The Conveyor Belt

Simply put , it is a piece of equipment that can take ‘something’ from Point A to Point B – without that ‘something’ putting any effort, apart from just getting itself on the belt.

Consider this…

Your favorite Cola is taken on the belt through a maze of processes that empties the bottle, cleans it, fills it, checks it, caps it, puts the label on it and finally packs it, ready to be shipped. The Cola bottle didn’t need to do anything along the way. And yet it moved from Point A to Point B and in the process transformed itself from a simple looking, dirty, transparent glass bottle to this bubbly, fizzy, coloured water that we all love !

Now imagine being the Cola bottle yourself and look at your entire education journey to be one long Conveyor Belt. It can be your graduation period or your time at management school or any other institution that you worked so hard to get into.

So, you put in the effort to get through the admissions and just as you enter that prestigious institution, you get on the Conveyor Belt. You’ve hopped on the Belt and now you want the institution to wash you, fill you with knowledge, fizz you up, add a label and send you packing to that coveted dream job.

Sounds like a life that’s pretty similar to the Cola bottle? Right?

Wrong! There is a difference.

The Cola bottle is dumb. You are not.

The bottle cannot do much except be pushed around. You can.

These prestigious institutions are not in the business of getting you jobs. Their job is to open your mind and make you realize your potential. If you are one of those students who consider the work done once you have secured the admissions and completely depend on the institution to take you over the line – there is trouble ahead!

These students expect the best job placements (not teaching curriculum, mind you) and god-forbid, if the institution does not deliver on their expectations, the frustration and the angst for the subsequent few years is just mind numbing. Would the students do their bit to secure that best possible dream job – absolutely not! They feel they are doing their institution a favour, if they complete their assignments, are awake in class, are participating in group activities, going beyond their curriculum to do a project, so on and so forth…

Oh… the sense of entitlement!

The institutions also may be at fault because the only way they can sell their programs is by promising the ‘best salary’ and not the best experience. They may be at fault because there is arguably not a single institution in India that has the guts to put out an ad that says “We promise to transform YOU so you can go out and get your own job”.

And yet, every curriculum allows one to extract whatever one chooses and wishes for – be it academic or non-academic, in the classroom or outside it.

In this context, it becomes imperative for students to take a grip of their career paths and take matters in their own hands.

The responsibility of extracting the most out the degree – be it knowledge or a job – is the student’s responsibility. The institution can only be a hose that can keep pouring out value and it is the onus of the students to collect it and use it to their advantage. As a guiding principle, the students would do well to use the year to figure out:

-        What they are truly interested in

-        What makes them jump up in excitement

-        What keeps them motivated

-        Skills they are good at

-        Skill gaps they need to fill

Dream jobs don’t come to campuses! Well… not very often! In my year at business school, the best jobs went to people who realized what they wanted to do, skilled themselves, went out and picked the job they matched the closest with their career objectives and skills.

And those are the individuals who did not change jobs within the first 6 months after graduation!

Are you willing to go out there, on the strength of what you have learnt… and pitch yourself as the next best thing?

Can you step off that Conveyor Belt, explore and figure out your ‘Point B’ on your own?

 

– Guest Author post –

The author is a successful industry professional turned entrepreneur and has a management degree from a top tier B-school. He’s been kind enough to allow me to publish this article on my blog as the original post.

Changing Consumer Trends in Skill Development – The Indian Market

Enough has been said about the need for Skill Development and the critical role it plays in one’s career success.

As we know today from publicly available statistics, India produces around 15 million youth every year, who are ready to enter the workforce. The number of jobs created each year is a lesser-known number, but some public sources claim this figure to be a little over 5 million (all kinds of jobs). One might deduce that there is 1:3 ratio of supply and demand when it comes to jobs vs. youth. We don’t know for sure.

The problem however, is far more complex than this. Let’s see why.

A couple of months ago, we spent about USD500 on a small, local marketing campaign in Bangalore, using a mix of offline and online media. The idea was to promote certain training programs, which would lead a person to become highly employable and provide job interviews as well. The results were very interesting.

