Build your independence  through a semester abroad!

Students today are keen to explore themselves and see the world. Travel has become more accessible to students than ever before. One attractive opportunity for students who are not studying abroad is to combine their passion for travel with a study opportunity. They can do this by opting for a semester abroad or a student exchange program. Several colleges and business schools have made study abroad and student exchange programs a part of their curriculum. In a student exchange program, students from a university study abroad for a few semesters at the university’ partner institutions. For example, St. Stephen’ College from Delhi University has partnered with Brown University, U.S.A to allow its students to take certain courses at Brown University’s campus. These programs may add to your college tuition, accommodation and living expenses but also increase your exposure if they’re done right.

Here are a few reasons you may want to consider doing a an exchange programs:

1. Widen your professional and personal community

Exchange programs give students an opportunity to interact with classmates from different cultural backgrounds. Several students live with a local family to make the most of their experience. Some also choose to do internships and projects with local companies to get a better insight into the work environment. These experiences mould students into global professionals, aware and respectful of diversity. The bonds they make stay for life making that place a home away from home! The Semester at Sea program has students from across the world who learn by traveling on a ship to various countries. These kinds of shared experiences help you connect with diverse students by aligning around common interests and activities.

2. Get out of your comfort zone

Being away from your family and friends pushes you to become independent. You will need to make new friends and learn how to handle situations yourself. Student exchange programs are a great way to understand if life as an international student appeals to you. It can also be considered as a trial for those wanting to pursue their post-graduation abroad. These programs simulate life as a full-time international student and push you out of your comfort zone. They force you to adapt to different situations, sometimes in an alien language, away from the luxuries of home. They are a great way to become self-reliant in a short time.

3. Access opportunities in different geographies

Multinational companies prefer to hire people who are well versed with the work-culture, language and customs of different countries. Exposure helps you become a better student and also a more marketable professional. If you have studied for a semester abroad at a well know university, chances are you’ve competed at a global level. You will also be comfortable with life abroad and can quickly adapt to a new role if posted abroad. Becoming proficient in different languages can increase your chances of being hired to a great extent, so make sure to actively pick courses to study them  during your exchange.

On the whole, if you’re studying in India, doing a semester or living abroad will help you grow as an individual. If your university doesn’t offer a study abroad program, you can look for international internships to give you a flavour of a different country.  You can also go for cultural exchanges through organizations such as Rotary International and student bodies such as AIESEC. You should consider every aspect of the student exchange program before taking a call. Other than costs, take time to consider the reputation of the university to be attended, safety, climatic conditions and your food habits before deciding. These experiences can create memories for life and you should go ahead if it feels right for you.

 

 

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Take care of yourself

There is a lot of pressure on the youth to work hard and get ahead. As a result, students and young professionals don’t always focus on how they are feeling, emotionally and physically. If we aren’t feeling healthy, we can’t be productive and will produce poor quality work. It’s critical to step back regularly and incorporate taking care of yourself into your routine.

  1.       Physical health

The first step is to ensure you are eating regularly through your work or study day. Replace junk food with smart snacking options such as salad, yogurt, fruit, nuts, and baked snacks. You can sip on green tea or fresh lemon water as opposed to carbonated drinks. Research shows that 7-8 hours of sleep is critical for most people to function at their best. Cut down on socializing or watching television in order to make sure you’re getting enough rest. It will help you deliver better work in less time! Daily exercise decreases stress, boosts your immune system and leaves you looking and feeling good!

  1. Emotional health: Your emotional state will determine how you interact with people. This is critical for success at work. Try and relax yourself through Yoga, listening to calming music, and speaking to your loved ones. Try to sort out major conflicts at work and in your personal life calmly. If you are unhappy at home it may have an impact on your mood in office, so try to keep things pleasant with your family and close friends.
  2. Mental health: If you still feel unhappy or unstable, seek help through a professional. There are many types of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder etc. that can be dealt with through proper therapy and sometimes medication. It’s best to treat yourself rather than worrying about social stigma or fear of accepting that you’re feeling low. Once you deal with it you can bounce back to a normal life!

