The other side of job hunting
Last Monday, I attended an event at Monash University that aimed at providing students with a motivational message towards the new semester. During the meeting, two students currently doing a PhD at Monash University commenced to explain their life story to the students. They carefully explained the challenges they had to go through before they were able to get where they are, at university, studying for success. They further explained that in order to do the job you wish to do, you need to make sure you work during your studies.
“If you study well, and you persevere, you will get through the challenges and get to where we are.”
That was essentially the message that they were trying to convey to the 30-odd students that had attended this event. Continuing on the discussion that was held after the event in a short Q&A session with the presenters, I wish to discuss the other side of a job seekers mentality that people tend to forget when providing advice to students new to college life.
Previously I have had the opportunity to write about the mindset of a job seeker in the current market which you can find here and I would like to add onto that using the Q&A session as a platform.
One of the questions that was asked during the session came from a Chinese student who wondered what would be more beneficial: to work first or to continue studying for a higher degree? How would one know what is the correct decision?
The two PhD students correctly answered by telling the questioner that he should probably do both, working and studying at the same time. The reason this is correct is that he will gain the best mixture of practical and theoretical knowledge. That is, if he manages to manage his time well.
What would be important for me though is that in addition to gaining the pre-requisite knowledge required for his projected future job, there is another element to it. Not only is it important for the employer to feel attracted to you by knowing how well you have done academically and professionally, but it is also important for the student to know that what he’s doing is what he wants, because this is the dilemma.
Students live in a very comfortable era at the moment where they have the luxury to choose what to do next only moments before they are about to graduate. They could choose to look for work and if things don’t work out, still choose to continue studying. As ideal as this may seem, it has indirect effects on the stakeholders of this story. Not only does it make the market very unstable for employers, making them become a second-rate option (and thus lowly motivated future employees), but it also means that students have the ability to abuse this system and delay their choices until it is necessary for them to face that reality once again, the reality that without work, they cannot continue to the next phase of life.
You can only know what you want if you dive into it.
What the presenter said is right. That is why students from high school to PhD should try to work. Whether that is a permanent, part-time or casual job, or even an internship, doesn’t matter. In fact, it drastically improves your chances with your future employer. More importantly, only by working different jobs, will you find out what it is exactly that stimulates your passion and makes your spine tingle in a way that you actually like what you do. That is why working is so important for the job seeker and future graduates so that they know what it is they wish to do.
The second point is that studying purposefully is necessary because not all education is helpful. There has been a massive academic inflation lately that is reducing the value of higher education.
What is academic inflation? Academic inflation is the rise of standards minimally required to find an average job in a country. The higher this inflation is, the harder it is to find a job with a regular degree and the more important it becomes to have professional knowledge. There are several places I know that has such cases, these places are mainly located in Asia as the parental expectations are a multitude higher as a societal average than it is elsewhere. The strong emphasis put on children to out-prodigy the other is a cultural distinction. However, that puts teenagers and young adults in a completely unique situation. The situation where the highest degrees and the most outstanding distinctions do not divide the job seeker from the rest simply because everyone else is doing as well too. What then would be the ideal equilibrium to a professionally academic graduate-employer relationship?
A country has a certain amount of jobs. Jobs that variate and branch out into several sub-jobs. Let’s say these jobs stand at about 40% of the total population for an exemplary number of 3.5 million. Companies are always looking for the ideal combination of maximum efficiency, high synchronization (between colleagues), knowledge and practical skills. The last two is just a matter of relevant experience. The latter two are the most important during the recruitment process. If the jobs are filled with prodigies, then there will be many students left unemployed simply because there just aren’t enough jobs available, resulting in the export of knowledgeable prospects who weren’t relevant enough to acquire a job. It also means that students need to find ways to become relevant either by choosing their occupational preference early, or performing the right jobs.
The point I’m trying to make is that studying is for a purpose. The actual value of studying for a higher degree has slowly been depreciating in the past decade, so worrying about that is no longer necessary. High school is an entrance qualification for University. A bachelor degree teaches you the most relevant skills that are necessary to perform a job. A masters degree further specializes on that and forces you to think along the job and strive to ambition for a better future. A PhD, however, is two things. One part is academic. A PhD requires you to contribute towards the existing information available and experiment one step after the ones already taken by your peers. The second part is that you understand what the field is you are studying and that you wish to specialize in such way that makes you absolutely unique from others. However, it also means that the pool of purposeful jobs that would suit you minimizes intensely, but also upgrades your capabilities to its maximum. So if you were to choose to study for the better, make sure you understand what it is about.
Finally I would like to create greater awareness for struggling students. For as ideal a situation it is for employers to shuffle through job seekers’ resumé like a pack of cards for the better prospect, there are still a lot of students who lack the support to reach the state of living up to the necessary standards as benchmarked by the university. They are students who could well benefit from the welfare of a strong student support.
There are many incentives for university to support especially those who do well at their university or those who are highly motivated. As they would say, it builds upon the foundation previously set by the alumni. Highly performing students are representatives. They give back to the university either financially or symbolically. Better performing students provide a high standards which raises the quality of education provided at the institution which gives the university a very significant distinction among the others which places them higher on the list of aspirations for future students.
Reflecting back on the economic situation of businesses, after the crisis in ’08, companies have changed the way businesses are done significantly. Not only have they tried to structurally reorganize the entire corporate floor, but they have also adjusted their customer approach. No longer is it reasonable to wait for businesses to come in, but it has become crucial to look for businesses too. 6 years after the crisis, we have matured past that stage and now look towards the biggest income of money: the retention of customers.
The reason I bring this up is because there are more average students at a university than there are prodigious ones. That is an undeniable fact. Focusing on the crop of the cream means you are missing out on the majority of the students that are currently attending the university. Being able to upgrade the standards also means to increase the success rate of the worse performing students. Helping those students improve their performance will have a significant effect on the campus.
Students who didn’t do well, but manage to specialize and thus gain a good job from that university spread a more relate-able story than just another smart person who obviously worked hard and get perfect marks and found his perfect job.
After all, no one likes to hear a perfect fairy tale, but only those who struggled but managed to find its way to the top. If these students are incapable of doing so on their own, why not give them a hand? Improve on the student supporting program and see the university bloom in ways it hasn’t thought of. Watch as customer retention increase dramatically and students be given the opportunity to shine both academically and professionally. Hopefully they will be told more relevantly what it requires for them to stand out as the one in a hundred sheets lying in a tray on the table of human resource.