OK, so that 'kung-fu style career advice' was warm, fuzzy and vaguely inspiring. Maybe you forwarded it to a friend or two. But while you admire the way it was written deep down you doubt the content.
Well, let me now give you a couple of practical examples.
Query 1: I am Amit (name changed) and have just completed my engineering from Mumbai university.What kind of finance part time courses are available in Mumbai that will enhance my profile before doing a MBA?
My response: First of all, I don't see too much of passion in this quest. (I may be wrong... after all it's a 2 line email he has written to a stranger). But my gut feeling is that queries like this are driven by this logic:
Finance pays well, hence I should join finance.
The way to do this is an MBA.
And before that I may as well try to get a head-start by doing a course or two.
Well and good, but here's the deal: I don't know of any part time courses which would really 'add value'. The Bombay Stock Exchange does run several but they don't seem to be aimed at novices.
In general, I think we put too much faith in courses. Parents will be ok with just about any form of study, and shell out pretty large sums of money for it. Because after all "Beta course kar raha hai".
A course can at best teach you concepts but there's also the option of being self taught (reference: the panda and kung fu!).
There are books, there are websites, and even entire television channels devoted to financial news and analysis. And of course the pink papers.
The important thing is that you must aim to MASTER whatever it is you have chosen. When that is your aim, a teacher or mentor will appear somewhere along the way.
My second piece of advice is simple: "My dear it is time you went and got yourself a job!" (Wish more parents kicked butt and told their kids to do it!)
Because courses can give you knowledge, but a job gives you wisdom. You learn by seeing, by doing and just by 'being around' in that environment.
The question Amit the engineer will now ask is: "How do I get a job in finance"?
Well, again, when you really want something you figure out a way! My advice would be to list 100 companies (more of mid sized and small firms and brokerages) and send a one page resume. State that your main aim is to gain experience before you go for your MBA. And that you are willing to do whatever it takes - to learn and to contribute to your employer.
One or two out of a hundred may call you for an interview.
The rest you cold-call and speak to, or visit personally. One by one by one. It may mean cooling your heels in reception areas but I guarantee you will get a job in one month's time. Maximum two. Especially if you are willing to work for a low or even no salary in the beginning.
One secret is to somehow meet the CEO or owner and make a 30 second sales pitch about yourself. You could ambush them in the lift, on the way to the car or at a seminar.
And that could be your 'Oogway' moment.
People who have arrived always have a soft spot for the people who remind them of their younger selves. Folks with initiative, a bit of raw talent and of course, sincerity. (Oogways can smell a fake a million miles away).
Even if you don't get your job this way, the search itself would have been a personality-enhancing experience. And that's more important than 'profile', anyday.
The second query is about college admissions. It comes from Mrs K.
Question: My daughter is interested in doing her Bachelors in Mass Media. She has secured admission in XXXX (Ahmedabad). We really have no idea about this institute. Is it worth joining?
My response: I get a lot of emails like this. With insanely high cut-offs and reservations of a million kinds, it is getting really hard to get into a 'good college'.
I mean the kind which we think contains the secret ingredient.
When Mrs K asks is XXXX 'worth joining' her concerns are two-fold:
a) Does XXXX (and I will not name the college here as it could be any newly set up one) have the necessary facilities and faculty to conduct the course
b) Will studying at XXXX have any value in the job market?
The answer to part a) can easily be discovered by visiting the school and interacting with the students. If they've had a poor experience, they will tell you so.
Part b) is a tougher cookie.
In this particular case I would say BMM is a relatively new degree and employers look more for the candidate's talent as an individual than a brand name. What Ms K will need to do is go beyond the syllabus and build up a portfolio.
This she can do by freelancing, doing live projects and summer jobs (whether or not the college requires it or arranges for it).
She can always go for a post grad qualification from a more reputed institute... although ultimately I do believe that media is one profession where 'the secret is there is no secret ingredient' principle well and truly applies!
The really important thing is to be able to celebrate success as well as 'failure'.
Mrs K's daughter will be joining XXXX because she could not make it to any good college in Mumbai. So it is more a compulsion than 'choice'. But look at the spirit with which they are taking it:
... My daughter and I are not really disappointed. The journey to Mumbai and back, the travelling by local trains, crossing roads, trying to collect information, hunting for places to eat, hunting for colleges was a real experience.
We would not have it any other way. It did teach us many of life's lessons like being positive, being patient and never say die. We even thought of taking a year off and exploring different options.
When we returned to Gandhinagar, where we stay, we couldn't help feeling that we have come back to heaven. Mumbai has taught us to value Gandhinagar.
You are right when you say there are no accidents in life!
And let us end this kung fu class with the following immortal words from our lovable panda:
Tai Lung: "You... you're just a big... fat... panda!"
Po: I'm not a big fat panda. I'm *the* big fat panda.
Be THE big fat panda, in whatever you choose to be.
If you have any experiences you'd like to share please do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And queries, as always, are welcome!