Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What are the must-have skills for B-school pass-outs?

Last week, I had the opportunity to be an invited guest for a tweetchat on "Navigating long term careers in large organizations" exclusively for B-school students (More details below)

It was interesting and exciting to be part of the tweetchat - primarily to interact with B-school students from all over India. It was very well attended, and a busy 1 hour- I really don't know how the time zoomed by. While the discussion covered a range of questions on career choices, work motivation, new age skills and work - life balance.. 

The Storify of the session is here. A snapshot overview of the summary is here

One question which was particularly interesting during this interaction was "What are the must-have skills for B-school pass-outs?

In this post, I am sharing my views based on my experiences, interactions with B-school students and basic expectations from any professional enterprise.

A few years ago, I was officially mentoring a fresh B-school graduate and asked him to get some information on a newly passed financial regulation from the public domain. 1 hour passed - no response.. 2 hours passed - no response.. The whole day passed - no response.. The next day when I quizzed him on what he had gathered, here's what he said "I Googled and Googled the whole day, but could not get any information". Honestly, that was the last response I expected. So I asked him to open Google and type the keywords which he did.. The answer we were looking for was listed right at the top on Google search. Google did its job (like it always does).. Now you can guess who wasn't doing their job?

Here's the thing - Any B-school student should know how to use Google - to get data, information, visuals, news, research insights, people profiles, etc. etc.. You should know how to use to power of Google to do your everyday work. 

2) Fantastic analytical skills
When I was a student at IIM Bangalore, in my innocence and curiosity as a student I asked my Strategy professor "What is the biggest benefit of doing an MBA program?" He said something which I will always remember "An MBA program opens your mind to different ways of thinking". Looking back, I can say he was 100% right. Most importantly the rigor of any good B-school program gets one to think analytically - under any circumstance. And that analytical mind-set comes naturally to some, but to many it is a skill that needs to be nurtured and most B-schools lay a solid foundation for analytical thinking (which included problem solving). The reality of most enterprises is that there are all kinds of problems which exist - technology, product, process, people, customer experience, design, architecture, user experience, customer expectation management, etc. And one's ability to truly understand and solve a problem usually makes all the difference So any career choice you make, the expectation from you is that you will be able to think analytically..

3) Effective communication skills (both oral and written)
Clarity, Correctness and Confidence are the most important 3C's of effective communication. For clarity in expression, the only pre-requisite is clarity in thought. For correctness, one needs knowledge or access to knowledge (data / information / insights, etc.) to state his / her point of view. Confidence is a function of individual personlity and experience - which comes with time and practice. But there is a start somewhere, and for many B-school students the beginning is in B-school. So it is important to hone your communication skills (both oral and written) as that is a key exqwpectation from any corporate role.

4) Have Knowledge on the areas / topics of study / specialization
So if you are an Marketing major by education you should "know" what you learned by virtue of your degree. After all, if the threshold qualification for the job is of a B-school Marketer, then you should at least demonstrate that you have the marketing knowledge and background to qualify for the job. So this will be reflected in the way you participate and understand 'marketing talk'.. and your competency to complete any marketing related tasks. 

5) Be Willing to learn
Learning is a continuous journey, and those who show that they are willing to learn - be it new technologies, domains, processes and ways of working are the one's who end up with more opportunities, challenging work assignments and diverse projects as a part of their career portfolio. This is absolutely true for anyone, but even more for B-school pass-out students since they come with the a plethora of knowledge and diverse experiences which can be leveraged in any work environment

(6) Be Open to work
Again, you should be open to take up work assigned to you - at least in the initial few years of your career. Every single assignment adds to your own understanding of the business, and as you grow - you will appreciate how understanding different facets is so critical in your career growth. As long as you get to do "real work", and are contributing towards the success of your team - you should be willing to do work.

(7) Be professional
Make an effort to understand the company policy and corporate culture - Be it in work hours, employee perks work attire, etc. Be professional in your interactions with colleagues and managers. Most importantly, draw the line between your personal life and professional life - It makes a lot of difference in how other perceive you!

Helped you? Share it with anyone in your network who might benefit from reading this..

As I sign-off, I am sharing some links / references which might help any B-school student who is starting their career...

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