Memory vs Gadgets

If I were to ask you to spill out the phone numbers of your family or friends off the top of your head? In an increasingly “Mobile-dependent” world, we all rely heavily on our electronic devices to remember such ‘mundane’ information for us. However, every time the higher bodies mull over the idea of calculators in examination halls, straight comes the reply – dumbing down. How conventionally hypocritical of us!

For the young ones, who spend more than 3/4th of their day mugging up mathematics tables, the prominence is on mental arithmetic. Calculators are not yet ‘legalized’.

Also, their use is limited to the annual university exams, where good sense prevailed few years back, and students were allowed to carry calculators, though, not yet in the mathematics exam.

No dictionaries

In foreign language exams, dictionaries have had an equally plaid track record. Their useage in exams was banned 20 years ago, until the early 2000 when a research consecutively proved that dictionaries gave the perkiest students a superior advantage. Though, there are still a few subjects where a student isn’t allowed any form of dictionary. Recently a consultation paper was released by the government as part of its recent discussion on the exam, and they responses received pointed towards a divided opinion. In a unique way, these are all quandaries about the boundary between retrieving information and manipulating it, amid information and understanding. And search engines, are still a digital mystery.

For a moment, imagine allowing students to roam through a vast digital library – the pre-digital equivalent. Students won’t find the references they needed and ultimately would return to their desk to complete the exam. Now unimaginable amounts of information lie at our fingertips. But does the act of memorising and then recalling information mould our brains in a different way? Scientists are showing increasing interest in the life-long plasticity of the human brain and how its physical structure is altered by how we use it. Learning that requires effort, and the use of that knowledge, might subtly alter mental development. Some of the best known studies involve London’s licensed black cab drivers, who have to memorise 25,000 city streets.

The process takes applicants between two and four years and many fail the final test, known as The Knowledge, because of its difficulty.

But after four years, they found the taxi drivers’ brain structure had altered, showing more grey matter in part of the hippocampus.

‘No brainer’

The digital age is also raising broader philosophical questions about memory. How much do we need to remember when it can be effortlessly recalled for us by a machine? If the use of search engines for retrieving facts is allowed at some point in the future, exams themselves might have to change. Examiners would need to find ways of distinguishing between those students regurgitating information and those who could show how much they truly understood.


Exams have to be much more than a memory test. Scientists believe exams should assess ability to interpret and analyse information and that allowing the use of search engines is “a no brainer”. This may mean, for example, seeing how well students cope with being asked to research new subjects in exams – testing whether they select appropriate resource materials and how they apply what they find to what they already know. Sceptics see a devaluing of traditional exam demands and question how effective such tests would be. With tablet and smartphone use steadily rising, it is a debate that will continue to grow.

Search for student Accommodation

The ‘fall’ admission session is round the corner, and most of you must have decided on the dream education destination. For a prospective international student, studying abroad can be an exciting as well as a scary experience. The apprehensions about adjusting to life in a new city can be never ending and couple it with the idea of relocating to an all-new country, and many start losing their sleep over it. Finding a decent place to live abroad is not easy, and the fact that most of us don’t enjoy the kind of financial backing to be able to find a magnanimous place to live in, makes the course even more arduous. Even though, it is highly advisable that a prospective student should choose to stay on a campus accommodation, yet, some times because of unforeseen circumstances, it can be difficult to find yourself a seat in the university dorm.

The biggest lesson, which one can learn by staying in an accommodation, is to persist until you find the right place. A “home away from home”, where you can focus on learning new skills – the reason why you chose to come there in the first place.

Here are some tips for finding the perfect student accommodation:

  • Start early

Start looking for a residence to live as soon as you get your admission confirmed, and don’t be scared to ask your host university for recommendations. The latest advents in science and a host of third party accommodation platforms – the one like ours – come in handy during this period. Surf their websites to look for your perfect place to live.

  • Talk to final year students

Also, look for advice from final year students, many universities have well established alumni networks where you can connect with students and seek answers to your queries. Moreover, you can also raise your issues in front of year-abroad veterans and find out about recommended accommodations. Always remember that you aren’t alone and there are a host of companies out there, ready to help you.

