While much of the media in recent months has focused on job losses and downsizing in Indian industry as a result of the global slowdown, the real crisis is in India’s engineering colleges and business schools, and on college and university campuses.
Most of corporate India’s workforce is still hanging on to their jobs. Sure, increments are low and some may have been downsized but, by and large, most people who were in employment are still getting a monthly pay cheque. It is those who are seeking employment for the first time who are struggling the most.
If you leave the Top 50 B-schools and the Top 100 engineering colleges out of the discussion, the majority of the graduating class in most campuses is still looking for jobs and many who have managed to get a job have had to lower their expectations and go for what they can get.
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In engineering colleges, the information technology, or IT, services sector is most responsible for the low offtake of graduates. Many IT companies simply did not go to colleges to hire this year. And those that did go ended up either withdrawing offers or deferring joining dates by several months or longer.
At some of the best B-schools, many students are still without jobs, and at others, those who have got placed have had to accept offers from companies they would not have dreamt of joining till just a few months back. The situation in the lower-ranked B-schools is a lot worse.
The B-school situation is compounded by the fact that in the last five years, course fees have risen to a level that graduates need to get jobs which pay a certain minimum amount to be able to repay education loans taken for the course in the first place.
While this may be bad enough, there is worse news to come. While it is hoped that the Indian economy and the hiring will pick up in the second half of this financial year, the fact is that hiring at the entry level will pick up a lot later. It has been seen in the past that entry-level hiring gets hit first in a slowdown and picks up last in a recovery. Do not expect any great joy in the next placement season.
So, what should a fresh engineer or MBA do in the current market?
First, accept the new reality. The market has changed and till it changes back for the better, you are going to have to scale back your expectations. Sure, it’s not your fault and this is not what you studied hard for, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Be flexible about the industry you wish to join: If IT is not hiring, it is not hiring, period.
Either join a smaller company in IT or a start-up, or look at other areas. There are many other industries that need engineers and some companies there may be hiring—telecom, manufacturing, chemicals and electronics, among others. Be willing to look at something different.
Lower the bar on salary. The average salary for the graduating class at the business school where I had studied has gone up by close to 40 times in the 20 years since I graduated. And my classmates and I had considered ourselves fortunate and privileged at that time.
While 20 years is a long time, a 40-time hike in salary during this period is great going by any standard.
I am pretty sure the wage inflation in the graduating class of other B-schools and engineering colleges has been as much in the past two decades. So be happy—you’ve done well. Count your blessings.
Consider other functions and roles. Yes, you always dreamed of being an investment banker. But those jobs are simply not available any more. Take what you are getting and run with it. More opportunities will emerge as the economy recovers. Till then get some experience under your belt.
Think about a further course of higher study. If the job market depresses you or you are just not able to get what you want, evaluate a further qualification and come back into the job market a couple of years later when things are better.
In short, roll with the flow. Over a 30-year career span, what you are experiencing today is only a minor setback.
The author is co-founder and chief executive officer, Info Edge (India) Ltd, which runs the Web portal Naukri.com. He writes a monthly column on careers and enterprise.
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