Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An open letter to India's graduating classes

# POST 0054

Dear Graduates and Post-Graduates,

This is your new employer. We are an Indian company, a bank, a consulting firm, a multinational corporation, a public sector utility and everything in between. We are the givers of your paycheck, of the brand name you covet, of the references you will rely on for years to come and of the training that will shape your professional path.

Millions of you have recently graduated or will graduate over the next few weeks. Many of you are probably feeling quite proud - you've landed your first job, discussions around salaries and job titles are over, and you're ready to contribute.

Life is good - except that it's not. Not for us, your employers, at least. Most of your contributions will be substandard and lack ambition, frustrating and of limited productivity. We are gearing ourselves up for broken promises and unmet expectations. Sorry to be the messenger of bad news.

Today, we regret to inform you that you are spoiled. You are spoiled by the "India growth story"; by an illusion that the Indian education system is capable of producing the talent that we, your companies, most crave; by the imbalance of demand and supply for real talent; by the deceleration of economic growth in the mature West; and by the law of large numbers in India, which creates pockets of highly skilled people who are justly feted but ultimately make up less than 10 percent of all of you.

So why this letter, and why should you read on? Well, because based on collective experience of hiring and developing young people like you over the years, some truths have become apparent. This is a guide for you and the 15- to 20-year-olds following in your footsteps - the next productive generation of our country. Read on to understand what your employers really want and how your ability to match these wants can enrich you professionally.

There are five key attributes employers typically seek and, in fact, will value more and more in the future. Unfortunately, these are often lacking in you and your colleagues.

1.You speak and write English fluently: We know this is rarely the case. Even graduates from better-known institutions can be hard to understand.

Exhibit No. 1: Below is an actual excerpt from a resume we received from a "highly qualified and educated" person. This is the applicant's "objective statement:"

"To be a part of an organization wherein I could cherish my erudite dexterity to learn the nitigrities of consulting"

Huh? Anyone know what that means? We certainly don't.

And in spoken English, the outcomes are no better. Whether it is a strong mother tongue influence, or a belief (mistakenly) that the faster one speaks the more mastery one has, there is much room for improvement. Well over half of the pre-screened résumés lack the English ability to effectively communicate in business.

So the onus, dear reader, is on you - to develop comprehensive English skills, both written and oral.

2. You are good at problem solving, thinking outside the box, seeking new ways of doing things: Hard to find. Too often, there is a tendency to simply wait for detailed instructions and then execute the tasks - not come up with creative suggestions or alternatives.

Exhibit No. 2: I was speaking with a colleague of mine who is a chartered accountant from Britain and a senior professional. I asked him why the pass percentage in the Indian chartered accountant exam was so low and why it was perceived as such a difficult exam.

Interestingly (and he hires dozens of Indian chartered accountants each year), his take is as follows: the Indian exam is no harder than the British exam. Both focus on the application of concepts, but since the Indian education system is so rote-memorization oriented, Indian students have a much more difficult time passing it than their British counterparts.

Problem-solving abilities, which are rarely taught in our schooling system, are understandably weak among India's graduates, even though India is the home of the famous "jugadu," the inveterate problem solver who uses what's on hand to find a solution. Let's translate this intrinsic ability to the workforce.

3. You ask questions, engage deeply and question hierarchy: How we wish!

Exhibit No. 3: Consistently, managers say that newly graduated hires are too passive, that they are order-takers and that they are too hesitant to ask questions. "Why can't they pick up the phone and call when they do not understand something?" is a commonly asked question.
You are also unduly impressed by titles and perceived hierarchy. While there is a strong cultural bias of deference and subservience to titles in India, it is as much your responsibility as it is ours to challenge this view.

4. You take responsibility for your career and for your learning and invest in new skills: Many of you feel that once you have got the requisite degree, you can go into cruise control. The desire to learn new tools and techniques and new sector knowledge disappears. And we are talking about you 25- to 30-year-olds - typically the age when inquisitiveness and hunger for knowledge in the workplace is at its peak.

Exhibit No. 4: Recently, our new hires were clamoring for training. Much effort went into creating a learning path, outlining specific courses (online, self-study) for each team. With much fanfare, an e-mail was sent to the entire team outlining the courses.

How many took the trainings? Less than 15 percent. How many actually read the e-mail? Less than 20 percent.

The desire to be spoon-fed, to be directed down a straight and narrow path with each career step neatly laid out, is leading you toward extinction, just like the dinosaurs. Your career starts and ends with you. Our role, as your employer, is to ensure you have the tools, resources and opportunities you need to be successful. The rest is up to you.

