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Straight Talk: Finding a Job After a Degree

Study at a college where faculty is accessible and you can build up to a career post-degree, says Pushkar.
BY Pushkar |   20-05-2014
Pushkar
“It pains me when I see a well-educated [read ‘degreed’] young man who is unemployed and probably 'unemployable'. And I just got to know a family of four such people. The trauma of these kids is unimaginable.” -Maheshwer Peri, Chairman and Founder, Careers360

If you are in college (or will attend one starting this year), I have bad news for you.

When you graduate, it is quite likely that you will be unemployable even if there are available jobs.

No, it does not matter if you are a student at an engineering college or a commerce or English literature student. You need to know—and this is not something your college will tell you—that the employability numbers of graduates across disciplines is awful.

Let me throw some numbers at you.

Last year, an Aspiring Minds report estimated that 47 per cent of graduates are unemployable in any sector of the economy due to their lack of cognitive skills and proficiency in English. You can see the full report here. According to the National Skill Report 2014 prepared by CII, People Strong and Wheebox, only 34 per cent of graduates are employable. That report is available for download here.

Worried now? You should be.

The question you need to ask is this: “Will I be able to jump across the unemployment fence?”

The answer depends on a number of factors, some of which are specific to the current period and/or not in your control.

Take the economy. We are still in the middle of an economic slowdown and things could remain this way for a while. It would be foolish to expect employment opportunities to increase immediately with Narendra Modi taking charge as prime minister.

With or even without today’s economic situation, securing a job which is approximately commensurate with one’s degree is assured only for a handful of graduates – the top of the class from a handful of elite institutions; those who get themselves an education irrespective of the quality of education on offer at their colleges; and finally a small number of others with influential 'uncles'. For the rest of you, the job market is harder to crack.

Yes, the discipline in which you earn a degree matters; a bachelor’s or master’s degree in chemistry may make you more employable than one in history. However, if all you have to show at the end of 3-4 years of college is a degree sans education, then the discipline is irrelevant. A history graduate who gets an education is more employable than someone with a degree in engineering.

An entire generation or two, of young Indians, have made the mistake of believing that an engineering degree (often followed by a business degree) is a sure way to success. The real world does not work that way.

You think in degrees; employers don’t care about them. This is because the degrees handed out by most of our colleges and universities are near-worthless. Anyone can get a degree, even a PhD, in this country.

The key issue is whether you are acquiring (or have acquired) those skills that employers look for from graduates in your discipline.

Chances are, you are not. Not at your college anyway.

It is more likely than less that you attend a college which, whether you know it now or not, is awful. To be fair, we don’t even know exactly how bad our colleges are because only about 20 per cent of government-run higher education institutions are NAAC-accredited.

No, no, I am not suggesting that you give up on a college degree. However, I do recommend that other than earning a degree, you should aim at getting an education.

For those of you who attend a half-decent college, some of the faculty members can be a big help. Most of you, however, study in colleges where qualified and accessible faculty may be hard to find. Therefore, you must find a student mentor who will help you prepare a ‘do-it-yourself’ kit to get an education on your own. That’s your only real option if you want to be able to jump across the unemployment fence.

Pushkar is a contributor on India’s higher education for Asian Scientist (Singapore). He previously taught at Goa University, McGill University, Concordia University, and the University of Ottawa. He is currently with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, BITS Pilani-Goa. You can follow him on twitter at: @PushHigherEd

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