Bunking college? Highly recommended! But only if you are using that time to do some learning outside the classroom. RAHUL PRABHAKAR
On one of the TEDx talks, Sir Ken Robinson, a leading educational reformist, made a significant remark about the “linearity” of the current educational system: it starts here; you go through a track, and if you do everything right, you will end up set for the rest of your life. This linearity is the most likely reason that you are in the college and the stream you are in right now.
Did you ever have a dream? Were you passionate about designing cars? Have you always dreamt of making a BIG social impact? When you were young, did you have amazing writing skills? You probably did. But, somehow, you landed up in an engineering college and your dreams have become a mere hobby, if not fully extinguished.
If you want a career in what you love doing, here’s help. Your curriculum helps a little, even assuming you ended up in the right stream. Today, learning is more than just about concepts and curriculum. It is about keeping pace with trends, networking with the right people, and building your knowledge and skills in your area of interest. No better time than college to do this. Here are some pointers to get you back on the right track…
Network: Professional networking during college is a critical aspect of learning that most students miss out on! Building the right professional contacts during college makes it easy to get internships, find mentors and get a job in the field you love.
Events and conferences: Keep tabs on relevant events in your city and ensure you attend as many as possible. Apart from gaining new insights, events are the best place for you get to meet new people from diverse professions. Look out for TEDx events in your city. Chennai Open Coffee Club is a group where entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs meet every month.
Check out conferencealerts.com/india.htm, and twenty19.com, which post updates on events and conferences regularly. Participating in the right groups on Linkedin and following newspapers will ensure you don’t miss important ones. Make sure you meet at least five new people at every event you attend.
Five quick steps to network in a conference:
- Introduce yourself.
- Start a conversation with a smart question or a pre-prepared pitch.
- Have a quick meaningful conversation.
- Ask for their business card.
- Be sure to follow up via e-mail.
Guest lectures in colleges: You have scores of guest lecturers and industry experts addressing you in college. Ensure you connect with them once their talk is over. Take notes during the talk if required, but ensure you have some feedback and questions when you approach them.
You’ve got to network like crazy! Make it a point to start a relationship with at least one new person every week and I don’t mean dating!
Internships: Internships are the best way for you to gain practical exposure. The best part: 65 per cent of companies offer you a full-time job based on your performance during your internship. It also adds immense value to your profile. The important thing is to use internships as an experimenting platform. So, don’t restrict yourself to internships in just one field. Look to do at least four internships through your college. With many companies offering virtual internships (work from home), you can do internships even when your college is not on vacation! Consider doing at least one internship in a start-up, the learning is immense.
Tips to get an internship:
- Tap professional network: This is the best way. If you have built a good rapport with relevant professionals, check with them for possible internship opportunities.
- Career section: Many companies list internship openings in the careers section on their site. For instance, Amazon has interesting internships for developers; find market research internships at Frost and Sullivan based on your stream.
- Through portals: There are several portals that make it easier for you to get internships. You can check Twenty19.com, internshala.com and AIESEC (International internships)
Keep up with trends, build your knowledge: A curriculum can never keep up with the rate of change happening today. For an electronics engineering student, the best textbook may have information about the new technologies applied in iPhone 4, which it doesn’t. Even if it did, it will be outdated. Keeping up with current trends and building your knowledge and skills around it will be extremely beneficial when you get out of college.
Subscribe to experts’ blogs and sites: Experts in different areas maintain regularly updated blogs, which are a great source of valuable insights. For example, if you are interested in marketing and business, subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog and MarketingProfs’ newsletter. Check out Mashable and Techcrunch if you’re a tech and social media is your cup of tea!
- Linkedin Today: With this feature on linkedin.com, you get to read the most popular stories and articles from the leading news sources based on your interest. This is a fantastic tool to keep up with trends, build knowledge and gain perspective. You can subscribe for feeds based on the industry of your interest whether it is automobiles or fashion. You’ll get the best stories from the most relevant and top-rated sources.
