Employability – What’s wrong with Sri Lankan degree?

I will start this blog post with a must read article on employability.

5 steps that could help freshers bag jobs in greater numbers. It focuses on Indian context. If you are lazy to read it, here’s the bombshell.

Graduate unemployability: For years, employers used degrees as a lazy filter to shortlist interview candidates. But, now that it is clear a degree is not what it used to be—60% of taxi drivers in Korea, 31% of retail sales clerks in the US, and 15% of high-end security guards in India now have a degree—employers are shifting their focus to employability and skills. This means candidates from outside the top institutions, or those without degrees, can differentiate themselves through certifications, soft skills, apprenticeships, projects, work experience, career growth, and more.

Almost all Sri Lankan employers I meet complain about candidates not having right skills and attitude, not just among freshers but also among seniors. Degrees are not relevant, they say.

Yet the young generation toil away their money and time in to getting a degree, and employers keep on picking degree holders. Why is this ?

One person gave an explanation that seems fit. ” We do not have enough pressure yet to work more. Look at India, they have enough pressure to be relevant, because if you do not work well,  many are in the line to take your job”

Well then I read the most bizarre thing. Forget pressure, we are rewarding the lazy.

Sri Lanka’s unemployed graduates who are not disabled but are not contributing to the nation in gainful employment will get a 20,000 rupee monthly allowance from the state starting from July 2018.

The government will recruit 5,000 graduate who apparently cannot find a gainful job and pay them 20,000 rupees a month from July.

They will be recruited for ‘training’, the government said.

When to startup

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pic credit: Dialog

After the #ngage session, after the food ran out, few young people (age 20-30) asked me questions. I could distill them to this question.

” I want to do a startup on something I love, but cannot find time with my current job. Should I quit? “

My answer is A BIG NO.

I’m 37.  If you have asked me the same question when I was 30, I’d have said yes.

I remember, back then, when a uni undergrad pitched his prototype during a hackathon, I asked him, “are you gonna do a job, or continue this prototype after graduation?” He said he’d do a job, but would improve prototype as a side kick. I laughed saying “you are not serious. Hence you will not make it.’

I don’t know what happened to him or his side kick. But I do know, what I said to him was wrong. I am sorry. I have seen more of  the world since.  Hence I beg to differ.

Here’s the reality I witnessed that changed my answer from yes to NO!

 1) Work is work

Work is work, either when you are employed, or running your own thing. Actually work is very much harder when it is your thing. In both cases, you’ll be judged by the quality of the work you do- the ownership you take to improve things in you, and around you. So get good actual work experience. Take back something that you can share in interviews with a gleam in your eye.

The HR managers I talk to, say “I’ll hire anyone ( no need of certificates) who’s willing to work hard”. Because most of the educated young people today, are sitting on their certificates, and have taken advise from entrepreneurial gurus to ‘work smart’. Work smart has been tactically reduced to ” just get by doing the easiest and laziest”. ( Logic: If I am paid the same salary, why should I work harder than them)

 2) A Good boss

At young age, a good foundation is equivalent to work a good few years under a good boss. A good boss is someone who uses your strengths and improves your potential. Who instills discipline in you. Makes you go get. Inspires you.

This is so important if you want to start on your own. Many lose this opportunity for the sake of next best opportunity- usually an improved benefits package. 2 years is now considered way too long a time to spend at one place.

 3) Why start from scratch?

when you startup on your own, let’s imagine, with out work experience, you may have to learn everything from scratch. You go through the process alone. It’s a time killer, an emotional black hole.

In a job, you see the processes, you can observe. You learn from many. Your risk is low. Learning is high. Of course you have to be ultra curious  and hungry to learn and be proactive. No body gives you opportunities. You create them, or you get none.

4) You do have extra time to do a side kick.

Yes, you definitely have time while doing a full time job.

Cut down your TV time, movie time, Facebook time, Weddings ( a colossal Sri Lankan time waster) etc. etc.

5) Be stable. Learn to save. Learn to minimise risk.

Read the above point few times. Forced will power only lasts until you run out of cash to put food on the table.

6) Build a Network of people who can help you.

If you have done good work at your job, if you have helped people to do better, you can use their blessings. They’ll introduce you to people who can help you. World is full of good people.

When you have above 6 things under your belt, you are on a good launching pad. Side kicks can well be full time work, gradually.

P.S: There are many people who have taken the leap of faith and have become super stars. We hear about them on media. But we do not hear about the people who did not make it. We do not hear each of their stories. There are many. Try to take the middle path, not veering in to extremes of high risk adrenaline or lethargy.