Surviving the 21st century, a professional’s survival guide (Part -2)

(Read Part-1) 

During my eventful career as a business consultant and a career consultant, I have lived through a few more recessions and global economic shakedowns than I would care for. The one fact that was reinforced with unfailing regularity during these tough times was that – the ones who survived – and in fact sometimes flourished – were those who took a real passion in their professions, in other words, loved what they did – and was not just in it for the money. Though this might sound something out of a corporate motivational lecture, it is a fundamental truth of life that generates excellent practical real-world monetary dividends.

To elaborate on the above – when money is the sole motivator for choosing a career the end result is usually mediocrity, the mass of “casualties” that are the inevitable fallout of any major global shake-downs or economic meltdown are these “professionals “ in the wrong field, i.e. who jumped in on the bandwagon in search of a quick buck, basing their choice of careers solely on market trends.

Such a class of professionals usually provides grist to the mill of mediocrity, they have their uses when the economy – or any specific industry – is on the upswing, this is when organizations tend to be flexible with KPIs like productivity and profitability because the top-line looks so good and the future looks rosy. However they are the first casualties when things take turn for the worse. They were the casualties of the “dot com bust”, “the economic meltdowns” or other gazillion other debacles that the world of business and commerce has seen.   In other words they stop being RELEVANT.

Any career or education consultant will vouch for the fact that two questions they are asked most often are – “what is the job opportunity in this field” or worse “which field has better job opportunities”. These are possibly the single biggest career-destroying questions one can ask. To start with, one needs understand the clear distinction between the concepts of a job vs. that of a career, to put it succinctly a job is a temporary state of affairs – you may be in a job for 3 months or 30 years, but a career is something that defines your overall personal brand as a professional. To illustrate the point better consider the two following statements as the opening phrase of your CV and choose which you would like to be the statement that defines you.

“An electronics engineer with 5+ years of experience……”  

“An assistant manager with ‘xyz’ organization since 2002…..”

If you chose the second option, we wish you all the best and you can stop reading here.

If you chose the first option congratulations! You are already on the path of a successful career and your “relevance quotient” just went up a notch.

Now that we have established what you want your “brand identity” to be, the subsequent steps obviously are planning towards the goal and execution.

Planning: Ideally this stage should start from high school however, it is never too late. One of the most effective methods for narrowing down ones areas of interest, is to run, what I call the “boredom” test, i.e. if you did not feel like –or were bored of – studying during a particular study session; which is the subject or the book you would reach for to make the best of a bad situation? Look back and you will have your answer about your ideal choice of career.

Continued in Part 3….

Surviving the 21st century, a professional’s survival guide (Part -1)

“The more things change… the more they remain the same”

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

The essence of success or even survival as a specie or as an individual has been –and will be – staying relevant in the bigger scheme of things – the human race being no exception, our tools and methods of ensuring survival may have become more sophisticated over the years but their primary objective remain the same. Of course our stated objectives are oft coated with a veneer of civility like say “making a difference” or “creating value” for the society, but stripped of all its niceties all these terms are euphemism for the basic survivalist instinct of staying relevant. It is for this reason capitalism has – and probably will – remain the essentially organic all encompassing philosophy that transcends all geo-political and socio economic barriers.

In all possibility even Bertrand Russell had no idea how right he was when he said “knowledge is power”. If there is a single golden rule for staying relevant in today’s world it is to stay with if not ahead of the knowledge curve – a task that is becoming increasingly challenging given the exponential rate of change the world has seen almost on all fronts. By obvious extrapolation it follows that the quality of education one obtains is becoming an issue of ever increasing importance.

In a world of changing success paradigms, the definition of a “quality education” has also metamorphosed into something with more “survivalist” connotations. Academics, researchers and professionals can no longer be insulated in their glass houses from the hitherto murky world of real world business diktats; neither can degrees continue to be a piece of paper that gives them a starting advantage over their contemporaries. Fresh graduates no longer have the luxury of a “honeymoon” period. In this day and age the business world demands market ready professionals who can hit the ground running and start delivering from day one. Among the lucky who survive the challenge of course is to stay relevant.

Positions, jobs or even departments are constantly being rendered redundant and to paraphrase Charles Dickens “these may be the best of times, but not certainly the worst of times”. The obvious solution is to stay mobile. Mobility has become the buzzword crucial to the survival as a professional in today’s world, mobility that is not just guaranteed by ones nationality – but by ones competencies and perceived contributions to the global business model as a professional.

Depending on one’s perspective (east or west) one of the biggest flip sides to the story of globalization – albeit unintended – has been the free flow of high end trained labor across markets, whereas this has brought many of the former economic powerhouses to their knees – as their pampered denizens fight for their “overpriced and underworked” way of life – it is no secret that it has opened up a whole new vista of opportunities for a select sector of trained manpower within the “third world countries” – with somewhat mercenary ethics.