  • Start interacting with people through social networks

Sometimes the best way to find a place is social networks. Social networking is the biggest tool, by help of which a student sitting thousands of miles away could easily interact with online communities and seek advice. Also, one can use social media to interact with their prospective tenants which could further strengthen their relationship.

  • Be adventurous

Although it is always advisable to find yourself a student housing option, however, it is not to say that it is the only option available for the students. For instance, dorms in Europe tend to be less sociable than the ones in USA and local students, typically, prefer to go home at the weekend. Also, looking for a flat sharing option with native speakers is always recommended.

  • Beware of untrustworthy contacts

Before you deposit the insurance money to your tenant, it is always advisable that you double check their credentials with the local authority, just to save yourself the ordeal of getting stuck in a dubious deal. Always remember that online photos can be misleading, therefore go and look for yourself. Make sure there is a proper contract involved, if you are staying somewhere for more than a month.


However, if you still can’t find someplace to live; don’t think of it as the end of the world, booking a cheap hotel or a friend’s couch is the next plausible solution and it would also give you some time to find yourself a decent place to move into. The same holds relevance even if your accommodation turns out to be an absolute disaster. If you’re miserable, then move; don’t make friends with the place, till the time you find yourself a decent place to live in. Always remember, your living circumstances will certainly influence your studies and graduate results. In addition, if, during your job interview, the interviewee asks you to define a moment in life you triumphed over adversity, you can always quote this experience of finding yourself a decent place to live in, in an alien country – a perfect story to get you your dream job! 😉

montessori system of education

Exam stress – A growing Concern

There has been a significant increase in the number of young people seeking counselling over exam stress, and as per some of the recent studies conducted on the same, the increase could be as high as 200%. For child rights protection campaigners and parents it could be more worrisome than their child’s overall education status.

As I am no expert in this, so allow me the liberty of quoting a CBSE helpline figure, where the national board announced that its exam helpline service received record number of approaches from students and their parents, who are apprehensive about exams. Also, the queries about counselling over exam stress have tripled in last two years. In 2014-15 alone, the board received more than 34,000 approaches from students over school concerns such as problems with teachers, revision, workloads, and other issues, placing education in the top 10 of most recurrent trepidations among users for the first time. More than half of subsequent counselling sessions organized by the board dealt with young person’s main concern related to school and exams; a 200% increase compared with 2013-14. And the number of hits on the online website and through social media channels is even higher.

Talking to some of the experts, I realized that the major concern amongst children was the worry whether they will be able to score well in their exams and live up to the aspirations of their parents. Under the pressure to score well and surpass the overall competition children end up putting unnecessary pressure on themselves, which leads to stress and in some severe cases depression too. Psychologists have also reported that each year, especially during the exam session, children and their parents feel more stressed. A common mistake, which almost every parent makes, is the fact that many bar their children from participating in any other activity, citing the aspersions of the exam season. These figures came when hundreds of thousands of pupils were preparing to sit for CBSE as well as entrance exams in India. Even in primary schools, the scenario is no different, parents are scrambling to get their children registered while dealing with last moment blues.

As these figures reveal, the exam period can be a very stressful and anxious time for young people; add to it the pressure to do well and one would have perfect recipe to stress and depression. In no terms I am agitating against the tests, which are conducted as part of an effort to judge how well the pupil has understood the concepts of the process, however, the fault lies in the lack of support system for children. If we talk in ethical terms, schools have a moral obligation to support their pupils during times of pressure, and ideally schools should have strong setups in place to do so. We have, however, failed to take steps to ensure pupils are not on a constant treadmill of revision and testing.

Family relationships, as per many experts, were cited as the most common concerns by young people using the service in 2012-13. Another reason for the rise in exam stress could be nervousness on the part of teachers to deal with such cases in their classrooms. It is possible to draw a link between increased stress and exam reform and the accountability framework under which schools are ranked and measured. India’s children are some of the most tested in the world – and doctors, teachers and parents want change.