5. You are professional and ethical: Everyone loves to be considered a professional. But when you exhibit behavior like job hopping every year, demanding double-digit pay increases for no increase in ability, accepting job offers and not appearing on the first day, taking one company's offer letter to shop around to another company for more money - well, don't expect to be treated like a professional.

Similarly, stretching yourself to work longer hours when needed, feeling vested in the success of your employer, being ethical about expense claims and leaves and vacation time are all part of being a consummate professional. Such behavior is not ingrained in new graduates, we have found, and has to be developed.

So what can we conclude, young graduates?

My message is a call to action: Be aware of these five attributes, don't expect the gravy train to run forever, and don't assume your education will take care of you. Rather, invest in yourself - in language skills, in thirst for knowledge, in true professionalism and, finally, in thinking creatively and non-hierarchically. This will hold you in good stead in our knowledge economy and help lay a strong foundation for the next productive generation that follows you.

Together, I hope we, your employer, and you, the employee, can forge an enduring partnership.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

70 Reasons to Stop Complaining about Rising Inflation (Plus 1 More)

# POST 0053

Emergency Post: 70 Reasons to Stop Complaining about Rising Inflation (Plus 1 More)

Credit to Original Poster : Vishal Khandelwal (safalniveshak.com)

I know…I know how much you cursed the government last night for raising petrol prices by Rs 7.5 per litre!
I know how much you’ve started loving all those ‘revolutionaries’ who are calling for a nationwide protest against these hikes!
It’s funny to see all those queues outside petrol pumps with people waiting to get their vehicles pumped up with as much fuel as possible…as if that is the only fuel they will need for the next several years. (They must’ve burnt more fuel waiting to get their tanks filled up!)
(By the way, the reason for this ‘emergency’ post is that if I had not written this today, many of my readers would’ve unnecessarily burnt their blood for an additional 24 hours before they read this) :-)
“These politicians are thieves! They’ve ruined my life!” exclaimed a friend who just returned from a long foreign holiday.
“How will a common man survive when prices of petrol and everything else are rising so fast?” he asked me as if knew the answer to his question.
“Don’t revolt. Rebel!” I told my friend in a saintly voice.
“What do you mean by that?” he asked.
“Revolution is when you give away control to the revolutionaries (like the protestors) who portray themselves as fighting for your cause. Instead, they are fighting for their own cause…to get more powerful!”
“But…” he interrupted.
“Wait, I’m not done as yet!” I said, “On the other hand, when you rebel, you try to take things under your control. Instead of revolting against others, you become a rebel by trying to change yourself.”
“Now did you get me?” I asked.
“Good! Let me explain it the other way. Don’t expect medicines to cure your sickness. Instead, avoid sickness by remaining healthy!”
“What the …!” he said, visibly disturbed. “Why can’t you make it simpler?”
“Okay. I was trying to tell you things that could’ve served as lessons for a lifetime. But since you insist, let me get down to the specifics.”
“Now that’s good!” he said.
“See, what I’m trying to say is that instead of blaming the government for raising prices of petrol and worrying how it would hurt you, why don’t you worry about things that are under your control?” I asked.
“And what are those things that I can control?”
“Simple…cut your living costs as much as you can. When you save money in other places, even a fuel cost hike won’t pinch you much!”
“Wow! And how do I cut costs and save more money than I’m already doing?”
“Well, here are the ways…”
70 simple ways to save money
A. Food
  1. The best thirst quencher is water, not juice or cola (plus there are great health benefits).
  2. Cut back on the convenience foods (learn some cooking instead to help your wife).
  3. Instead of going out to eat at work, take your own lunch.
  4. Eat a good breakfast before leaving for office (it decreases your desire to buy and eat a big lunch in the middle of the day).
  5. Pack food before you go on a road trip.
  6. Avoid that expensive (and fatty) dessert at the restaurant. Go for a walk and have an ice-cream instead.
B. Clothing
  1. Instead of throwing out some damaged clothing, repair it instead.
  2. Go through your old clothes…and find ones that you can still use.
C. Shelter
  1. Look for a cheaper place to live.
  2. Avoid an interior designer…learn to design your own home (you’ll love it!).
  3. Paint your home.
D. Fuel
  1. Use your car less. Use public transport…or simply walk whenever you can.
  2. Go for reliability and fuel efficiency when buying a car (if you are bent on buying one).
  3. Air up your tires (it helps in improving mileage).
  4. Carpool to work (saves fuel plus helps a lot in networking).
  5. Don’t speed (it helps save fuel, plus you don’t have to pay the traffic fines).
  6. Unless you drive a Ferrari, don’t buy premium fuel.
E. Communication
  1. Go through your mobile phone bill, look for services you don’t use, and ditch them.
