means of generating extensive employment potential in the country.
It should also suggest courses and skills that should be started in school and college so that those who pass out of these institutions can become self-employed.
Needless to say, our youth represent
a formidable force. If they are properly trained and employed, they
can work wonders for the country. But if they are left semi or
underemployed, or unemployed, they can create law and order problems
in a big way. The danger of their becoming pliable tools in the hands
of destructive forces operating within the country is real indeed.
Use intelligence in your job hunt: counsellor
Job-hunters with fingers sore from phoning up contacts and heartburn from fruitless networking breakfasts are often relieved when career counsellor Robert Pannone suggests a more relaxing strategy for finding work.
His advice: spend some time in the local library.
"Networking is great for extroverts, but not everybody is like that,’’ Pannone, who has counselled hundreds of job-seekers, said in an interview. "Myself, I’d rather spend a few hours in a library than go to a networking meeting, and I have a lot of clients who feel the same way.’’
Every job-hunter should ‘’nurture a working relationship with your reference librarian,’’ says Pannone in his book ‘’Using Competitive Intelligence to Advance Your Career (America House Book Publishers, $19.95). "He or she will then show you which databases are available and most suitable for your use.’’
Cold-calls to contacts and firing off cover letters and resumes may have worked when unemployment was low and headhunters were on the prowl. But "with the number of people out of work nowadays, there’s less tolerance for networking,’’ said Pannone, a career counsellor for New York-based ReadyMinds.com. "Employers are tired of answering phones and talking to people who just want them to help them find jobs.’’
Instead, Pannone suggests that job-seekers use the same "competitive intelligence’’ techniques that companies use to scout customers or rivals.
Pannone shows in his book how clients used journals, reference books and databases to profile target companies and learn about their problems and needs. It then shows how they wrote proposals for employment, and contains some of the letters that produced job offers.
Using competitive intelligence has enabled clients to get jobs that did not even exist, said Pannone, who lives in Stratford, Connecticut.
"You’re not looking for job openings,’’ he explained, ‘’but for opportunities for growth at a company, or problems. ... Ideally you want to find an opportunity or a problem before it gets to the stage where it’s so evident that there’s an opening and they’re actively looking for someone.’’
The book details how a doctor convinced a consulting company he could help generate more revenue using the Internet, and how a woman who had worked in computers and academia sold a cable television provider on her ability to develop services combining education and entertainment.
Lawyers and hockey coaches
Pannone said competitive intelligence had helped clients — from lawyers and accountants to professionals in the fields of fashion, retail, healthcare and media.
Several burned-out lawyers counselled by Pannone in the ‘90s switched careers and became human resource directors.
"Their research showed that companies were having trouble with lawsuits when they laid off people,’’ he said. "They were able to show how they could run the human resource department to cut down on litigation.’’
Another attorney Pannone counselled wanted a job that would engage his passion for US history. He convinced a museum to hire him as an assistant curator. "It took him six weeks to get together a portfolio showing different artefacts he’d appraised and his experience as a volunteer at a museum.’’
Competitive intelligence, Pannone said, had always been marketed by career counsellors as "kind of an elite, sophisticated process.’’ But it boils down to being curious about your chosen field and looking for ways to be helpful.
One client, a child welfare worker, convinced a college to hire him as its hockey coach, Pannone said. The client had played hockey all his life but never coached, so he targeted a college with a small hockey programme and no full-time coach.
"He did a great job of showing his own personal development as a hockey player, and convinced them a training programme and full-time coach could move their team up to another level,’’ Pannone said. "As an example, he used their cross-town rival, which had moved up a division. He showed how he would accomplish the same thing with their team. They hired him.’’
Who needs a resume?
Pannone also encourages workers to use competitive intelligence to win promotions with their current employers.
He says in his book that the "most internal candidates don’t go after promotions in the most effective manner. They usually take one of two paths: speaking with their immediate supervisor or waiting for a promotion to just happen.’’
Instead, the book suggests six steps to formulate a proposal that "offers your employer something he or she is not currently getting’’ with specific data that shows how the job-seeker would provide a needed product or service.
The thing many clients like best about competitive intelligence, Pannone said, was that it eliminates hours of worrying over how to prepare a resume.