The ratio of responses we got were divided into 3 categories, as shown by this pie chart:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A majority of people wanted “guaranteed jobs” even though they admitted they might not have the skills. There were quite a few Training companies who saw the Ad and called, desperately offering training enrolments. Only a few respondents were really interested in spending time on a 50 hours training program, to acquire the right skills for a job.

This leads us to the realization that Education or Learning of any kind is increasingly being valued in our society, ONLY if it serves one of these purposes:

  1. It gets you a Job
  2. It gets you Admission into higher education or a learning program
  3. It helps you score high Marks in an exam.

Any reason other than this and there are fewer takers. But, if this is the case, then people should want to get Training/Education if it helps them land a job. Well, not really so.

We see another trend.

There is a problem of Aspiration vs. Opportunity mismatch and this is not a new discovery. This problem has been explained in detail and published by experts earlier as well. But let me summarize it again here.

In our society, there have traditionally been 2 reasons for seeking employment – Economic and Social. Economic reasons relate to monetary gains and Social reasons relate to respect and acceptance in our society. Here’s a simple view of this behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tendency of a job seeker is to look for high social value (to be perceived successful) and high economic value (to be successful).

And these parameters of job selection lead to the problem of Aspiration vs. Opportunity mismatch:

 

In summary, today’s consumer trends highlight the following challenges:

  1. A person wants to commit time and money only if it helps in getting that dream job
  2. While there might be a good overall supply of jobs, the job seeker’s behavior is driven by other social factors
  3. The desire is to quickly find out a solution to the problem of training, job and career. Why? Because we seek instant gratification.

We may continue to provide Training opportunities in the traditional way, but that will not make the problem of employability go away. The demand supply gap may keep widening, because the solution available today is still not catching up with shifting trends.

 

The approach to skill development in our country needs to change, in order to catch up with fast changing consumer trends. Here’s what I believe needs to happen.

1.  3 parameters – Aspirations, Current Skill Levels and Industry Requirements. The intersection of these 3 parameters should be the basis for career decision-making (training, job, higher learning) and the first step in skill development.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Modular Trainings – Rather than trying to make an individual an omniscient rocket scientist the focus should be on smaller competencies. For instance, it might be enough that a person knows specifics of Financial Statement Analysis, Ratios and Business Valuation. She may not need to be a complete Finance domain guru to be employable.

A focus on smaller competencies or modules makes skill development simpler and more efficient.

3. Flexible Learning – Skill Development should not turn into another long, arduous classroom learning session from which a candidate wants to run away all the time. Rather than creating a 3 months long program, the focus should be on more flexible learning options, which makes it easier for a person to break down this process and assess and learn at his own pace.

This is also in keeping with the previous point where we’re saying that skill development needs to be broken down into smaller competencies. With this modular approach, it is possible to make the whole process of skill development flexible and smarter.

4. Early Industry Interface - Employers need to get involved much earlier in the recruitment process, or even before the recruitment starts. A typical hiring process creates a funnel of talent pool for a company, which hires the filtered candidates at the narrow end of the funnel. Since this process creates no value for the candidate, if she is rejected, the problem continues for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She might then head for another recruitment test without first knowing her skill gaps.

Instead, the employer should get involved much earlier in the funnel, to highlight required competencies, map an individual’s skills to desired work profiles and to improve the incoming quality of candidates. The challenge lies in doing this in a cost effective way.

5. Modular Pricing – Pricing of training programs need to be less intimidating. If a candidate has to commit Rs. 25,000/- and 3 months, then willingness to pay will be low, unless there is a job guarantee. But we already know that job guarantee is a myth today.

We already see this problem manifesting through low enrolments in Training institutes or even the sub-optimal enrolment figures in colleges of higher education.

If we’re breaking the skill development process down to modular competencies, then we also need to get the pricing down by at least 10X.