  2. Talk less on your landline or mobile. Instead use emails, letters, and free online services (like Skype).
  3. Cut unnecessary Internet costs – avoid using 3G.
F. Entertainment
  1. Invite friends over instead of going out.
  2. Swap books, music, and DVDs with friends instead of buying new.
  3. Hit the library – hard.
  4. Read more. Reading is one of the cheapest – and most beneficial – hobbies around.
  5. Cut down on your vacation spending. Instead of going on long foreign trips, pack up the car and explore beautiful India.
  6. Travel during off season.
  7. Book tickets and hotels early to get early-bird discounts.
  8. Watch morning shows at theatres (better wait for CDs/DVDs).
  9. Keep distance from lavish, high-flying friends (this is most important!)
G. Shopping (Now this is the biggest list!)
  1. Sign up for every free customer rewards program you can (but still try to avoid shopping!).
  2. Write a list before you go shopping for groceries (avoid ‘I-may-need-this’ syndrome).
  3. Do holiday shopping right after the holidays.
  4. Avoid designer labels (if you are not a celebrity).
  5. Avoid extended warranties (if your new TV won’t last three years, perhaps it’s not worth buying in the first place!).
  6. Shop online…you can get some great deals.
  7. Have a snack and drink a large glass of water before going shopping.
  8. Ask for discounts on products and services (just ask…you may be surprised!).
  9. Before making a large purchase, calculate how many hours of work it takes for you to make that much money.
  10. The highest-markup items at the grocery story are on the shelves at about chest level. Reach up or kneel down to select the cheaper brands.
  11. Beware of ‘discount store syndrome’. Just because you’re in a discount store doesn’t mean you’re getting the best price on every item. So stay aware.
  12. Be alert of overly-helping salespeople. They usually don’t have your financial interests in mind.
  13. Have the courage to say “No!” to your wife (at least sometimes :-) )
H. Kids
  1. Don’t spend big money entertaining your children. Spend some quality time with them instead. They’ll love this more.
  2. Learn to say no! Let them know that money is earned via hard work and doesn’t fall freely from the ATM.
I. Utilities
  1. Turn off the television. Seek an evening hobby instead.
  2. Remove all unwanted television channels.
  3. Use less of your washing machine and air-conditioners.
  4. Be diligent about turning off lights and fans before you leave.
  5. Install CFL (or, even better, LED) bulbs wherever it makes sense.
  6. Pay your bills on time to avoid late penalties.
J. Miscellaneous
  1. Make your own gifts instead of buying stuff during birthdays and festivals.
  2. Instead of giving a gift, write a heartfelt letter to someone.
  3. Clean out your closet and sell useless stuff online.
  4. Give up expensive habits, like cigarettes and alcohol.
  5. Keep your hands clean to avoid unnecessary medical bills.
  6. Give a gift of a service instead of an item.
  7. Get rid of unread magazines, newspapers, and online subscriptions.
  8. If something’s broken, give a fair shot at repairing it yourself before replacing it or calling a repairman.
  9. Exercise at home or in open air instead of paying for the gym. Develop a ‘prison workout’ system.
  10. Avoid trying to keep up with the Joneses. It’s a costly illness. Chances are they’re in more debt than you are.
K. Money
  1. Switch to a lower interest home loan.
  2. Switch to term life insurance.
  3. Buy low cost mutual funds.
  4. Don’t trade…invest. Avoid excessive brokerage.
  5. Clear your credit card debt in time (better still, destroy all your credit cards).
  6. Shop around for cheapest medical insurance.
4 more ways to save (and earn) money
  1. Live like your parents lived. If you don’t know how, just ask them.
  2. Make a budget (first allocate money for savings, then spend with the rest).
  3. Master the thirty day rule. Whenever you’re considering making an unnecessary purchase, wait thirty days and then ask yourself if you still want that item. Quite often, you’ll find that the urge to buy has passed and you’ll have saved yourself some money by simply waiting.
  4. Use your talent to earn extra cash…like teaching guitar or writing skills to kids on weekends (you are more talented than you know!)
Even if you can make just 10 money-saving choices from the above list, you’ll do wonders for your financial life over the long term.
Here’s a simple math. If you can just save Rs 50 per day, or Rs 1,500 per month…and invest the same consistently, you will have Rs 49 lac in your kitty by the end of 25 years (assuming 15% average annual returns during this period). Sounds good?
Some final thoughts…whenever the struggle against rising inflation feels like it’s too much, know that there are millions of underprivileged souls out there fighting for the sake of their survival (forget petrol, all they want is a petty meal a day). Look for ways to help them!
As Warren Buffett once said, “If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity that has money, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”
So stop revolting…start the rebellion. You’ll love it!
Anyways, can you think of some other money-saving tips not covered above and that can be of help to others? Let us know in the Comments section below.