Monday, 4 May 2009

Job hunting in a slow economy

My April Column in Mint

While much of the press in the recent months has focused on job losses and downsizing in Indian industry as a result of the global recession, the real crisis is in India’s engineering colleges, business schools and college and university campuses. Most of corporate India’s work force is still hanging on to their jobs – sure increments are low and some may have been downsized but by and large most people who were in employment are still getting a monthly pay cheque. It is those who are seeking employment for the first time who are struggling the most.

If you leave the top fifty B schools and the top hundred engineering colleges out of the discussion – in most campuses the majority of the graduating class is still looking for jobs and many of those who have managed to get a job have had to reduce their expectations and go for what they could get.

At engineering colleges, the IT Services sector is most responsible for the low off take of graduates. Many IT services companies simply did not go to colleges to hire this year. And those that did go, ended up either withdrawing offers or deferring the joining dates by several months or longer.

At some of the best B-Schools many students are still without jobs, and at others those who have got placed have had to accept offers from companies they would not have dreamt of joining till just a few months back. The situation in the lower ranked B schools is a lot worse. The B-School situation is compounded by the fact that over the last five years the course fees has risen to a level that graduates need to get jobs paying a certain minimum amount to as to be able to repay education loans taken to do the course in the first place.

While this may be bad enough there is worse news to come. While it is hoped that the Indian Economy and the hiring scene in general will pick up in the second half of this financial year – the fact is that hiring at the entry level will pick up a lot later. It has been observed in the past that entry level hiring gets hits first in a slowdown and it picks last in a recovery. Do not expect any great joy in the next placement season.

So what should a fresh engineer or MBA do in the current market.

First accept the new reality. The market has changed and till it changes back for the better you are going to have to scale back your expectations. Internalise this fact. Sure it’s not your fault and this is not what you studied hard for but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Be flexible about the industry you wish to join. If IT is not hiring, it is not hiring – period. Either join a smaller company in IT or a start up or else look at other areas. There are many other industries that need engineers and some companies there may be hiring – telecom, manufacturing, chemicals, electronics etc. Be willing to look at something different.

Scale down the bar on salary. The average salary for the graduating class at the Business school where I had studied has gone up by close to forty times in the twenty years since I graduated. And my class mates and I had considered ourselves fortunate and privileged at that time. While twenty years is a long time, a forty times hike in salary during this period is great going by any standard. I am pretty sure the wage inflation in the graduating class of other B Schools and Engineering colleges has been as much if not more over the past two decades. So be happy - you’ve done well. Count your blessings.

Consider other functions and roles. Yes you always dreamed of joining a bulge bracket firm as an investment banker. But those jobs are simply not available any more. Take what you are getting and run with it. More opportunities will emerge as the economy recovers. Till then get some experience under your belt.

Think about a further course of higher study. If the job market depresses you or you are just not able to get what you want - evaluate a further qualification and come back into the job market a couple of years later when things are better.

In short, roll with the flow. Over a thirty year career span what you are experiencing today is only a minor setback.


amitkmishra said...

The recession has certainly hit the most to the students who are not aware how to handle or whom to consult about this. I just hope some integrated counseling setup can be formed so that the teachers,parents and the students can be educated on what to do in such scenarios. The important part is that even in this recession there are many sectors who are still hiring so diversifying will definitely gonna help....

Lets hope things get in place soon!!

Srikanth Krishna said...

Thanks for sharing! Waiting for a new post..