Self-care is critical to your success because it allows you to deal with stress, get more done and most importantly, be happy doing it. If our body and mind give us so much, why can’t we spare a few hours in a week to keep it nourished and fit? Take one day a week to just reset your mind and body. Once or twice a year, take a week or two off work to just refresh and rejuvenate yourself. Take care of your health as it’s the foundation for the rest of your life.

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Dealing with different personalities at work!

Working requires you to deal with different kinds of people. There will be extroverts, introverts, warm, sensitive and strong headed people. Personality types require adjustment to complement each other instead of conflicting with one another. While personality differences can lead to challenges in the workplace, you will  need to ensure that you maintain a pleasant working relationship with the people around you. This will lead to high work productivity and will help you meet your objectives! Here are some tips to help you get along with different people:

  1.       Participate in team activities

Engage with your team and colleagues in different ways! Some companies organise team building activities to build strong relationships. You should try to take part in various events, team lunches, ice-breaker sessions and training seminars. This will be fun and will give you the chance to gauge each personality type. You can then work on yourself and adapt to their behaviour better. You should adjust by keeping in mind the various interests, perceptions, body language and nature of the person you are interacting with.

  1.       Communicate positively

Wish people on special occasions, catch-up with them on latest happenings at office and be solution oriented about any issues that you are facing. You may like speaking your mind, but others may not always be ready to hear it.  Most people prefer hearing things in a positive manner. You can always deliver suggestions using a feedback sandwich. Start on a positive note (“I really like how hard working you are”), continue with the potentially constructive feedback (“but would love to see you meet deadlines”), and then end on another positive note (“so we can continue the momentum on this project”). This ensures that you are being pleasant and yet effective.

  1.       Respect your colleagues’ expertise

Remember that at the end you are in a professional world where everyone is trying to achieve their career goals. Acknowledge your colleagues for their expertise and roles. Try not to undermine people’s authority and instead, ask for their input, feedback, and advice when something comes up in their domain. They will appreciate being consulted, and you will learn something new.

What happens to you is far less important than how you react to it. At work, you can’t simply walk away and disengage when someone with a different personality or value crosses your path. You can spend as much as a third of your life at work, so learning the skills to cope with many different personality types can give you peace of mind. Your priority is to do great work and meet goals! Building strong working relationships is a critical step to achieving your dreams!

 

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Trial and error as a new approach for jobs!

For some people, deciding on a career is easy, especially those who have found their passion and interests. What if you can’t figure your passion? Or what if you pursue your passion but still are confused about which job is the most suitable for you? According to a 2016 study by LinkedIn, millennials are job hopping more than previous generations. People who graduated between 2006 to 2010 (millennials) averaged 2.85 jobs in the five years after graduation and it is ever increasing since then (as compared to Gen X- an average of 1.6 jobs). Though we aren’t sure of our goals, we need to approach jobs in a way that we make the most out of it. A new approach to this is the trial and error approach where you learn to discover your potential strengths, passions and interest by experimenting through various internships and live projects. Think of it like a step by step ladder to gaining more clarity!

How does the trial and error approach to jobs help us?

  1. Gain new insights at different internships

Every new role will be a learning experience for you. A marketing role will help you understand the brand, market and customer audience more; a strategy role will force you to use your analytical mind and make you data-driven. A human resource role will give you better clarity on the company policy, employee relations etc. If you do not wish to change your company, you can always ask for an in-house lateral job switch. Since you are unsure of your career goals, this will be the best learning experience in knowing what is the right fit for you. At the end, all the business expertise that you will gain will serve you as a lifelong investment for your all round development!

