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From university to office

The lessons that life taught me

It is always a defining moment in our lives. With the books done and dusted behind, it is time to move on to the next phase of life – from being a student to being a professional. It feels exhilarating. Emotions run high during this time and so does our expectations from our future. No more assignments, projects and thesis work, exams. Exciting isn’t it?

However, life was never a smooth path. It will never be. The truth is that now you have just graduated to the next level of life where you confront the world, eye-to-eye. If you are one of those who feels lost about your dream work, then you are not alone. Years ago when I graduated from the university, I went through a similar situation. With the oil markets plunging and more people getting fired from companies each day back then, it is not an ideal time for a petroleum engineering graduate to begin working. However, time taught me five lessons to survive that phase which I think holds good, even today for anyone.

  • The industry needs people: No matter what level of automation we achieve, industry will be run by people. Market downturn can hit the industry but not wipe it off altogether. People who are willing to help it take the right decisions, work for it and guide organizations forward will always be in demand. So, be happy. You can still be a force to reckon with for the industry if you are willing to be one!
  • Work on yourself: There is always scope to improve yourself. You may not have a great academic record to show but then work on your soft skills. There are so many people who achieved even without degrees because they worked on their strengths. So, don’t lose heart and work on yourself. Maybe you have excellent communication skills or creativity, if not mind-blowing grades. Hone it and combine it with your average academic record. Educate yourself more. Learn, learn and learn – not just for grades but to be a better person. You can still be a game changer for an organization!
  • Knowledge is important but more so is a character: Having a brilliant academic background is no guarantee that you will excel as a professional. Yes, you read it right! It is often not the gold medallists who truly excel but people with incredible mental strength and unwavering optimistic outlook towards life who win. Irrespective of the place where you studied, you cannot avoid challenges and failures. You will be broken down and humbled by the world outside but how you pick yourself up thereafter is important. If you are someone who is willing to learn new skills, take up challenges and have self-belief, chances are high that you will find work.
  • Showcase yourself and network: There is a popular jingle in India that says “What is seen, is what gets sold” Always remember, knowing how to present yourself in front of the recruiter is as important as building up a resume leading to that moment. Many people often complain that they don’t have anything ‘worthwhile’ to brag about in interviews. But it is important to understand that the word ‘worthwhile’ is relative. The technical session you conducted for your university juniors might seem to add little worth to your CV but to a recruiter, it shows that you are someone who has presentation skills and takes initiative to empower others. Look upon the HR professional taking your interview as someone who wants to know you well so that he can help you get a job (even they have a target number of recruitments to achieve!) Give them reasons to hire you and confidence that they are making the right choice by selecting you. Use this opportunity to network and carry on that conversation well beyond the interview room. Talk with people in the industry, learn from them the industry trends and best practices, learn about their professional journeys and how you can rise in your careers. The wisdom you gain that way is priceless and can be life changing for you.
  • Appreciate what you have: Often the situation is paradoxical: people find the job, that they got after so much struggle, to be tough and thus not worthy to carry on. “Oh, the salary is low. They make me work for long hours. I am finding it difficult to make my both ends meet with such a low salary. I am quitting my job.” It may be true that you have challenges but remember what little you have might be something that many don’t get to have. The salary may be less but at least you earn something. You may be commuting through a bus instead of owning a luxurious sedan and driving your way to work, but you have a place to go to work. In the past, many great people had humble beginnings. Steve Jobs started Apple in his backyard shed. Bill Gates did not become a millionaire overnight. They all started small but persisted in their dreams and invested efforts in it, which made them successful. Lao Tsu, the Chinese philosopher said: “The journey of million miles starts from a single step.” So, take that step, be grateful for it and work towards your dreams.

Originally published at subratwrites.wordpress.com

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