Schools are also testing pupils more frequently to prepare for exams. A survey last year – by a company that sells security seals used for exam papers – found that many secondary schools made pupils sit mock exams within a month of the summer holiday’s ending.

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Tips to Manage Finances

Ever been in a situation where you find yourself short of money after 10th or 12th day of the month? If yes then fear not, you aren’t the only one facing this problem as most of us who went to college experienced this, when we were short of money because of our continuous appetite for spending unwisely often sent our bank balances to single digits. The urge to spend is never ending, whether it is for that pair of boots at ‘Clarks’ or the new crunchy burger at “Burger King”; managing your money isn’t as simple as it looks. College is also synonymous with young people attaining freedom when they move away from home. Most of us don’t adjust easily to this new routine where we are the managers of our finances.

Not Determining Wants Vs Needs

Even though it sounds pretty basic, many college students try to live outside their means as they haven’t thought about categorizing their expenses into their ‘Wants’ and ‘Needs’. For instance, you understand food is a need and coffee is a want, but some days, a “Starbucks Chocó latte” is sure to feel like a need. However, there are always inexpensive alternatives for your ‘wants’, like in this situation, you can avoid the trip to the coffee shop and brew your own coffee at home.

Top 3 Things College Students Waste their Money On

1.  Automobile

SELL YOUR CAR! DON’T BRING IT TO COLLEGE! Yes, you read it right, owning a car is a lot more than just paying for fuel. With it come other expense like insurance, maintenance, parking costs, those never-ending rides with your friends and the list can be very long.

2.   Housing

It is every individual’s ultimate dream to move in to a house and live individually, leaving behind the mess of the hostel life and the never-ending barbs from the family back at home. Living individually comes with its share of hassles and biggest of them all is the money it costs.

3.   Food Habits

“Ever had a craving for that delicious new donut?” “Or that fresh sandwich?” Yes, we all do, but what we forget is the impact they have on our bank balance. Controlling and channeling your dietary habits is a huge challenge for all of us.

Tips to Manage Finances

Although parents recognize the need to teach their children the importance of personal finance management, many don’t know how to teach them.

Take Charge of your money (and Life)

The best way of taking charge of money is by planning your expenditure and then sticking to it. You should define your financial goals and make plans to reach those goals. Making these small but important changes to your lifestyle can surely help you to manage your finances better.

Get Organized

The best way is to start writing down your expenditures and categorize them. Keeping records also helps in identifying areas where you spend more, which then leads you to make the necessary changes. Making records also helps in meeting deadlines like last date to pay bills, paying tuition fee, etc.

Avoid Credit Cards

Credit cards can lure you to spend without thinking about repayments but the fact is you will have to repay the bank at the end of the month. Credit cards should be an absolute “no go” for students. Stick to a debit card instead.

Develop Good Eating Habits

Avoid consuming to much of junk food and try to cook your own meals. It will not only have a positive impact on your bank balance but also on your health.

Avoid Impulse Purchases

You have to avoid buying something on a whim, before buying a product think about if you really need it or if you can afford it (Wants VS Needs).

SNAP 2015 test pattern

The Perfect Recipe for success

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Standardized test scores are key criteria for admission into universities in the USA. All students who dream of studying in the States must provide these scores along with their application to be seriously considered for admission. There are many different and often competing tests which you can give. Depending on your desired course, level of education and target universities, you may have to give one or more entrance tests.

All major educational institutions in the USA require foreign students to pass an English proficiency test. The TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) is the most popular with American universities though some will accept IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores as well. For entrance to undergraduate courses SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores are required, which measure your proficiency in English reading, writing and math. There are also special subject-SATs you can take for certain specialized courses.

For post-graduate courses, US colleges require GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, which is an aptitude test with a verbal, quantitative and analytical writing section. Then, there are various field specific tests like the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) which you will need for admission into advanced study courses in many locations.

Like all examinations, these tests too carry with them a superfluous cloud of stress and pressure. With the requisite preparation and a clear focus, you can ace these tests with ease. Here are a few tips to help you pass these tests with flying colours:

Google It!