But as with everything there is a dark lining to this silver cloud, as complacency sets in, the “nouveau rich” breed of third world professionals run the risk of falling into the same trap of easy money as their western counterparts and -keeping with the laws of business – run the risk of being made redundant once they outlive their utility cycle. For as with technology – skills and knowledge come with a lifespan as well.

So stay relevant by staying ahead of the knowledge curve. How? Read the follow up article…

Read Part -2

Destination USA – The Brilliant Success Story of an average Student

This is a story of a confused yet a bright engineer who took 5 years to complete his engineering studies and yet succeeded in securing admission to the masters program in one of the better ranked universities in the USA.

Kartik came to us as a confused soul who had his heart set on making a fresh start in the USA, he had already taken his GRE as well as TOEFL examinations but had messed up in both of them. We encouraged him to retake the tests, but in spite of his best efforts, he was just not able to focus on the same.

We were candid in advising him about his options, which was to apply to universities with his existing scores, but not to put a lot of hope in securing scholarships/funding. We believed in Kartik and more importantly Kartik believed in us.

We ensured that there was absolutely nothing left to chance when it came to the documentation for application, chief among them the SOP which went through umpteen revisions before it met was deemed “as good as it could get” crisp and compelling.

Then there was the additional problem of his sponsor as well, his father ran a small business and the paperwork was far from sound. We managed to get around the problem by documenting some of his other close relatives as sponsors, it was universally accepted by all involved that Kartik’s only chance of making it as a professional was a change of geography, he had far too many setbacks in India.

We finished his documentation process within the time constraints and guess what; he was offered admission by 5 different universities. He was more than happy by what he had achieved. He told our counselors that this was beyond his wildest expectations; especially with his range of scores and academic record. He thanked us profusely for whatever we did for him, but there was one more hurdle to cross: his Visa. With complicated and somewhat less than sound finances, his prospects for a VISA was a constant source of worry and lack of confidence in Kartik, but as before we believed in him – as he did in us – the team at FACT put in its all in preparing Kartik for his Visa Interview.

Kartik got his F1 Visa approved at the very first attempt, and he was off to the land of opportunities to secure a career of his dreams.

In summation, Kartik was probably one of the weakest profiles we had come across, a year drop during his bachelors, lesser than average academic scores, GRE & TOEFL Scores in the lower range, yet his career has received a fresh lease of life, he was on his way to USA securing Masters in Computer Science and his career flying high and prospects looking up.

The last we heard from Karthik – he had secured near-perfect GPA, and had also bagged an internship at one of the reputed firms in USA. Meanwhile he is also pursuing his passion as a guitarist (he had his own rock band in India)

Kartik’s success story is a typical case study that exemplifies the stories of a thousands of FACT students who walk through our doors every year, filled with self doubt and looking for a chance to realize their potential in the land of opportunities.

Check out our web page to read summaries of more such success stories.

Are counselors a must while planning to study abroad ?

With globalization becoming worldwide phenomena, and global compatibility becoming more of a norm than an exception, the purpose of going abroad to pursue higher education is no longer succeeded by a “why” but a “how”. What role do consultancies play in helping students pursue their education abroad? Is it an absolutely a must?
The question should would better read as “ what role should consultancies play “.

The purpose of a consultancy is not limited to just getting students admitted to an institution of higher education abroad. Given the vast number of apparently enticing quick fix choices on offer, it has become imperative to be highly selective about the destination country, the institute and the courses on offer, else there is a good possibility that a student may find himself in a redundant career after having invested a lot of time and money in the venture. One should learn to distinguish between agents and consultants. An agent is one whose chief source of income happens to be the commission he gets from the universities he has ties with, thus his loyalties and are more likely to lie with the institutions abroad rather than the student in India.

A consultancy or consultant is more of a career maker i.e. it should offer solutions that do not cater to just short term needs but should take into consideration the long term perspective, that is future career prospects, student aptitude and interest and in short advise students about the best course of action rather than the easiest course of action, because often the end result of the later is frustration.

The efficacy of a consultant must not be judged by its ability to produce admits with least input from students, students should be made an active part of the process providing constant inputs and feedbacks.

The major purpose of consultancy is value addition. So while choosing a consultancy the focus should be on the actual benefits he/she stands to gain rather than the ad-ons. In other words the experience, knowledge and credibility of the consultant in question, but credibility being a matter of perception therefore the student should go about with an unbiased mind. For example many consultancies like other businesses, high light success stories, but twenty students with full financial out of the two thousand who availed their services does not speak of a great record, rather go for a consultancy where for example 50% of the twenty students acquired financial aid, even if the number of students enrolled were comparatively paltry. Second they should look for a personalized consultancy service, often enough, the entire process of consultancy becomes a check list of assembly line processes, with each process adding little value to the application, there being no concerted effort to build the student as a brand and focus on his/ her USPs. A strict appointment system does not always work in such cases because more often than not numerous course corrections are required before applying, the consultant should be at hand to advise.

