Roughly around half a century back, Alvin Toffler was thinking and writing on how jobs, people, relationships and society shall change in the 21st century. Jack Ma might have barely started going to school by that time. During the World Economic Forum 2018 session, Jack Ma was talking about the future trend of work and sounding quite relevant when he was warning that automation would eat the kind of jobs that humans are doing today, so we need to have thinking shift and develop different kind of mindset. Ardent follower of Jack Ma, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the man behind Paytm, is the richest billionaire under the age of 40 in 2018 according to a recent report. These people reflect on the call of time as they could think much ahead of times when it comes to market.
In this backdrop when we look at the environment today, we find existence of impermanence, dominance of technology, transient social values, changing work schedules, emergence of multitasking, generic work portfolios and many such trends. Few weeks back, I had the opportunity to interact with few hundred graduates of all kinds (technology, commerce, literature, economics, chemistry, physics, mathematics, zoology, medical, etc), sizes (graduates and post graduates as well) and from all geographies in India, aspiring to pursue MBA and lead a career in management. It was a kind of an eye opener as to what most of these young graduates are looking for in their career and life. I thought of sharing the learning that I got from them.
It seems there is something utterly wrong in the way we are grooming our children and the way their aspirations are getting designed. This breed has lot of information but its understanding of issues is vague and superficial. Many of them seem to operate in plug and play mode and their direction is phony. This generation perhaps has no local role model and lack ideation and idolation. They are affected by the glamour attached to the lives of achievers but they seem to be unaware of their troubled journeys.
These young graduates consider Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Deepinder Kohli, Bhavesh Agrawal etc as their role models but many of them are not aware of the troubled journeys these people had. None of them pursued MBA or obtained any management qualification yet they excelled after failures of many kinds. The kind of experimentation Jack Ma did before and during Alibaba, the kind of determination Bill Gates had, the kind of education (Physics & Economics major) and clarity Elon Musk had, the kind of difficult times Vijay Shekhar Sharma faced, the kind of experiences which drove Deepender to develop Zomato, and the kind of perseverance Bhavesh has shown, is remarkable.
It is important for these aspiring young graduates to go little deeper into the lives of people they idolise and to learn the role of strong values in their lives. I feel it is more important than the technical skills. The kind of exposure they are getting in their engineering colleges or graduating institutions is more for passing the degrees than learning the subjects both theory and practical. The context in which they are studying and growing and the kind of fiction that they are reading are poles apart which makes them uncomfortable as they are not able to relate with much of what they are reading. They feel proud in saying that they watch English series and follow some popular Youtube channels. This Dan Brown and John Green fan generation is in a very crucial state and if not handled properly might develop negative attitude towards their life and career. There is a sign of hope as I see some of these students are getting hooked to Amish Tripathi, Devdutt Patnaik and Ashwin Sanghi and the likes of their tribe.
Engineering is being considered as an ordinary under graduate degree. There is a thinking that if a student pursues engineering, it provides better career option as compared to their counterparts pursuing traditional degree courses in sciences, humanities or social sciences. And when it comes to their clarity on what they have studied during their engineering days, it is not upto mark. However one can easily distinguish them on the basis of the kind of institutions they have done their course from. Many second grade engineering institutes are not able to provide them with proper placements and they land up in the hands of some promising coaching institutes who guarantee them good CAT score. Some of the coaching institutes have driven these students to read some of the bestsellers. These coaching institutes which have pure commercial interest, are able to teach them tricks and trolls to clear the first milestone but whether they are able to develop a habit of learning in them is a question that only sustainable performance of these students can exhibit. It is a generally followed belief that engineering with MBA makes the best combination for better career and in a way guarantees a respectable white collar job.
Surprisingly we also see some doctors aspiring to pursue management course. Their honest motivation to opt for such courses is unknown yet what can be appreciated of them is their sense of experimentation and exploration. What I observed keenly was their lack of originality and a natural behaviour. This is how they have been groomed by the coaching institutes. They do not speak what they really want to speak but they speak what they think might get them admission. Their confidence level is high but some of them carry weak value system; as they feel being opportunist is not bad. On one hand they do not mind talking ill of an institute that they have come from, on the other hand they have huge expectation from their aspiring course and college. The aspirants coming from small towns display relatively better value system as compared to the ones who have grown in big cities. I wish I had some more time learning from them and may be to counsel them to focus on what really is their identified life goal, if any, as many of them are not very clear about their career goal, leave aside life goal.
Some of them, rather few of them, have clarity of their goals. They are really promising and prolific in content, their confidence is strong and communication is excellent, their interests are wide and wild; and they are resilient. The only irony is that their number is much smaller than their counterparts who are weak in their conviction and shallow in their approach. This young generation has a very high level of expectations from the place of their education, from their employers and from the system that they want to get in. We really have much greater a challenge in designing a program to suit their needs and the needs of the market. We need to think beyond our personal interest and look beyond our discipline bias in order to cater to the needs of this generation. We should not be surprised, feeling cursed by not meeting their expectations.
I believe that at the graduation level it should be made mandatory to gain credits in some of the courses in humanities or social sciences discipline. It would certainly make our youth better citizens and ready for the kind of jobs that are going to be created in the times to follow (as expected by Jack Ma). They need to have strong sense of integrity, honesty apart from ability to think creatively. They have to have excellent expression capacity. And that all can be gained through the study of literature, philosophy, psychology, sociology, history and the likes.