For example – Pricing, Market Research, Segmentation, Social Media Marketing and Mobile Marketing could be 5 modular skills, which could be taught and charged separately, rather than creating a longer and expensive training program on ‘Digital Marketing’, where you’re not really sure about what the candidate is getting good at.

Overall, I’d say that the trend is shifting towards quicker identification of problems, shorter and faster learning solutions and higher flexibility for the candidate.

If we have to shorten the demand-supply gaps in employment and employability, then our methods of enabling skill development have to change as well.

 

Luck or Skill. Which would you rather have?

I’ve always wondered growing up, whether I have any innate talent at anything or not. All I ever did was listen to people who had more experience than I had, take some decisions, work hard and get the results that I wanted.

So looking back at all those good years, I can say that I have been very lucky in life (if I think that I had no real talent)! I can also say that I acquired important skills at every stage of my life, to get me through to the next.

I understand Skill much better than I have ever understood Luck.

Skill would be, the acquired (or learned) ability to get things done.

So what is Luck? To me, luck would be a combination of: whatever good has come my way in life (beyond my control) and my ability to convert those situations to my utmost advantage.

 

The wise Wikipedia has the following detailed explanations here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skill ;  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luck.

Whichever way I look at it, I might say that I’ve been lucky because I tried to do the best in any situation, using the skills that I had at that point in time.

So if you ask me, I’d rather spend my limited resources in acquiring the relevant skills in life, so that I can go after that temptress called Success.

In hindsight, I can call it Luck or anything, but I really know how it happened.

The Smarter Way of Making a Career Decision

A common way of going about one’s career decision making has been something like this diagram (click on it to zoom):

So is there a problem with this approach? Yes, there’s a big problem!

If I take this approach, then I’m only thinking about externalities – what has been a popular path and what some others have been successful at. My view of the decision-making parameters is heavily biased in this case.

Job Profiles look attractive because we hear more about their positive sides. We want to go after those, because we hear success stories of people at those roles! We want to be successful like them. When I take this approach, my career is influenced more by factors that are out of my control – how others have lived their lives & popular trends.

What I have not thought about is, what skills do I actually have and what I would enjoy doing. The people who have succeeded in those job roles thought about it.

Now, I know that some things can only be discovered once you give them a try. However, in order to take control of your career, you definitely need to try answering these 2 questions

1.     What skills do I actually have?

Understanding your own Skill levels is absolutely critical in today’s times. Opportunities are available to everyone. Access is no more a challenge with mobile phones and the Internet. The ratio of number of jobs available to the number of people fighting for those jobs is astronomically high! There would be probably Thousands, if not Lakhs of people trying to get that 1 attractive job. So where do I stand in this competitive landscape? What are my realistic chances? What and how much do I need to prepare to get that position?

2.     What kind of role would I enjoy?

Every career path, hence every job has its own demands. Some jobs need me to sit in a chair all day, do research and work with data. Some need me to commute locally, 3 out of 5 days in a week. Some need me to travel across cities and countries more than 50% of the month. Some need me to work very late hours, 6 days of the week. Some need me to work with introverts while some expect me to gel well with extroverts who are cut throat competitive. Where will I enjoy spending practically 90% of my mind space and 75% of my time?

Have you thought about it? No? When will you?

Shown below is a smarter way to make a career decision. If you follow this, your chances of success are much higher! (click on it to zoom)

If you only want to have a job that pays a comfortable salary, then that is exactly what you will get. Nothing more. But, if you’re looking to build a career that you can call successful by any standards, then as you take a career decision, answer those 2 questions first.

Petrol or Food or Clothes? Choose any 2 out of these 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning when I woke up, I had a vision. I think I saw the future.

Petrol or Food or Clothes? Very soon, you will have to choose any 2 out of these 3 essentials. If you can splurge on all 3 together, in few years from now, then I want to be your best friend (so that I can share your fuel. I don’t want your clothes).

Batman will soon need an electric car. Superman can start carrying people and charging for it. Indian cinema villains will need to go back to horses. India will produce more Olympic standard athletes, considering the increase in cycling and walking to schools and offices. Companies will start offering cans of petrol as performance bonus.