Where well established consultancies score over students going about it on their own, are in their vast experience of interaction with thousands of students over the years, because often enough a students source of information happens to be his friend or family circle which is often limited. The inputs are often colored with personal perception and a tendency to justify ones own mistakes by blaming it on extraneous factors, for example the highly erroneous impression that US visas require a twenty to thirty lack bank balance for six months, else it is impossible to come by.

The other factor is analysis, a consultancy with its vast resources and well established network not only draws on data and facts, but also analyzes them to arrive at the real picture. For example, “studying abroad especially in America is an extremely expensive proposal and is not meant for middle class students”. Analyzing the figures officially released, there were around 80,000 Indian students who flew to USA last year to pursue their higher education. Now it is a commonsensical point that majority of these students happen to be from middle class families with parents in service, it is inconceivable that even 10% of these aspiring students let alone 80,000 will have had twenty lack to splurge for education, because this amount often happens to be the life’s savings of an entire middle class family. It may sound surprising but children of State Transport Bus drivers, second grade clerks in MTDC have successfully completed their degree from the US of A, and to clear up the point they were average or above average students, with their parents having no “additional” sources of income.

The answer to the second part of the question, as to whether consultancy is necessary, is It is not a must for any student merely seeking to get away to any country and any institute as long as it is outside India. But it is a must for any discerning, serious, career oriented student, because the repercussions of the smallest of decisions are often felt many years down the line.

CERTAIN TIPS THAT WILL HELP YOU DURING YOUR EXAM PREPARATIONS

1. Confidence and Self-belief:

The students should have confidence in themselves and belief in their own abilities. They should have a strong belief and confidence that they can clear the exam. Everything can be achieved through belief.

2. Knowledge and Hard Work:

Knowledge is necessary to clear any competitive exam. The students should have good knowledge about fundamentals and concepts of the subject. Without this, they can never hope to clear the exam.

For gaining knowledge, a lot of hard work and preparation is necessary. Knowledge cannot be gained overnight. Conceptual knowledge can be perfected by reading and understanding the concepts and then practicing questions based on these concepts.

3. Solving sample papers and past question papers:

This is the most important. Solving sample papers and past question papers will give an idea about the type of questions asked in the entrance exam and also give a lot of practice to the students. This will help the students in the actual exam.

While practicing and also during the exam, the students must always pay attention to their speed i.e. how fast and accurately they can solve the questions. It is advisable not to spend too much time on a single question. If they are not able to solve that question in a particular time limit, they should leave the question and move ahead.

4. Time Management:

Firstly, students must prepare a timetable for studying, and make sure that they are following the time table ritually. The timetable must be prepared for the period up to the exam and then broken up into monthly, weekly and daily schedules.
The students must then keep a record of what and how much they have studied and review their performance regularly.

Initially, a student should study for 3 to 4 hours a day for the competitive exam. Later when the exam draws near, around 6 to 8 hours can be put in.

5. Sharpness of mind:

Sharpness of mind is needed for competitive exams. A sharp mind gives conceptual understanding, ability to think out difficult or tricky questions and speedy response to the questions.

Sharpness of mind can be achieved by regular practice and also by doing brain exercises such as puzzles, crosswords, chess and sudoku.

Hope these tips will be useful for the students who are going to appear for the exams..
Best Of Luck!!!!!

READING CAN BE TOUGH ON GRE, GMAT & SAT !!!!!

Reading of late has become a hard nut to crack on all competitive exams.Even the best of the students find themselves at their wits end when it comes to reading.But the point to debate here is,Is reading indeed an insurmountable arena? Is there no way to make it an all attainable arcade? Don`t you get disheartened guys!!! “there is always light at the end of the tunnel” & reading is no exception to this.All it needs is loads of commitment & focus towards your preparation & a conscious effort to develop faster reading.Right from day one,when you decide on taking any of the above tests,think of reading extra stuff as the first step towards your goal.

Here is how you develop faster reading habit:

1.To begin with even a newspaper would do.Read stuff like the editor`s column & note the time taken to comprehend it on day one.

2.On the second day read another such column but taking a few minutes less than what you had taken on first day.Continue each day with as much less time possible to comprehend.

3.Religiously & consciously reading new stuff coupled with proper time management would slowly but steadily help you bud into a fast reader.

4.After one or two weeks try to grab some fiction or non fiction books but mind you never you fall in love with the books & get immersed into it.Instead have a practical approach to it from exampoint of view. Hence a strategic & well planned technique would surely put you in a better frame of mind glowing with confidence to take up any challenging passage in your stride.

