The pandemic has become a reset button to retrospect, introspect and develop adaptive discourses for the new normal. However, it is not devoid of issues, ones that will have a long-lasting impact.
COVID-19 has brought about a new work culture that emerged out of the nationwide lockdowns. Thanks to technological advancements we continued working from the safety of our homes. Remote work, work from home or work from anywhere became a norm across industries. This is a luxury that our previous generations never experienced.
Adapting to the work-from-home environment and culture was not easy. Moreover, Indian households lack the idea of a workspace. While some adapted quickly, others struggled to do so. Team collaboration took sweet time to reach the efficiency of the in-office meetings. As for the hiring process, face-to-face interviews are replaced with video/telephonic interviews. A critical challenge was the training and knowledge transfer to new hires. The simple task of walking up to someone’s desk to ask for guidance has moved to a series of messages and calls.
Remote work, work from home or work from anywhere became a norm across industries. This is a luxury that our previous generations never experienced.
The new age graduates thrive in such situations. They have faced similar challenges while studying. Physical classrooms and labs turned to electronic platforms. Assignment and projects became a personal affair. Team collaborations moved to digital collaborative spaces. Learning process, problem-solving and academic growth became highly independent. This resulted in an increased adaptability among the students.
It is simpler for them to mingle with the online setup since their default learning space was abruptly moved to the online classrooms. Skills like data organization (thanks to paperless documents and online submissions), video conferencing, communications and research-based assignments are naturally instilled. For them, the virtual setup is effortless as they have the know-how of the digital tools and workspaces. These students are well-equipped to deal with adversities. Despite that, students graduating from 2020 onwards are barely finding employment, given the economic conditions and the lack of confidence among recruiting teams in their capabilities.
What does the present look like?
Understanding the digital sphere, the new graduates found certain ways to get going. They are comfortable in their skin, have the know-how of the upgraded technological tools. Most importantly, they understand what technology can achieve and have figured out the ways to collaborate effectively with remote teammates and colleagues.
Self-employment and freelancing services in contemporary fields have seen a boost. Ranging from content creation to online tutoring and even admin/operations support, content creation in every possible format is in high demand. Today, anything can be marketed via social media platforms, which is largely content based. Espoused with personal branding and targeted ads, products and services are visible to relevant parties. A virtual assistant is another online employment required by individuals/ small businesses to manage daily functions. Spaces like Upwork and Fiverr are known to pay off well until word of mouth/testimonials is garnered.
India has seen a boom of startups and unicorns. The enterprises benefit from outsourcing project-based work, helping them to economize costs.
Today, anything can be marketed via social media platforms, which is largely content based. Espoused with personal branding and targeted ads, products and services are visible to relevant parties.
For those seeking entry in the job market, internships are a lucrative starting point. However, the Indian internship system needs to be remodeled. While interning is the building block to practical knowledge, various concerns overhaul. Overworked, underpaid and often attached with unrealistic goals, these internships come with burnout. While placements are already on an all-time low, such conditions demotivate further at the beginning of one’s career. Motivation nurtured in a healthy, respectful environment is much needed, irrespective of where one stands professionally. There is a need for robust policies, especially with respect to internship systems. It is equally essential we build a job-ready ecosystem. Primarily it includes awareness of existing policies, making robust regulations and adhering to the mental/financial requirements of the employees.
What does the future look like?
A workforce chosen on the pre-pandemic parameters to yield results in the post-pandemic world might lead to reduced productivity. As per the latest Global Skills Report (Coursera), India ranks 67th globally. While the ranks are average in certain domains, the need for upskilling is critical.
Presently, the push is required from the other end. The government, public and private sectors must collaborate and intervene in the upskilling of the next generation.
The NEP policy is one such step ahead. Moving to a choice-based credit system gives autonomy to the young ones. It also builds knowledge in the areas one is interested in. Multidisciplinary skills are developed, fostering a nurturing ecosystem of growth for the learners. It shall help to break the traditional careers and pave way for newer creative paths.
Mentorship programs under curriculum to achieve relevant aptitudes and competencies are another potential solution. Handling pressure and assignments in the workspace offers a remarkable exposure to real-life situations. Moreover, sometimes what is lucrative theoretically seems unattractive in practicum. Such experiences help one discover what might be their long-term interest. In order to prospect dependable ROIs, flexibility must be part of the new normal. The definition of investment being efforts put by students or the knowledge imparted by the enterprise. Not only it boosts an individual’s productivity but also plays an important role in an enterprise’s growth.
‘Open to learning new things’ is an integral element of every job description. To keep pace with technological growth, it is time we are open to learning and growing with the new. What the new-age graduates bring to the table is valuable. It is where critical thinking meets facing unprecedented challenges. They navigated through one, increasing the threshold of patience, perseverance and pressure. The nation’s vision to become a 5 trillion-dollar economy is only possible if we invest and believe in them.