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Story of the Indian Business Graduate: Conversation between Sinjini and Prof BB

Prof BB - Good Morning, Sinjini! How are you?

Sinjini - Good Morning, Ma'am! I'm Good!

Prof BB - So what brings you to my office this early? Usually, you kids cannot wait to get out of my sight when my lecture is over.

Sinjini - Ma'am, I was a little concerned about my career. I just read somewhere that Business Graduates like myself cannot get good jobs. Is that true?

Prof BB - Well, speaking about any graduate, it's true that they have a hard time finding a job.

According to a 2018 report by Burning Glass Technologies, 43% of college graduates are underemployed in their first job. Two-thirds of these graduates will still be underemployed five years later. Of those workers underemployed at five years, three-quarters will still be without college-level work at the 10-year mark.

But if you work hard to be good at what you're doing, I'm sure you will not have to worry about a job. But if you want the truth, then yes, employers do hesitate before hiring business graduates.

Sinjini - And why is that?

Prof BB – I'll try to answer that if you want to know. But before that, do you know what employability is?

Sinjini - Employability? Um, isn't that my ability, well, anyone's ability to get employed & then remain employed.

Prof BB - Precisely. Very Good Sinjini. But there's a mistake you're making here. You are thinking of employability from a young fresher's perspective. Think about it from an employer's perspective.

Sinjini - Like what do employers look for in a Business Graduate?

Prof BB - Yes.

Sinjini - Good Grades…?

Prof BB - Well, yes. But from an employer's perspective, employability is more of a set of qualities they are looking for when hiring a business graduate.

“In the new world of work security lies not in employment, but in employability.”

Sinjini - Oh!

Prof BB – To answer your question, employers don't hire business graduates for good job roles because they lack basic employability skills.

Sinjini – Basic employability qualities, Hmm. What are these?

Prof BB - Basic employability skills are critical in getting a job. They include creativity, ability to communicate effectively, problem-solving, etc. But because these skills are not the focus of college education, fresh graduates often lack these skills.

Sinjini - Okay, I think I understand.

Prof BB - Good! Now, suppose we want to talk about the current scenario of the job market. In that case, the thing is that there is no dearth of jobs which involve roles in various fields such as Customer Success, Inside Sales, Digital Marketing, Data Analysis, Office Administration, or even Sales.

Sinjini -Why aren't companies hiring business graduates for these roles?

Prof BB - What graduates lack is the ability to work on the practical part of it. The problem with our business graduates is that they lack the technical skills which are very important in this era. This is also one of the reasons why employers hesitate to hire from this stream. And business graduates have the theoretical knowledge which is required for these jobs. They don't know how to analyze complex problems or operate specialized tools. In fact, some can't even understand the problem. Very few can use their existing skill sets for routine tasks like interpreting trends in data or using calendars. For example, suppose there is data given to you, and you need to draw some insights from it. In that case, you should be able to use MS Excel and other tools to analyze the data and come up with those insights. Or, if you are an executive assistant, you should be good at organizing schedules or making travel arrangements.

Sinjini - And what about the tools required in these jobs?

Prof BB – Let me tell you about that. If a business graduate has studied how to manage a business or how to use basic software such as Excel or PowerPoint and other aspects of business administration, then shouldn't he or she be expected to show the slightest bit of proficiency in learning new tools. There's Salesforce, Zoho, Hubspot, PivotTables, or Power BI? How do you use them?

In fact, this is one of the many reasons why employability skills are so important. There is a tremendous number of new tools and software available these days. Many of these solutions can be used to analyze and visualize data in ways that haven't been possible before.

Sinjini - So, do soft skills matter in between all of this?

Prof BB - Yes, soft skills do matter. Soft skills are all about interpersonal skills. They include communication, empathy, leadership & other aspects of interpersonal relationships. Critical thinking ability is also limited among business graduates because of the not-so-rigorous nature of the degree. But our business graduates have not thought beyond their existing skill sets.

“It takes humility to realise that we don’t know everything, and to know that we must keep learning and observing. If we don’t, we can be sure someone will be there to take our place.”– Cher Wang (HTC Co-founder)

Sinjini - How can students overcome this?

Prof BB - Students should look to complement their college education with practical learning. There are some great resources out there. They should look for hands-on learning where they are required to use their existing skills and are also taught other skills to increase their employability prospects. They should look for opportunities where they could work on practical projects. For example, they should learn how to manipulate or draw insights from that data and help simplify it to present the data trends to a non-technical audience. Or to use statistical methods to generate useful business insights. According to research by Boston University, experiential learning through internships, community service, and hands-on projects could significantly benefit students.

Sinjini - Thank you ma'am. So, students should look for avenues where they could learn skills that are in-demand but practical.

Prof BB - Yes. And it is not just about the tools. It is also about the analytical skills required to use those tools. Students should also look for ways to solve problems with these tools, which not many have been taught in college. They should work on coming up with solutions and learn how to be innovative & creative while solving the problem. Now, you must go. I don't want to drag this on for long.

Sinjini - Oh, am I taking up too much of your time?

Prof BB - Not really! But you will miss your Finance Lecture if you continue talking to me.

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