We all need help, why shy away from it. Do your bit first.

Last week, I was relaxing in my sofa in the late evening. I received a call from unfamiliar number. When I picked up the phone, it was Mrs. Chavan. “Hello, Mittal ji” she greeted. After a minute of greeting and knowing whereabouts she said that her daughter, Neha, needed some help as she was planning to apply for a MS in US universities. “Sure”, I said. I would be glad to help her in any way I can.

Knowing that I had lived in US for significant number of years, many family acquaintances approach me with such questions. As human beings we rely upon our circle of influence more than anything else. Any advice that comes from our near and dear ones is always more valuable than what we find in newspaper or on internet. Personal advice carries more impact especially when opinion comes from the person who is in the domain about which information is sought.

Neha, an engineering graduate, wanted to pursue high degree specialization from a US university. Her queries hovered around the best universities for specialization of her interest, whether it was a good career choice, and the job prospects of the specialization. Despite the Google many students find themselves in this dilemma, whether the information is authentic? Am I missing something? It always feels safe if someone known gives the opinion. In another case, one of my entrepreneur colleagues reached out to me to talk to a high school student. Her parents were under tremendous stress to decide which career stream to pick up. Similar to the above scenario, I have been asked for help from many friends and family members. Some of the questions were:

  • My JEE rank is xxx, should I go for CS in XYZ college or EnTC in some other college?
  • I have got admission in IISER as well as engineering, which one should I pursue?
  • Our college lab has some tools, but no one is there to teach us those tools. Moreover, we don’t have any live projects, where can we apply the knowledge we learnt.

There are many situations, where I am not able to help. Sometimes, I forward to other friends who have experience in the domain and other times, I give generic answers like “find what you like”. Quite Often I responded as “why don’t you ask your seniors and alumni who are already in those colleges you are comparing.” Most of the times, the response I get is, either they don’t have any contacts or even if they have contacts, those contacts didn’t know much about the options they were seeking help for.

Many of you must have faced such situations when your relatives or friends have reached out to you to help them or their children in making some career decisions, college selection or information about a company during placements. These are critical career decisions and our domain or subject matter expertise makes a lot of difference. Here are a few simple suggestions I would like to suggest to students.

Build a network of like-minded people

While it is good to reach to your near ones, who care of you, it is also important to increase your network that can be of help. From the network of relatives and friends it is less likely to find someone possessing the knowledge in your domain, informed with the current trends and understand your context of knowledgebase. When you are connected with people of your own domain, aware of the recent trends and your age group, your increase your chances of getting the right and contextual information.

Focus on learning skills

Keep your eyes and ears open about the options and opportunities that come your way. Many a times we miss out on opportunities thinking, “What is in it for me”. As a student, you motive should be to build skills. Prof Rakesh Godhwani, an IIM professor uses a metaphor of ‘collecting the dots’ to highlight skill picking and using. Similar way, student can leverage these dots later in life at an opportune time. As Steve Jobs also mentioned in his biography, when he took calligraphy classes, he didn’t know how it will help him. But later it helped him when he was building Pixar.

Share what you know and be open for feedback

Develop habit of sharing your learnings and talent with others. Sharing has two aspects. First, it makes your accomplishment visible to other. Small or large, every achievement leaves you with extra knowledge. As the eminent thought leader at IBM, Andrew Grill quoted, it does not matter how much you know, what matters is how much you share. Unless you demonstrate, how are other people going to know about it. Secondly, it gives an opportunity to get feedback and improve upon. According to a survey, a large number of professionals have problem accepting the negative feedback causing a negative impact in their growth path.

Attitude matter more than the aptitude

Most of the times we work to achieve something. But have we ever realized, we spent most of our time in giving while keeping the attitude of getting back. We give time to our studies to get marks in the exams. We work to get paid. Do you realize the amount spent in our actions is much more than the time it takes to receive the outcome? If we stop worrying about the outcome the work becomes effortless. It is an attitude, not the actions that matters more. By having an attitude of working selflessly, you can put the best of the efforts effortlessly.

Take ownership of what you want to become

Most of the students make their career choices based on what their parents tell them or sometimes some close friends decide collectively. Trust me; this decision should be yours and only yours. You should own it and have confidence to pursue it. Whenever you have to take such decision, do the best you can by collecting the right information, applying your own strengths and likings. Once you have decided, have confidence and faith.

Well, I agree there is no cookie cutter formula that fits for all. Some may have a different outlook or inherent tendency to make friends and network but not everybody is that lucky. Above simple solutions can make your future-ready and push you to do your bit.


Krishan Mittal is the founder and CEO of Unfurl Technologies.