Cows on Indian roads will get some exercise, as people will start riding them. Of course, global warming will not reduce, as these cows will adequately replace cars as far as emission issues are concerned. Those who cannot afford cows will simply play Facebook games with virtual petrol and virtual cows.

Government will again allow dark tinted glasses on car windows, as the people sitting inside the cars will most probably be naked (remember, Fuel or Food or Clothes?). Fasting will no longer be used as a negotiation tactic in Indian politics. It will no longer be the weapon of a few elite activists, since most people will learn how to fast, out of compulsion.

College education will be forced to include a course on PMS. No, not that one. This would be Petrol Management Sciences. The E-commerce companies selling clothes or food will start selling Petrol at discounts. There will be different brands of Petrol – for Men, Women, Working Women, Entrepreneurs and Kids. These will be sold in different cans, sachets and tetra packs.

Distant relatives will visit each other much less, which will result in happier family life. On the other hand, teleconferences will happen more at work, which will make productivity go from low to zero. Work-from-home as a concept will spread like wild fire. This will result in more domestic fights when the housewife realizes that she works much more than her IT sector-employed husband who’s sitting on a bench (at home).

So, all in all I can envision many changes on the political front, business front, and domestic front. It doesn’t seem much worse from the way things already are. I don’t know why we are cribbing so much about Petrol prices.

As long as we’re comfortable going naked or starving ourselves, we can afford all the Petrol that we want.

Want a Big Slice of the Training Business?

In my earlier post, I wrote about the Billion Dollar Opportunity of Skill Development.

While I had mentioned some of the challenges this sector faces, I had not talked about what it would take to succeed in this business. Based on my experiences as an entrepreneur in this challenging yet exciting space, I’ve tried to answer that question here.

These are 4 Critical Questions that an entrepreneur Must Answer if you’re hungry for success in this business!

  1. Have you thought about the attention span of today’s youth? How quickly do they flip TV channels or pull out their cell phones in a boring training session? This has to be factored into the way Training content is designed. By simply digitizing any learning content and positioning it as an e-learning offering will not excite a student to embrace your offering. Even in today’s age of freely available, crowd-sourced information, Content design is crucial.
  1. Have you paid attention to the manner in which today’s youth consumes information? They want to hear and view things that keep them hooked. Bombarding their minds with truckloads of plain vanilla text is a sure path to business failure. There’s a reason why YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and social networks are popular in general. Delivery Mechanism has to be smartly designed, keeping in mind the target audience and subject of Training.
  1. What is the real ‘Value for money’ that a 20 year old sees in this training or skill development activity? How much do you think is she ready to pay and what does she really get in return? Only putting up a flimsy banner that says ‘Guaranteed Job’ or ‘100% placement assistance’ is an insult to others’ intelligence. While India has a cost sensitive consumer base, Education continues to be a primarily value driven market. Price continues to be a barrier, unless the value is crystal clear.
  1. What and how much are you making the student give up? What is she abandoning, in order to come for the training? This perhaps is 1 of the most ignored questions. The answer to this question decides the student’s opportunity cost, as she perceives it in her mind. This in turn drives the Marketing strategy of your training business. How you position your Training in the market decides how it competes with the youth’s priorities in life.

Investors, funds or even government initiatives (www.nsdcindia.org) are naturally pouring millions into this sector to bridge the demand-supply gap of skilled professionals. It is easy for anyone to put together technology and create a learning platform or set up a training center. However, it is going to be extremely tough for most such businesses to survive, IF they do not build the domain expertise and understand the consumer base.

Training business is typically seen as a business with low entry barrier, which has resulted into a highly fragmented market of training providers. The speed with which new businesses are mushrooming is the same as the swiftness with which most are going out of business.

If you have smart answers to the 4 questions above, then you’ve got your consumer base right and your chances of success are high!

Are there any other absolutely critical success factors for this business? What do you think?