With the power of the internet on your side, you can easily find out exactly which exams you need to give and how to start writing these tests. All the necessary information is on the internet and nowadays you can even register for these tests online.

The flip-side to the excellent online resources is that often you will be overwhelmed by information. It’s important to get all the details straight so the next step is to focus on finding the details which are relevant to you. Carefully compile all the documents you will need and figure out the step by step process from registering to results delivery.

Define Your Targets

It is important to identify exactly what your target score is. This will depend on the country you need a visa for, the university you are applying to, the specific course you wish to pursue as well as any scholarships you hope to get. Each of these may have separate minimum requirements. Having a crystal clear goal in your mind will help you focus and study better.

Sometimes the study material is available online, while at other times you can buy textbooks from the market. Go for second hand books to avoid extra expenses and study diligently.

Follow your Schedules

Some tests don’t require much preparation, like the IELTS and TOEFL, but others like the SAT will require a good bit of studying. There are a million things to do when applying to US universities. It can become very easy to be lax about studying for these exams. So create a well-structured study plan to figure out how and when you will cover all the information you have to.

Talk to people

It is always helpful to get the perspective of someone with experience. Talk to people who have given the test in recent years. They will have invaluable insights on seemingly unimportant details which you may have overlooked. Another great option is to browse the internet for educational forums which host relevant discussions.

Major entrance tests almost always have the option to sit a practice test online before the actual test. Practicing the test beforehand will do wonders for your confidence. You’ll get the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the format. Moreover, you will get a chance to see your mistakes and learn from them.

Read Instructions

Most of these tests have rules over and above the general exam room etiquette. Check up on exam room protocols, like which writing instrument to use, how to identify yourself on the answer paper and so on. Be prepared for any eventualities to avoid last minute hassles.

The key thing is to keep calm and organized. These are standardized tests which provide fair and equitable results. Don’t see them as hurdles to be overcome; instead view them as a good opportunity to distinguish your application and gain a competitive edge.

Why are teachers losing the Midas touch?

Traditionally, teachers in the Indian subcontinent have always commanded the respect they deserved. Consider this: according to the Mahabharata, ‘Eklavya’ – known for his precision with archery – gave up the thumb of his right hand in honor of his guru (teacher). Ideally one would imagine that with history as rich and popular as this, India must be one of the strongholds for teachers, but the irony is that the state of education has worsened over the years with fall in number of trained teachers.

Teaching was considered a novel and attractive profession for the brightest but the decline in the number of teachers has been appalling. Though, India has managed to increase the number of children in school by starting new initiatives like – right to education, however, the decline in the number of trained teachers has been considerably alarming. Consider these numbers: according to a study conducted by a NGO in 2012, 53% of class 5 students were unable to read class 2 level text, here’s more – 43% of class 5 students couldn’t solve simple two-digit mathematics problems AND to absolutely rub in government’s face – 2012 was celebrated as the “year of mathematics”. Who should be held accountable for such an inexplicable situation? Government? Schools? Children? Parents? Or the lack of trained teachers!

The fact is, our woeful state schools are in stark contrast to our dream of becoming a nation of IT parks and call centers. The decline in the number of teachers is paradoxical to government’s rush to set up new schools to encourage more children to study. Shockingly, little attention is paid to what children are learning in those classrooms and how effective the teaching methods are. Moreover teachers are quitting their jobs in the initial years and atypically the important positions, for instance, head of department, are held by teachers who are old and at the end of their careers.

The exacerbated teacher workloads, negative job publicity, and lack of reforms are only a few of the many reasons to name from. In a profession as novel and important as teaching, more than 30% of teachers are working on temporary basis, without any job security; hampering the overall methodology of improving the state of education. Every school, or for that matter every parent wants their child to utilize their skills and outperform their peers; resulting in more pressure on teachers to deliver results. Another reason why teachers are rapidly moving away from the profession, as many are not able to handle such pressures. As with any profession, teachers have been demanding pay packages at par other professionals, however, many of them are still underpaid. Pupil taught by teachers go on to earn huge pay packets at national and international firms, though, their teachers are still struggling with ‘4-figure’ salaries. For most Indian teachers, the battles are that basic!

