Now that I'm done with school...

Thursday, November 05, 2015

It’s a myth. A huge myth. So mythical, it's almost a scam. 

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That all the magic answers to life's very many melodramatic troubles would grind to a perpetual halt, and the cheesecake existence you dreamt of would take off, once the this obstacle called "School" is over.

School is in itself a bubble. It 'protects' you from the real hustle on the streets, and gives you something to keep you pre-occupied for the time being, while you ease into being a full-time adult.

In the case of Grad school, the added qualification is believed to pave the way for quicker access to the career path laden with gold and honey. The path through which your first degree could not sufficiently navigate you to the promise-land.

But school never adequately prepares one for the real shocker: REAL LIFE IS TOUGH.

I remember hitting rock-bottom right after Grad school; despite 'doing all the right things', and bagging my second legal degree. I thought the world was at my feet.

And then ... nothing but silence. No eager employers. No potpourri of job offers. No juicy appointments. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Just silence.

Survival meant re-inventing myself, and re-innovating my approach to the job market. Literally removing myself from ‘the box’ of dreamland, and plunging hard into the hustle.

So I’ve penned some real life facts I learnt, which differ from the green-horned myths we leave school with.

Here goes:

Myth 1:
Yes! I made a good grade (First Class, Second Class Upper, Distinction). Now, all the juicy jobs will be kept for me, and employers fighting over me.

Errr...there are at least a thousand other people with grades as good as yours, or better than yours. Besides, the 'juicy' jobs are rarely advertised. So that's where networking comes in. Before you've even left school, start applying for internships, volunteer opportunities, job fairs etc. Spread the word you're about to hit the labour market. Keep your ears to the ground...your eyes open.

Myth 2:
Now I've gone to Grad school, I have a Masters Degree/PhD. All those juicy jobs not offered to me before will be mine for the taking.

Fact: Sorry to puncture the bubble. But the world is gradually moving away from certificates, and more towards experience. In some cases, the ‘excess’ Certificates could result into a disadvantage. You begin getting the perfect, polite smiles, which accompany the usual "I'm sorry, but you're quite overqualified for this job".

So if you are schooling full-time, you could find some part-time/volunteer job to gain experience in your desired field. The experience would help your Resume look better, and who knows, you may do so well at the part-time/volunteer gig that they offer you a full time job. (It worked for me. Twice.)

Myth 3:
I can only work ‘white collar’ jobs, or practice what I studied in school. Any other thing would be a waste of my education.

‘White-collared’ jobs in themselves evolved from professions which were purely technical at some point, and grew from practice-based learning to educational courses.

Passion is what REALLY matters. i.e. whether you’re passionate (or not) about the job you’re doing.

And as for practicing something other than what you studied in school, school is just a foundation for the general common sense required to navigate through the rest of your career. How you apply the knowledge acquired totally depends on you. One thing still makes all the difference = Passion

Myth 4:
My education was so expensive. It's better I wait for the perfect paying job, than start something a job that does not pay well. After all, the patient dog eats the fattest bone.

Fact: Probably the hugest shocker in chasing your career that you will encounter is that the 'fattest' anything (most times) never goes to the patient dog. You have to be a go-getter, which includes changing your playing field to suit you if possible. So if you get a job you really like, except for the pay, take that job. Even if its volunteer. What do you have to lose? NOTHING! What do you stand to gain? EXPERIENCE! (Remember Fact 2??)

Get busy! Get your hands dirty, and do with excellence whatever work is before you.

Myth 5:
My intelligence and pure ability to meet deadlines is sufficient for me. I will quickly rise to the top with these. Everyone will just love me! I am a HUGE asset to any employer, and cannot be dispensed quickly.

I wish I could leave you in this cocoon of utopia. But this myth is what it is: a Myth.

In school, you could have been the Class Representative, Class Valedictorian, and the darling of all the Professors, based on your perfect scores.

In the real world however (starting with your interviews), a lot more is required than your sheer ‘geekness’. Annoying as it may be, likeability is a huge part. You must be able to sell yourself to your employers, your colleagues and Clients.

You must not necessarily be overly ‘chummy’ with all your colleagues (I'd even advise against it), or be so familiar with subordinates that you can't command their respect. But being the person everyone has a problem with is bound to throw you out as fast as (or faster than) your brains got you in.

If you don't have them, you MUST develop people skills. Know how to navigate people, and master the art of emotional intelligence. Know what emotions to display at what time. Strike a balance between being booksmart/hardworking and being street smart.

Also, you would have to go the extra mile, to accomplish your career goals. Working extra hours and taking additional responsibilities is not a 'gift' to your employers. It is a message you communicate that you are willing and able to be as invested in the Company as they are. So they can trust you with the Company.

And you also train yourself for when you become the boss, in future.

Now that you're aware of these facts, you can develop the right skills to equip you for your career path. And if you are already working, it's never too late to apply what you've learnt here.

Feel free to pen down other facts and myths you identified along the labour rabbit-hole.



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