So, Is Your MBA Worth It?

In the movie Dark Knight, the witty ‘Joker’ makes a very insightful statement about himself. He says, “I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it….” Although the Joker’s mind operates at a whole different level, I believe this statement is largely universal in its application.

If you don’t ask yourself why you’re doing something, then you’re most likely never going to figure out if you were successful at it.

Going for an MBA is 1 such decision.

MBA, for most people is most likely, the last and largest investment that they make in themselves, before they get lost in the proverbial rat race. Yet they do it for the ‘seemingly right’ reasons, rather than having a reason of their own.

It’s no surprise then that there is enough data out there to point out that MBA is not really worth the investment for most people. I recently came across this infographic, which points to the fact that MBA is not really worth it.

So, what is it? Worth it or not worth it?

I’d say, MBA is TOTALLY WORTH IT, but only for those who do it for the right reasons! For everyone else, it’s like the dog-chasing-car experience.

Some of the wrong reasons for doing an MBA would be:

1. Using it as a job search program. This ends up in disappointment for most people.

2. Using it for CV decoration. Well, guess what? There are millions out there with the exact same degree on their CV.

3. As an obvious step after undergrad studies, since it’s good to have a post graduate degree in today’s competitive world. This one, I believe could be most lethal for a lot of people.

4. Increasing ‘Marriage Capital’ in the… well… marriage market. Yes, it’s surprising how often this is a top reason for some people in India. MBA is perceived to make you a more desirable product in the matrimonial trade. This social value of education is a topic for another post altogether.

These reasons are indicative of a typical herd mentality. If your reason is 1 of the above 4, then disappointment and failure are imminent.

Statistically, most people do not achieve notable success in any walk of life and this is a reflection of the individual’s potential. Not whether he or she chose to get an MBA degree or not.

Most people don’t ask themselves why they’re REALLY going for it. They do it because of peer pressure or insecurity or simply because that’s what the trend is. Thus they wouldn’t have a clue to successfully using the MBA experience.

You don’t necessarily need an MBA to achieve success in life, but you can use it to great advantage. If you spend time at B-school making the right connections, learning the important stuff, preparing yourself for a business career and getting better at decision making then you have a great start.

So, if you’ve already done an MBA, then ask yourself WHY you did it. It will become clear to you that your success or failure is within your control and not dependent on the MBA degree alone.

If you’re contemplating going for an MBA, first ask yourself, why you REALLY want to do it.

If you honestly answer this question, then you will know what you need in order to be successful and how to make your MBA worth it!

Skill Development – A Billion Dollar Maze!

We are all born with certain talents but it takes SKILLS to bring our dreams to life.

Skills are acquired through practice and learning and these are what we need to excel in our work life. The industry runs on skilled people and whether you’re a peon or a president you need skills in order to succeed.

Skill Development’ is an industry by itself (though it may not have a formal industry status yet, in India). Why? Well, people need skills because they need jobs. People need jobs to earn money. People need money to…wait… People NEED money. Period.

Every year, the ever-flooded Indian workforce is gushed with 13 million youth ready and eager to turn themselves into the next moolah-making machine only to be welcomed by (or rather not) only a fraction of that number of jobs available out there. The ones available remain elusive and sometimes even become nothing short of urban myths!

There are problems of aspiration vs. opportunity mismatch, not having the right contacts in the right places and of course the biggest problem of them all, not having the right skill-set to land that job.

The Industry, much like the ruthless employers it shelters swallows only the most skilled aspirants, leaving the rest to keep jumping from one interview to another, one company to another and more often than not, one career to another.. Unfair, you say? But, in the real world, the sole purpose of a business is to make money. Oh…and also – the world does not owe you a living!

Formal education does not make the cut today. How many times have we heard in the past 1 year alone, that at least 75% of the graduates that pass out are unemployable as they do not have the right skills?

Formal education is knowledge based and becomes outdated even before you can say ‘know’! The real world deals with ‘People’ and theory-based subjects teach us anything but that! Real world skills are not really taught let alone practiced in the arena of formal early education.