COMPOSURE COUNTS ON ALL COMPETITIVE EXAMS !!!!!

Despite burning the midnight oil, despite revising the Barron`s wordlist thrice, despite practising grammar & other questions thoroughly despite , despite & despite everything, I landed up with a miserable score !!!!!
We often hear students grumble post exam but have you ever given a thought why does this happen?

Why do some best of the students come out with pathetic scores?
Yes , the one & only reason is ” your mental composure on the d- day”. We have seen many a battles lost due to panic !! Panic is the real culprit.
Tranquility pays !!!! But the hundred dollar question is – How to cultivate ” tranquility” ” composure” &” peace of mind” when we are facing our career`s most crucial test? Do you think it is an unachievable & unattainable arena ? Absolutely not.

Here are a few tips to make you the coolest student with loads of confidence ready to win the battle with any & every competitive exam :

1. Right from the start be focussed , set targets & work incessantly so that you don`t have to cope up with the pressure of last minute preparation.
2. Feed your sub-conscious every night that” you have to do it” ” you can do it” & ” you will do it” that nothing is impossible .

3. Always aim high & never compromise for substandard things ,not even the score.

4. Leave studies one or two days before the exam. Relax ,have fun ,freak out, watch a movie talk to your friends {don`t discuss the exam} most important eat & sleep well. No need of butterflies in stomach at the thought of the exam !!! We dont need them because it is not the BE ALL & END ALL OF OUR LIFE!!

5. Deep breathe 10 times every day by closing your eyes. Give your 100% in deep breathing. Its a good confidence booster.

Observe the above five tips religiously & I dont see any reason why PANIC cant be kept at bay & why you cant come out with FLYING COLOURS IN ANY EXAM…

All The Best !

Preparing wordlists for GRE

Preparing for GRE is not a difficult task if done tactfully with some smart work; gaining maximum benefit with minimal efforts.

WORDLISTS:
As you know is a pain to study. Tell me how many of you actually DON’T MUGG UP your wordlist?? Do you have any idea that you actually know all the words ? Many students open the book and start doing wordlist or always sit with their flashcards by-hearting the words not knowing why !

There is a strategy my dear friends to do your wordlists.

Follow these 3 Simple Steps: There are 3 Categories of words.

1.EASY WORDS: In each wordlist as you know have 50 + words. Byhearting all at a time sounds & looks (the pages) also boring, one needs to know what types of word are they. The easy one’s – these are those types of words that do not require any introduction. You know their meaning. You need not by heart them because you know it’s meaning already. Just see and move on just see whether the word in a noun or adjective or adverb suffix – by looking at its ending (considering you are done with root prefix & suffixes).

2.MEDIUM WORDS : These are those types of words that you are familiar with i.e. you have seen some were, read in a newspaper, or a novel or in a magazine article that you don’t remember. But seems to look familiar.
You have to get the meaning of such words as you are already familiar with it should not take much time to remember. Don’t forget to apply the roots & stems tactics to it & be observant on what suffix it is.

3.The third and the Last category is the NEW WORDS: These are words which you are seeing for the first time. You have no idea where it has come from or its source of origin. Well dear friends you don’t have a choice but to by heart them.

But, by the time you have finished with your categorization you would be left with very less words to actually by heart. SOUNDS GREAT !!! Try it now !!

Best thing to do is never to get tensed take good food, Sleep tight. Feel good and be confident, it will automatically improve your capability.

Indian Students in the USA

The USA has for long attracted students from all over the world as a global leader in imparting quality education. With its flexible syllabus and booming opportunities, the USA has indeed become the cynosure for those desiring to pursue their higher studies abroad. India too is no stranger to this flourishing trend and as a result every year hundreds of Indian students set off to the USA in pursue of higher studies. So in this article let’s just talk about the life of Indian students in the USA.

Indian student population after China is the second largest population in the world that opts for higher education in the US universities. As a result there are a number of Indian students in the universities there. When a student arrives in the USA for the first time, he/she is helped by the fellow students there i.e. Right from picking the student up from the airport to settling the student in, help is always at hand. However it is imperative that the student has contacted his/her fellow students well in advance about their arrival.

There are many Indian communities or groups formed within the universities where all the Indian students can come close together and share their common interests and ideas. A feeling of togetherness is imbibed among the students at such times.

But this in no way means that Indian students are comfortable only among themselves. Students from all over the world come to the US so naturally a culturally diverse campus life is created. Being a part of such cosmopolitan environment is truly an exciting and exhilarating experience for the students. It is here that the students develop a completely different and a much broader perspective of life when they see and learn new things that ultimately help to develop their personality. It is here that they become global citizens in the true sense.

So life for Indian students in the US though a bit tough (considering all the part-time jobs and cooking one’s own meals) is not lonely. They have their friends and their teachers who understand them and thus help them in their times of need.