The Financial Express

Preparing beyond the pandemic: The chance to upskill

Farah Naz Aditi | Published: June 24, 2020 21:38:10 | Updated: June 28, 2020 21:30:32

Preparing beyond the pandemic: The chance to upskill

There has been a lot of talks and motivation directed towards the Class of 2020 about how to survive the ongoing tension created due to the pandemic. Surely this was going to be the most anticipated times of their lives-- graduating from universities, applying to jobs and higher studies, facing interviews, tests or perhaps just travelling to get a breath of fresh air. Plans had been rolled out and big things were about to happen and then before anyone knew, the country was swept by a wave of the global pandemic resulting in economic stagnation and leaving thousands of freshers in the country at the mercy of a dwindling job market and a bleak future. While this is   definitely a tough time, it is important to believe that this too shall pass. However, in the meantime, it only makes sense to revamp previous plans to adjust to the current situation and try to make the best out of it.

Plan on a career goal

A lot of the times, freshers make the mistake of jumping into anything and everything that their peers are doing. Such decisions are often whimsical and ill-informed and leads to sufferings. Every person should give some thought to the kind of career they aspire to pursue before jumping into job applications, not everyone will want the same thing out of life and not every career path will provide the same meaning to life. It can be helpful to reflect on one's choices and preferences during this free time and to make an informed move. It might be refreshing to talk to a few professionals, teachers, peers and  seniors to get a feel of how things truly are either in the corporate arena or the development sector or while going for higher studies. It is a good thing that there is a scope to explore and think rather than just running behind jobs that might bring no pleasant experience in the near future. However, once one has settled on his choice of a path, the research should continue on how to make oneself best prepared to make a mark as soon as things get "normal".

Upskill yourself

Given that jobs are scarce now, and freshers are facing a lot of trouble getting a suitable job, this might be a good time to finally upskill oneself through the vast array of "free" content available on  internet. It has now become common knowledge that websites/apps such as Coursera, edX, Udemy offer multiple courses on various subjects and offer certificates for such e-learning. However, completing a bunch of random courses merely for the certificates does not necessarily make someone "skilled". A lot of thought should be given to decide and then pursue particular courses for actual legit skill development.

For example, as the LinkedIn feed gets flooded with people getting certifications in all sorts or things, it is important to realise the subtle difference between interests and skills. One might do a course on sports marketing owing to one's love of the sports but how likely it is to help one secure a sports marketing job in the country? While it is absolutely joyful to finally have the chance to learn things that one is interested in, useful skills for the job market might be different.

Focus on data driven skills

A very basic skill required in almost any job is the use of Microsoft Office applications. University students are more or less proficient in the basic functioning of such applications. However, one needs to really excel in Microsoft Excel to excel at any job-- be it sales or finance. Microsoft Excel is one of the best tools for analysis and a good command over the formulas and analytical tools can make a candidate stand out. Interestingly, very few students are familiar with Microsoft Access-- the database application of the Microsoft office. This is a bit more complicated than Excel but can be of immense use if mastered properly. Similarly, a lot of the business graduates lag behind in technological know-how. This might be a good time to learn some basic programming and go beyond the realms of business.

What is noteworthy is that, all that is discussed is somewhat related to data analysis and computation. The bottom line is very clear, the world today is data driven, be it science or business, harnessing the power of data is the future. Hence, the more the youth will engage for developing expertise in such areas, the better their career will be.

Higher study aspirants

Although the pandemic has disrupted lives in many ways, this can be a blessing in disguise for higher study aspirants. Applications for higher studies abroad require considerable preparation time for standardised aptitude tests, language tests, furnishing personal statements, getting recommendation letters from referees. Many students juggle such preparation while maintaining a full-time job, which is very appreciable. But under current circumstances, some might have the chance to dedicate the entire time for preparation and give his/her best. Students can even work on their research skills and try to learn the basics of writing a research proposal or how to approach professors for a funded masters of PhD. This can be particularly important since it is now anticipated that scholarships or funding at universities abroad might cut short post pandemic and admission fees might be higher. Under such circumstances, the ones who can stand out through their skills and enthusiasm will have the best shot to pursue their dreams.

This is not the end

The most important thing to remind during this time is-- this is not the end. Life will go on and things will be better. But when they do get better, it is nice if one is already ahead of the race. So, it all comes down to making a smart choice-- whether to stress about the unavoidable or to prepare for an upcoming battle.

The writer completed BBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka and is now working in the central finance team of a financial institution. She can be reached at farahaditi9@gmail.com

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