Single minded pursuit of academic excellence has been an important goal of most of our educational endeavours. Exams, ranks, grades, rote learning, memorizing and all has made a university rank an end in itself rather than a means to achieving larger goals in life. Getting good grades is undeniably important, but it needs to be balanced with other skills that are absolutely necessary to secure a job, sail through it or survive and be successful.
Academic excellence and vocational skills go hand-in-hand. In the quote from Gardner, substitute ‘philosophy’ with ‘theoretical knowledge’, you get to see the social imbalances and attitudinal biases in schooling and university education. Academic excellence is defined by the knowledge of the subject; it may qualify us for a job interview and even get us the job, but it needs other skills to make us employable. In fact, lack of vocational and practical skills is one of the reasons for high levels of unemployment among educated youth in India. Following are some of the reasons to look beyond academics:
Learn the tricks of the trade: Professional success needs dedicated focus on acquiring varied practical experience. There’s nothing like an apprenticeship program or on-the-job training to get skilled in different aspects of how to do things and achieve performance goals.
Be practical: Often, we are impressed by bookish things, like how much one knows rather than how far the knowledge can be applied. Shift your focus on the practical application of what we’ve already learnt in school and college and how we can use this knowledge to solve problems.
Think like an entrepreneur: It’s not just about risk taking and setting up one’s own business venture! You can be entrepreneurial in your job by sharing and convincing people about new ideas, implementing them to make a difference and show remarkable results.
Embrace change: Start perceiving change as an opportunity, be open to it and think positive. It may well be so, because it brings in some good and bad things that impact our future decisions. Prepare for changes and expect them at every stage in your career.
Be efficient: Being result oriented, setting up and following processes, doing things on time-within budgets, striving for quality and consistency – these help us get ingrained in efficiency. This is also necessary to set new benchmarks in deliverables and attain tough targets.
Manage people: Even if it is your first job, learn to deal with different people. People management skills are not for managers alone. This can be acquired through experience and picked up consciously by observing and interacting with colleagues. Get started by reflecting on how you interact and negotiate with peers, juniors and seniors.
Keep learning: Continuously learning can turn you into star performer. Although it may be almost impossible to put in huge efforts here, continuously learning is indispensable to keep pace with new development in our professions. Not to forget, think of how to apply what you learn and maintain a log for your reference.
The above skills may not be formally taught in many training programs. However, we need them as much as our academic qualifications. There are absolutely necessary for remaining employable or create employment for others.