This article is covered in a leading North India daily ‘The Tribune’ on 10 June 2020. Please find the link below:
“Raj scrolled down his home page on the social media app. It was full of virtual graduations of his friends, from across the world. The disappointment of not meeting his friends for the last time suddenly consumed him. Although he knew that he was lucky to have started his virtual induction training, he couldn’t stop the wave of grief which enveloped him like a heavy black shawl in cold winter.”
This rollercoaster of emotions that Raj is experiencing is not uncommon amongst the class of 2020. This is the class which is starting its careers in a turmoil filled year, where an unseen virus has twisted the world into knots and slowed down the frantic pace of growth.
Who is the Class of 2020?
- Gen Z (those born between 1995 – 2002) was raised in the digital world. They are the first digital natives with information at their fingertips. The biggest shift that defines this generation is the focus on passion and interests as the average social security net available to this generation has improved. (Source: Global Millennial Survey – 2019, Deloitte).
- AISHE (All India Survey on Higher Education), 2018-19 shows that 64M graduates pass out in India every year. Every year 8.4 M engineering graduates and 2.2 M Medical graduates pass out. The rest of the graduates are divided between arts, science and commerce fields. India is today the world’s youngest country, with an average age of 29 years and 54% of the population below 25 years (Source: mygov.in).
- Graduates from premier institutes account for a small percentage of the total graduate pass outs. Most placements in premier institutes were over by Feb 2020. Job offers which have been rescinded or postponed are typically 5-10% of total job offers. With their strong alumni and industry connects, these students are certain to ride the storm.
- Graduates from the “heart of India” – our small towns, and non-premier institutes are a worried lot. Systemic job creation and planning for the future has not been our national strength.
What can the Class of 2020 do?
The digital age Gen Z has to get going and chart their own path. They have had the benefit of having information at their finger tips when growing up. Exceptionally socially connected, this generation only needs the freedom and encouragement to chart out their own path.
1. Map The Trends: Identify the trends and which ones you want to ride on. Be sure to add a layer of technology in whatever you do. Intersections of knowledge areas are where true innovation happens. I would break the research on trends into 2 areas:
Basics: Essential Commodities & Services, Health, Medical, Pharmaceuticals, Security, Safety, Agriculture, Telecommunication, Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Financial Services, Actuarial Sciences & Insurance, Government Services, Teaching, Nutrition & Dietetics etc.
Future: AI, IOT, Big Data and Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Nano technology, Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, E-sports, Fraud and Cyber Crime Investigation, Risk and Privacy, Product Design, Computers & Social Sciences, Predictive Modelling, Computational Biology etc.
2. Volunteer: Remember 6 degrees of separation i.e. we are connected to anyone in this world by a maximum of 6 degrees? That’s right. Your family, alumni, friends and social networks can be mined to find people in your target area. Seek informational interviews. You can also find interviews in Vault.com and YouTube. Offer to volunteer and learn on the job. Apply for competitions and internships. Think out of the box – volunteer for public services, waste management, social problems etc. Planning a marketing campaign for an NGO is a great way to learn on the job and apply digital marketing principles.
3. Study Further: The best way for students to ride out recession is to spend the next couple of years studying. If you don’t want to invest in a full-time post graduate or Ph.D degree, opt for the various certifications available online. Whether it is excel skills, python coding, introduction to culinary arts, data sciences – there is a course for everyone. Premium institutions in India and globally are offering courses free or at discounted rates. Learn a language – Indian or foreign. Focus on employability skills – communication skills and critical thinking being the most important.
4.Change Your Focus: Fact is, a lot of entry level jobs have dried up. Always focus on your strengths, but learn to expand the fields in which they can be applied. A music major may not be getting any contracts for recording a song, but can pivot into online music classes. An engineering graduate may use their analytical skills and attention to detail to assist in editing a scientific publication. Generation Slay has inspiring podcasts of Gen Z entrepreneurs building successful businesses. Closer home, incubator cells have been given a boost by the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
5. Build Resilience: Resilience is about not giving up and being stoic in the face of adversity. Don’t neglect your physical and mental health. Despite not getting a job after graduating, Anvesha focused on building a non-profit, presenting at an entrepreneurship incubator and polishing up her interview skills. Her parents supported her efforts. In the end, she was able to impress the jury and is in talks with one of them for volunteering at his organization. Parents need to praise steady efforts, engage in supportive conversation and not nag. No one can engage in job search for 12 hours a day. Remember, you are not alone in this. Seek help and ideas.
In the end, while I won’t make light of the challenges that Gen Z is encountering, I will bet that the young will surprise us with their creativity.
— The writer is HR Advisor and Career Coach (www.nimtalkingtalent.com)