Take China for example – another growing economy like ours – where the teaching model is very unique. Teachers command a tremendous amount of respect because in China, the student teacher relationship is limited to confines of the classrooms. Outside classrooms, teachers and students are not allowed to communicate, which ultimately allows teachers to lead a stress free life. But over here, the student teacher relationship sometimes becomes too personal, which does not allow a teacher the time to rejuvenate, which ultimately hampers their teaching skills. We need quality teachers for quality education

According to a 2013 report, there are almost 5.8 million teachers in India but only 75% of them are trained. Now compare this figure to year 2008 when 90% of them were trained. Drastic and immediate changes are needed to improve the plight of education in India. Each government stresses on the importance of having an effective education model, however, what we hear are only speeches, but no concrete laws to ensure the change.

Implementing policies like – regularly testing teaching skills and improving basic salary structure can go a long way in improving the state of education in India. But the bigger question is – how soon can the administration act to ensure that this crunch in our education system be stemmed now?

A career in Law

Law has been one of the most popular career choices for a long time. The best thing about law is that anybody who has the passion for it can study law. Earlier students could only specialize in either criminal or civil laws. But now students can choose to specialize in many more options offered like a legal journalist, legal analyst, judge, government lawyer to name a few.

A degree in law opens new opportunities and allows you to practice either as a lawyer in the courts and even several administrative services, legal services etc. You not only learn a new language when you study law abroad but your knowledge and understanding of more than one legal system will boost your chances at an international job market.

Students can opt for a 5 year law course after completing their 12th class or they can choose for a 3 year law course after graduation in any discipline. The 5 year course is a better option for students who want to take law as a profession. In India LLB course is also regulated by the Bar Council of India who is responsible to set the rules and regulations involving law practices. Indian Constitution is termed as a lawyer’s paradise.

You can choose to study from the best law schools like National Law University– Jodhpur, Faculty of Law- University of Delhi, National Law School of India University– Bangalore amongst a few. If you want to focus on human rights law or international criminal law it is a good option to study law abroad. Countries like USA, Australia, Germany, Spain, Canada and United Kingdom also offers some of the best law programs for students.

Harvard University in USA will always remain one of the best universities for law in the world. They offer full time Masters Programs in Law concentrating on Corporate Law and Governance, Taxation, Human rights and International Finance. Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia, Spain is regarded to be one of the best law schools in Spain. It offers LL.M. programs in International Sports Law, International Law etc and also a Masters in international Legal Practice. In the United Kingdom, the best universities and colleges offering law courses are Oxford University, Cambridge University amongst a few.

First you need to decide the country and then you need to choose the law school you want to pursue your degree from. When you specialize in a particular field of study it boost your career prospects and ensures that you are in demand once you complete your degree. In India, graduates in law can also expect better job opportunities in India with the increase in foreign law firms. You can also choose to work with a senior lawyer for experience in different specializations including telecom law, corporate or labor.

Students who complete their law graduation abroad receive attractive job offers in India after completing their course. Plethora of options awaits a law graduate; especially in India students can clear the exams conducted by Public Service Commission and can become a judge. They can also hope to become a Public Prosecutor and serve in different government ministries and departments.  Practical training in court enhances your job prospects and opens options to work as a legal advisor in many organizations. A career in law requires patience, hard work and a lot of dedication.

long-term planning

A Diverse Education System

Many social workers in my knowledge would be questioning the heading of this article right here. At least those who come from the Critical school of thought will be questioning the need for an international education when there are perfectly great educational institutions here in India. Why is it a trend that an increasing number of young adults are opting to complete their university education out of the country. What is it that is offered out there that outranks Indian institutions of education that are one of the best in the world? From a sociological perspective, here are the top 4 reasons for studying abroad.

 Tolerance

Youngsters in the regular, run of the mill Indian education institutions and workforce are not shy of typecasting and stereotyping. They might be friendly and totally fun to hang out with, but they still do harp on language that not only propagates but sustains stereotypes. The use of the ‘N word’ or the ‘Ch word’ is not uncommon. The culture of intolerance of racial stereotypes along with tolerance and sensitivity towards people from different cultural backgrounds is a lot greater overseas than it is in India.