"When you use these techniques, you don’t worry about a resume,’’ he said. "The last five clients I’ve worked with got jobs, and I don’t think they even asked any of them for a resume. It’s normally the human resources department that wants the resume after you get the job, for their records.’’ — Reuters
Q I am a BSc student. I want to do my best in everything that I attempt. However, of late I have started noticing that whenever I want to concentrate, I have trouble doing so and am not able to fathom why. This is also affecting my performance in class. Please help me.
A Don’t let this problem bother you unduly. It may comfort you to know that this is a fairly common phenomenon among people your age — the world over. Of late there’s been a great deal of talk about ADS (Attention Deficiency Syndrome/ Disorder) among students, particularly in the west where it is beginning to alarm parents and educationists. Why just students, nearly 3 to 5 per cent of all adults have ADS.
In simple terms, it’s a malfunction of that part of the brain which governs self-control, concentration and planning.
However, I don’t think that’s at all the case with you, particularly since you say it is of recent origin.
Besides, being a teen in today’s highly competitive and pressured times carries its own share of stresses and strains which you may at times find difficult to cope with.
The only trick to survive this unsettling and at times overwhelming phase is to judiciously balance your studies with some other fun activities like sports, gymnastics, music, whatever.
Try breaking up your normal study schedule into smaller manageable modules. And reward yourself with a brief break each time before moving on to the next one.
However, if there is something else that is bothering you - do face it squarely once and for all. If you can do something about it, well and good. If not, put it firmly under wraps for the time being so that it doesn’t intrude into you present.
Then sometimes an overriding desire or anxiety to excel can have quite the reverse effect. As the saying goes, "just do your best, and leave the rest". While perfection is a desirable goal, it is seldom attainable.
Another trick is to develop a genuine interest in your subject. When that happens you will find that you are being naturally drawn into the topic - without even trying!
Also make sure you are comfortable, (but not overly relaxed) while studying. Try and stick to a fixed schedule. Some people find soft background music helps, while others need absolute quiet. Experiment with what works best for you. And when you do succeed, do write in to this column if you would like to share your experiences with all those who may be facing a similar problem.
Q I want to do a course in Gender Studies. Kindly give me more details about the subject and also the job prospects.
A Most universities offer gender studies as part of the undergraduate programme in social sciences. At the PG level the scope for in-depth studies is limited to specialisation in specific gender issues. Avenues for research after the Master’s level tend to widen. To facilitate research, the UGC has sponsored a number of study centres in universities i.e. the inter-disciplinary SOWS in Jadavpur University, the SNDT, Mumbai, and the Women’s Studies Research Centre in Calcutta University. The 2-year interdisciplinary MPhil in women’s studies at SOWS is open to postgraduates in social sciences.
The course covers women’s movements in South Asia, India, Latin America, South Africa and East Asia. The WSRC, on the other hand, conducts extensive research in trafficking, attitude surveys concerning various aspects of family life, empowerment and education of the girl child, feminist writing, etc.
The Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, the Centre for Women & Development Studies, Delhi, the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, also offer opportunities for research.
This is not a subject for bookworms. You must be passionate about doing your bit for creating an equitable society. Besides the government which is involved in gender sensitisation programmes, NGOs also offer good opportunities for advocacy and fieldwork. They pay a decent Rs 10,000 - 12,000. Foreign-sponsored projects pay better.
Q I’m an engineer and am seeking an international placement. I send my resume out to jobs on all the sites I can find, but I have not received any favourable response so far.
A Most job-seekers experience great frustration because they submit many copies of one generic resume to every job site and every company they come across, without any customisation or real understanding of the employer’s requirement, and then wait in vain for replies. This strategy rarely works for anyone, and is even less effective for international applicants.
You’re trying to take the easy way out — one resume, one mail-merge cover letter and 300 clicks of the mouse. No big deal — also no results!
Unless you have the specific technical skills which an organisation is looking for, don’t waste your time applying for jobs this way. Blanketing the universe electronically is not likely to get you far.
Sure, e-mailing your resume to an employer or recruitment consultant is fast and inexpensive, but do your research and send out few but well researched and perfectly tailored resumes for each position.
— Pervin Malhotra
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