- Twitter: Twitter is like the ultimate university where you can get the best insights and knowledge on any subject.The best way to make use of twitter is by following the right people and lists. Science geeks should follow Andrew Maynard (@2020science), a scientist who tweets about all the good stuff on his blog !
Tip: To find the right people and lists to follow on Twitter based on your interest, go to Listorious.com
Web Learning: Bored of listening to your professors? Access course lectures at IITs (nptel.iitm.ac.in) and international universities like MIT (www.ocwconsortium.org) for free. You can learn anything under the sun on the web. Codeacademy.com and W3Schools.com are great for learning how to code and for web development. Udemy.com and skillshare.com are platforms where anybody in the world can learn and teach.
Spend more time with meaningful initiatives. The best part is they will pay off in a BIG way! Here are couple of highly recommended ones:
Blogs: Maintain your own professional blog where you write articles related to your career passion. Write about latest trends, comment on articles you have read, your ideas and insights… Ensure you bring in your perspective in atleast some part of every blog entry that you make.
Volunteer: Volunteer for a cause that you believe in. NGOs are always on the lookout for reliable volunteers!
Bottomline: The amount of time you spend learning outside of your curriculum is directly proportional to how awesome your career will be!
Curriculum is always a few years, if not decades, out of date. Only by getting out can you get knowledge and skills that are current and useful. For example, I did the Google Summer of Code (internship) with mediawiki last year, and am an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation, where I help run Wikipedia, an amazing job with a huge impact. Would’ve never happened if I stuck to my â€œcurriculum. - YUVARAJ PANDIAN (He has now dropped out of college )
Most of what you learn at college is not what you apply in the corporate world. Focusing too much on studying things in the curriculum and not on learning things that help you in the real world would be a bad bet. I worked on a couple of projects for the visually challenged people during my second and third year of college and presented them in research conferences in the U.S. and Singapore. During my fourth year, I built a web app called Extragram, which now has users from more than 102 countries! These initiatives taught me a lot of lessons, which I apply as I build my start-up company. - KEVIN WILLIAM DAVID, Sairam College of Engineering
Internship programmes undoubtedly accelerate students’ career paths. As a student, I interned with L&T where I built a TCP/IP stack ground up for their Patient Monitoring System. When I began applying what I had been studying till then, it led to a shift in perspective. I began taking my course more seriously. It changed everything; I began applying myself better in everything I did. - KISHORE A.K., Co-founder and CEO, Althea Systems
What employers want…
Signing up to be part of industry associations and forums is a great way to understand recent developments; it also gives you the opportunity to network. Students eventually work in an organisation where skills such as leadership, planning and a certain amount of risk-taking are essential. The best way to acquire these is to venture beyond textbooks and take part in activities such as industry forums, sports, technical and cultural challenges or be a part of associations where you have the opportunity to manage projects. - ABHAY SINGH, Director HR, Applied Materials India.
Learning through experiences and internships is often more engaging, relevant to current industry practices and gives students access to better resources. Most importantly, students get to be part of a realistic work environment and get a sense of working with a team, meeting pecific goals and deadlines and are encouraged to explore multiple avenues to arrive at a solution. They learn how to innovate in a lean, entrepreneurial and start-up environment. They learn how to work closely with customers and solve problems as well. - VIJAY ANAND, Vice President, India Development Center, Intuit
The Indian education system relies heavily on the marks in tests/exams. However, as an organisation, we look for attitude, passion, integrity, team spirit and a hunger to learn. These are not reflected in the marksheet. Organisations also use various methods to evaluate a candidate. Psychometric tests and behavioural models are some tools to better understand a candidate or employee’s role fit in the organisation. Recently we were interviewing a candidate, a fresher, who was exceptionally smart and fit our requirements. When the interview ended, she was keen to show us her academic records. We said, Marksheets do not tell us what we want to know about the candidate. Of course, they may be required later by HR for reference checks and other documentation formalities. - SHEKHAR SANYAL, Country Head, IET India
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