 Party-animal

Imagine coming across a person whose food habits include eating food cooked in animal blood. Sound horrifying? Well it’s a way of life in many cultures. The point of the ‘grotesque’ example was to underline the fact that we cannot ignore the existence or denigrate the culture of certain people. This is just food habits. What would you say about someone who has their roots in North Korea, for instance? Political, economic, social and cultural awareness is an integral and unavoidable part of studying in a university abroad, when you’re at an age where you not only gain knowledge but formulate opinions.

 Sharing Experiences

If you have watched or do follow The Big Bang Theory, then you know about Rajesh Koothrapali and how he keeps wowing and is wowed by the other characters with notions typical to their respective cultures. There are many such TV shows for young adults that express cultural diversity through humour and satire. While the atypical notions may be exaggerated for the purpose of television, the underlying principle remains that when you interact so frequently with people from different cultures, you are bound to share experiences. Being a young adult, that can work to your advantage because then you get to refute practices that do not have a rationale behind them and instead, adopt those which allow personal expression of beliefs and opinions.

 Under-representation or inadequate representation of different multi-cultural groups is something that the educated society has been trying to tackle for years. Tolerance, sharing of experiences and cultural awareness may not be enough for someone to become political representatives or voices. However, these factors do suffice when it comes to giving a voice to the under-represented and marginalized population. Mahatma Gandhi’s experience in South Africa and how that motivated him to be the face of the marginalized in India cannot be more applicable anywhere else but here.


While these reasons listed here might not provide an individual motivation for studying abroad, altruism has to come into play somewhere or the other. Sensitivity towards socio-cultural dimensions of life is underrated in the Indian education system. It’s time to resurrect them from the dead.

However, for the purpose of including a broader perspective – moral sensibilities aside, there is a lot that studying in a multi-cultural institution can give you. This is especially true if you’re planning to study in one of the more culturally cautious countries like USA or Australia.


Make Rejection work for you

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In the past year I’ve built up a long list of freelance writing gigs, and over the course of time I’ve had a lot of success. I’ve also had a lot of edits, moderation and yes, Rejections too! My most recent rejection, if I remember correctly, was an article I had written for my website. My editor decided the article wasn’t good enough to be uploaded on the website but suggested me to use it elsewhere. I got very embarrassed and heartbroken at first.

I thought, “If the piece of writing wasn’t good for him, maybe it just wasn’t enough, period”.

However, with work on my personal site backlogged thanks to my extensive work hours and deadlines, I decided to risk publishing the rejected piece on my website and went ahead with the idea.

The result? A few days later, it showed up on one of my favourite sites and after that I was on cloud nine when I saw it being shared on various social networking sites, newsletters, and finally which brought a lot of traffic to my site bringing me fame and making me popular and (my editor extremely subdued ‘pun intended’).

In short, a piece I had thought of throwing away due to one rejection became one of my most valuable contributions to my website and brought me a lot of appreciation.

Rejection Isn’t Failure

In both my freelance writing and my job, I hear a lot of, “you aren’t writing the ultimate article”. Frankly, I think everyone hears it while either interviewing for jobs or putting them in a position to seize new opportunities. It is not easy when faced with that much rejection, in such a vulnerable state.

But ‘no’ is not the end of the world. When you keep trying hard and are sometimes ready to alter your approach, you can create opportunities out of something passed on by others. In my case, I didn’t get approval of my editor for that article, but I did get innumerable website hits, many first time visitors, and appreciation from new followers (most importantly).

 Rejection is a Building Block

 I often get asked how I’ve been so fortunate in accumulating so many ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’ and building a regular audience for my site. I honestly believe it all comes down to the fact that I accept rejection not as a failure but as an opportunity to alter my approach and adopt a new perspective. The catch is that you have to keep making that final effort of trying to innovate and improve your work style. “An editor” or “a boss” cannot and should not become a block in your pursuit of perfection.