By the way, formal education is also almost always boring!

This is where ‘Trainings’ come in and save the day. At least in theory.
Striving to fill the gap left by formal education, the promise of Trainings is to help a student acquire and develop the right skills for the right job. In reality, the state of Training businesses in the country, paints a very different picture.

In spite of Training institutes mushrooming everywhere, the issue of ‘Effective’ Skill Development, is far from getting solved. I see the following points as some of the key reasons for this.

1. Students perceive or at least wish for most trainings to be substitutes or a supplement to college education. This stems from a natural aversion the youth has against sitting in class and trying to learn in the same way as in college, as it might be boring.

2. Additional training programs don’t come cheap. And truth be told, in today’s day and age, there are a lot many other distractions vying surreptitiously at the extra money in a young hand namely food, gadgets, partying, or even the coveted attention of an attractive companion. Against these, expensive training programs don’t really stand a chance!

3. They don’t want to commit a lot of time. An average person today would rather idle away his time watching videos, chatting, checking out celebrity photos or just plain voyeurism on Facebook. If there is no clear promise of a result, then commitment is tough.

Entrepreneurs, Start-ups, established education businesses and training agencies are all trying to fill the gap left by formal education. There are job-listing sites, brick & mortar training providers, e-learning entities, online counselors (based on personality profiling) or even companies who are simply replicating business models from the west, hoping it will easily work in India.

What worked 10 years ago will not necessarily work today. The ‘need’ might have remained the same, but the ‘demand’ (willingness to pay) has certainly evolved.

It’s easily a billion dollar opportunity out there for anyone who can look beyond the obvious and solve this problem.

So in my mind, what it really boils down to is ‘What DOES it take to make the right dent in this market given the opportunity??’

The answer to this question – in 1 of my next posts. So watch this space or catch me on Twitter @kunalvarma

Why the JanLokPal Bill is going to Fail!

First of all, let me put up a disclaimer that I am not a politician! I’m just another common Indian citizen who is observing the antics that are taking place in this circus called ‘Indian Politics’!
By the way, I also spent a whole weekend sometime ago, going through the entire JLP bill draft.

In the larger scheme of things, our ultra smart politicians may assume that a common man’s opinion does not matter. However, it doesn’t hurt to consider the fact that the common man is not stupid after all (see what happened to Gaddafi!)

The Jan Lok Pal bill in its current form has very noble intentions, but when it comes down to successful implementation, I think it is setup for failure.

There is a fundamental mismatch between what JLP Bill expects most public servants to do and what they have been doing all these years.

That however, is not the key reason for resistance towards change. The problem is of ‘Have or Have Not’.

The JLP bill is trying to ‘fix’ the system by taking away 1 of the most important incentives that the members of this system have – that is to make a lot of money, a lucrative livelihood for themselves and to provide for their future generations! All this, possibly going beyond their legally allowed means.

Whether they deserve all this or not is a different debate altogether, but one cannot discount the fact that practically no work gets done in India without going through these so called ‘members of the system’, and JLP is threatening their natural existence!

JLP will face massive and organized resistance because of this reason. Even if it were passed as a bill, people will figure out ways to bypass the system. It will eventually not solve the problem that it is set out to.

I hate reading and writing articles where authors sit on the fence, so I’ll not do that here and give my opinion on the matter. Of course, my guess is that my opinion would not matter to the decision makers in any case.

Instead of taking away the most precious thing from these people through the JLP, incentivize them heavily and make them seriously accountable.

I hear rumours that any union minister makes an average of a few thousand crores in his/her tenure. So, instead of saying that now you will get pittance (the salary that you are supposed to), increase their salary to a few crores per annum (maybe to INR 20 Crores annually for an average union minister). Then, make them accountable for results – Roads not built? Work not done? Regulations not lifted? Funds not sanctioned?… Okay, you’re going to pay a hefty monetary fine AND probably visit the jail house as well!

