About a year ago (23 May 2012), an article in New York Times titled “An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Class” went viral. The post was written from a prospective employer; and was addressed to Graduates and Post-Graduate students in India. It highlighted what prospective employers really wanted in entry level employees. When I first read the article, I nodded at every single point listed.
However - In the past 1+ year, I have had the opportunity to interact with several fresh graduates / post-graduates (unemployed / employed and waiting to start off their careers / employed with organizations for less than 2 years). And as a part of these interactions, I acknowledged and learned their side of the story. In this post, I present the collective views and sentiments of this group.
Dear Prospective IT Employer,
This is your potential employee. We are a graduate / post-graduate looking for employment. We are potentially the future assets of your organization (assuming you consider employees as assets), the key contributors to your top-line and bottom-line growth in the years to come (assuming you continue to charge your customers for employee services, i.e., Dollar or Billing Rate / Hour) and the keepers of your “brand name” (assuming you have a brand name). All of these will influence and shape your organization growth, your competitive differentiation and your longevity in the times of come.
Millions of us have recently graduated or will graduate in the near future. We are filled with a sense of excitement and eagerness as we complete our formal education, and start a new phase of our lives as “working professionals” and “officially” become part of the corporate workforce. Some of us have already landed our first job, and are ready to contribute.
In theory, life appears to be good – except that it’s probably not all-so-good. We look, speak and interact with our seniors and friends who are currently employed in IT jobs, and are filled with apprehensions and questions on how the future will turn out when we start working for you!
So why this letter, and why should you read on? Well, because based on collective “sentiments and opinions” of fresh graduates or post-graduates / newly hired employees, some truths have become apparent. Read on to understand what your future employees really want and how we can work together to create a “Win-Win” situation.
Before we get into specifics, we humbly acknowledge the following:
1. In your assessment, we are “spoiled” because of the “India growth story”. We agree that we may be “spoiled” in your eyes. So let us just ask you a few questions:
“Who is to blame for the times/era one is born to?” – We? Did any of us specifically write a wish 100 years back that we’d like to graduate in 2011 / 2012 / 2013?
“Who is to blame for the kind of upbringing that we’ve had?” – We? Many of you must be having children, cousins, nephews, niece and other relatives who are in the same phase as us. What did you do as responsible adults to influence our upbringing?
2. In your assessment, our “English Language” skills are sub-standard. Again, “Who is to blame for the quality of English education that we received?” We? “Who is to take responsibility for the English proficiency of the teachers who taught us in different schools and colleges across India?” We?
3. There is a gap between what we learn at college and what we are expected to deliver at the workplace. We are cognizant of the fact that there is a “great divide” on what we learn at school / college (however much / little this is!) and what you expect us to deliver at work. “Who is to take responsibility for this “GAP”?” We? OR “The systems, people and processes who run these educational institutes and who run these corporate organizations?”
So, without any further ado – We’d like to share with you our side of the coin, and what we’d like as prospective employees in your organization:
1. You accept us for what we are: The first and most important point for us to be productive and you to get the best of us is for you to “ACCEPT” us for what we are. Yes, we are not perfect. Yes, we have limitations. Yes, we are not the “ideal employees”. Yes, we want things to be easy. Yes, we are “Digital Natives”: The iPad / iPhone / Twitter / FaceBook generation. And we cannot change overnight just to “fit-in” to your view of the ideal employees. So for a start, would it not be EASIER if you ACCEPTED us for what we ARE?
2. You give us work to do: The second point is that we've seen and heard so many of our seniors and friends join your organizations to “work”. Sadly on joining, they find that there is NO WORK to do. And many of us spend weeks / months / years (in some instances) on the “bench / beach” – As you call it. We did not join your companies to sit on “benches / beaches” – though we’d like to have a paid vacation and party in benches and on beaches! – If that’s possible, but we know its not! So please give us WORK. Only if we work, can we learn and grow. Please give us these work opportunities.
3. You answer our questions, even the most basic ones: We agree that we may not have the “average intelligence” of your generation. So we request you to provide basic guidance as we make our first steps into the big BAD corporate world. Yes! We acknowledge that we need to learn (a LOT), and are willing to learn. Provided your employees with all their “intelligence and industry experience” make the time and effort to answer our questions, even the basic ones.
In many instances, you’re employees don’t like being asked questions. And in several cases, they don’t know the answers! So please answer our questions. Please provide basic guidance.
4. You collaborate with us to build our English language skills: There’s a lot of hue and cry on our sub-standard English language skills. Agreed, that our English skills are sub-standard. But did you not check that when you interviewed us? And if you did still hire us (because of the demand as you call it), then that’s the choice you made. And the reality is that every choice comes with a price. In this case, the price is probably that we work together to build and enhance our “English language” skills. So let’s collaborate on enhancing our English Skills.
5. You give us problems to solve; and let us “solve them”: We admit that our “problem solving” skills may be limited, and probably not in par with yours. Part of the reason could be that most of the important problems (of the world or country) were “solved” by the time it was our turn; Thanks to the collective genius of your generation, and the previous generations. So we got limited “hands-on” experience, as you’d call it.
Now, the way we see it – You are expecting us to “solve problems” – be it business, technology, process or customer experience. And we are willing to give it a try. So please let us try. We will probably struggle, and solve problems in the way “we know”; and not the way “you want”. So please be open to new ways of solving problems. After all with your expansive wisdom, we are sure you will agree that every problem can be solved in umpteen different ways! So, give us problems to solve; and let us “solve them”.
6. You show us the long-term picture: As a group, we like to have a long term view of things. We are curious, inquisitive and futuristic, though we personally like everything “instant”; in the here and now. So do share a view of where you’re headed, what you’re plans are and how the strategy will fall into place.
Unfortunately, most of the people we interact with in your organizations don’t seem to have a clue on the long term view of things. Agreed they know their technologies and their projects, but there’s more to the IT world than that one customer project, right? So please show us the long term picture!
7. You lead by example – Especially on “being professional and ethical”: Our grandparents often said "When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you." May be there is some wisdom in this statement. When we join your organizations, we are at a fairly impressionable phase of our careers and lives. “Professionalism, Ethics and Values” are words which seem ‘high and lofty’ and many of us don’t really get what it translates to; in practice.
But we observe, and we see, and we speak, and we hear! - From the environment. So if you've already built an organization culture which is strong on “professionalism, values and ethics” – We’d be sure to follow! But if you’re expecting us to build and create that environment for you, then maybe we need more guidance, mentoring, role models, some expectation management or a reality check! So do lead by example. And we’re more likely to follow!
That’s the initial list. Hope it’s given you some food for thought, as you start on-boarding your new employees (or fresher’s) into your world!!
Your Prospective Employee