How to improve your Employability

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Today’s graduates and postgraduates face immense competition for employment opportunities. Standing far above the rest and providing evidence of your skills is crucial for securing your dream job. Employers, the worthwhile ones anyway, have become much more discerning in hiring new employees, especially graduates. In the past, our blog has emphasised the importance of students gaining some work experience to relate to their future work environment; this is because some of the generic skills acquired from work are crucial for all jobs.

The set of skills and their subsets required at the workplace can become exhaustive so we will highlight the most common ones.

Adaptability

To further him- or herself, the millennial graduate needs to adapt to changing situations and surroundings, enthusiastically welcome new ideas. You need to be able to prioritise objectives, yes, but re-prioritise them when the need arises. If you are unable to do this and are rigid in your approach, then you are not naturally adaptable. Coping with change and being flexible involves keeping calm in the face of difficulties, acclimatising successfully to changing environments, planning and making backup options if things go wrong, and taking on challenges – such as new projects – at short notice while knowing that they will change your pre-existing workload. Perhaps a Charles Darwin quote can elucidate the point: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change“.

Organisation

Even if you live under a rock and have no access to the Internet (hats off for staying unconnected), organisation is the bread and butter of almost every aspect of life, no exceptions for work. This includes planning, scheduling, resource coordination, as well as personal and work punctuality. Most work is centred on projects that must be completed by a certain time; typically, this means setting out deadlines for the project as a whole and its various sub-parts – or planning, in other words. However, you will not just be involved in one project after your initial, transitioning period; juggling various projects with ease needs to be demonstrated to employers since it is a highly valued ability.

Communication

Every graduate claims to have good communication skills because they can speak confidently with their friends, and often family, but when it comes to discussing ideas with co-workers and managers, they can fall short. Effective communication skills include being clear and concise while speaking, persuading and negotiating with logic and not emotion, being able to present or give a speech to an audience, and asking for help when you need it. The last aspect cannot be emphasised enough, especially for new graduates, since there are times when you will be out of your depth (if your work is challenging enough). Listening is an equally important but often underestimated skill: it builds empathy and rapport with colleagues. Do not interrupt the speaker and be receptive to his or her point of view; additionally, maintaining good eye contact informs the speaker of your attentiveness. Some common ways to improve your communication skills are by joining a drama group at school or university level, debating, attending seminars of an interdisciplinary nature, and perhaps working as a receptionist – or similar – during your holidays.

Leadership

With different styles, leadership is not just about being top dog wherever you work. Leadership involves being able to motivate others and point them in the right direction. Marking out goals to be achieved and taking the initiative is central too. The biggest aspect, however, is taking responsibility for the direction of the team. Employers appreciate displaying not-so-common “common sense”, learning new skills to stay ahead of the curve, and being enthusiastic. This skill is one of the oldest and most vital, not just for the workplace but also from a military perspective. However, leadership comes to those who practice it; being in positions of authority is unusual for young graduates but there are sufficient opportunities to develop this skill when leadership is allocated randomly, especially in school and university collaborative projects. Antoine de Saint-Exupery states, “A chief is a man who assumes responsibility. He says, ‘I was beaten’; he does not say, ‘My men were beaten'”.

Teamwork

Every employer worth his salt will value graduates – and other professionals in general – that are capable of coordination, solving problems, and collaborating well with others. Teamwork rests on being able to working confidently within a team, understanding how each member fits in, taking a share of the responsibility, chipping in your own ideas, acknowledging and learning from constructive criticism, and giving back equally useful inputs as well as defending them when required. There will be leadership and management types that will conflict directly with teamwork but, ultimately, teamwork boils down to ‘us’ more than ‘me’. In an ineffective team, “After all is said and done, more is said than done” (Aesop) could not be truer; do not be the one who contributes to such a team.

 

 


 

All of the aforementioned skills take time to develop, which makes it fundamental for young graduates to seek part-time work during their education in order to acquire and give evidence of these skills to employers. Formal education can only teach you a limited number of these skills, so jump off your bottom and find ways to develop them because they do not come easily.