This will ensure that those people are incentivized in the manner that appeals to them. After all, the smart ones spend their lives making all the money and the foolish ones end up going to Jail. So there are only 2 main outcomes, which are covered here.

I don’t know whether this is right or wrong, but then, most politicians and public servants are not in the business of being right, so I think this approach is only fair!

I believe this is more likely to solve the problem and it is my opinion as a common Indian citizen.

What do you think?

Fatal Mistakes in an MBA student’s CV!

I happened to spend the last couple of weeks reviewing a bunch of CV’s of MBA students preparing for their job placements. What I saw in those documents was not a happy sign!

These are CV’s of MBA students, ranging from top academic performers to average to low performers. While one may argue that students and professionals have this ‘take it easy’ attitude nowadays, that is no excuse for making some fatal mistakes.

After having interviewed over 500 candidates over the past 10 years of my professional career and having reviewed an approximately equal number of CV’s, I can at least tell you what not to do!

So here I’ve collated a list of some such fatal mistakes that one must avoid while preparing a winning CV.

1. The infamous ‘Objective’ statement

If you don’t have anything good to say, you’re better off not saying anything at all.

I’ve seen umpteen number of CV’s starting with lame objective statements of “serving the industry and society” and “contribute to growth” etc. If your objective cannot impress a recruiter, what’s the point of putting one up? You’re just creating a rather poor first impression through this poor objective statement. An easy reason for a recruiter to not shortlist you!

2. Basic Hygiene factors: grammar, spell check and formatting

There is absolutely no excuse for having poor grammar and absence of spell check in creating a CV. Not only does it show lack of knowledge but it also shows lack of interest and commitment in showcasing your talent. All word processing tools have basic features to do these checks for you. Not using them is a fatal flaw. You cannot have these problems and write about ‘MS Office’ in your technical skills section!

3. Description of academic projects

Academic projects may be done either because you HAVE to do them or because you were genuinely interested in some. Regardless, such projects deserve mention only when they say something about your achievements or contributions. Your CV is not a notice board for listing down projects. So if you’re not talking about what YOU achieved/implemented/improved/created/analyzed/discovered/pioneered, then what’s the point of writing about them?? The description has to be something you want to showcase.

4. Industry visits and Internships

Industry visits and internships are meant to give you a practical exposure or experience of working with the industry while still in an academic environment. So a mention of these matters must also do that – showcase how you have gained some industrial or professional experience. Most descriptions I come across are a mere mention of a visit or project. For all we know you could have been sleeping off in the bus during your industrial visit.

5. Section on hobbies and interests

Now, reading this section in some CV’s is mentally disturbing for me.

‘Watching TV’ and ‘Listening to music’ are not worth mentioning as hobbies. I listen to music everyday as I drive to work. It doesn’t say anything great about me. If you feel compelled to have this section in your CV, then you better impress the hell out of the person reading it. Otherwise, please don’t embarrass yourself and your college by saying that all you do is ‘watch TV’. If your hobby does not reflect a positive or interesting part of your personality then you’re making a fatal mistake mentioning it.

6. Awards and Recognitions

Awards and recognitions do not include ‘Participated in organizing an activity’. They’re supposed to talk about something special that you earned because of extraordinary work. So frankly, if you haven’t done anything special, don’t try to use real estate on your CV to talk about mundane stuff. That is wrong and misleading. It tells the recruiter that you’re just a wannabe!

7. Overall cohesiveness: reverse chronological or section wise

There should be a system or pattern in the way the content is spread out on your CV. You could go with a section wise approach and within each section describe things in reverse chronological order. So sections could be Education, Work Experience, Personal Interests, Extra Curricular and so on. Within work experience, start with the latest and go backwards.

Not having this kind of a system is just like throwing everything in there, hoping that people will sort out the jigsaw puzzle. No one cares if you don’t!

So, to wrap it up, ask yourself this – The purpose of a CV is to impress a potential recruiter, who could change your life by giving you a job that you want.

If you’re not writing the CV to impress, then what exactly are you doing???