  1. Build relationships across industries

As we all know your relationships are critical for your career. You will meet people coming from all walks of life having different mindsets, personalities and interests. When you are on your journey of trying various roles and figuring what you love, you can make the most of this by making strong connections to help you with your future. Some ways of doing so are interacting with many people and figuring out common interests. Done right, it can help you obtain advice, information, and support.

  1. Reap the benefits of risk taking

To ensure that you learn the most from this approach, be open to different kind of jobs and roles. You should go for different interviews, gauge every company’s requirement, sign up for corporate events and meetups, and move out of your comfort bubble! Only when you are more acceptable towards risks, challenges and change, the best will come to you. If you are more inclined towards Finance but get a HR job profile, take a pragmatic decision before jumping to a personal one.

 

Career happiness is a journey and not a destination. You may have to take a chance to keep making trial and error on something that may not turn out the way you like.  But if you take this approach, you surely have a huge learning experience along the way!

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Tips to deliver a perfect pitch!

The working world is constantly about pitching something to somebody whether that be an idea, a service, or product or even yourself. A pitch can be delivered by a manager, entrepreneur, student, almost anyone! While confidence and communication are the key areas while presenting a pitch, you should also have knowledge about the topic in question. Here are a few tips you can keep in mind while delivering your pitch:

 

  1. Pitch from the customer’s perspective, not your own!

Understand the needs of the person you are pitching to first. Remember the most successful pitch is not about you, it’s about them! You need to get into the mind of the person you are pitching to, focus more on the benefits it delivers to the customer. Keep it crisp and relevant and avoid unnecessary information. This will help you build a relationship first and eventually close the partnership or sale you are working towards!

  1. Watch your body language

According to researchers, the visual impact of a “pitch” has the greatest influence on the client (55%), followed by tone of voice (38%) and finally the text and content of pitch (7%), which gives us a whole new meaning to the art of influencing and pitching! Gestures and proper posture can reinforce sales. Make sure you stand tall in front of the customer and maintain eye contact with a welcoming smile!  

  1.  Conquer your nerves by doing your pre-work!

Many people get worried and nervous before delivering a pitch which is not surprising. The best tried and trusted “remedy” is prior preparation. Make sure you have run through the pitch by somebody experienced, made changes as per the feedback, rehearsed the key points a couple of times, and double checked all the materials needed for the day. You can create a presentation, video or brochure to give the client a better picture about the idea. Another simple way of feeling comfortable is coming in early and giving yourself enough time before the pitch.

So what next if things do not work out the way you imagined? Sometimes your pitch may get rejected. Turn the rejection into a valuable learning experience – one that leaves you with a stronger presentation for the next time. Make sure you ask for feedback from your client and work on the insights they provide. You should also take this positively and recognize that you need to keep trying. With enough practice, you will be able to perfect your pitch and see it convert into results.

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Tips to improve your campus placements!

Some colleges today have committees and student bodies that are focused on keeping students engaged and motivated. One of the most important student bodies is the placement or career cell. The best placement cells ensure that students receive mentorship and career support. It’s easy to complain about the best companies not coming to campus or not hiring enough talent. However, as a student you can also try to make the most of the placement cell to achieve your career milestones. If your college doesn’t have a career cell, you can start one and focus on the students work-readiness journey. Here are a few tips every placement cell can incorporate:

  1.       Pre- placement and industry training

This is one of the most important aspects to improve your placement. Some colleges start their training in the final year, others begin from second year onwards. Your training should focus on helping students know themselves and then prepare them for placements. The training should be focused on real world problems and what the industry currently requires. Having your students trained on this will differentiate your college from others and will certainly give you an edge.

 

  1.       Build connections with Alumni and industry

You can build a network with Alumni from your college. These graduates who are now working will be excited to come back and support your college. To ensure that the maximum students get the benefit out of the placement process, the team should conduct pre- placement visits to potential companies, build relations, follow up continuously and make sure that a senior level experienced head is directly involved in the placement process. Share stories of the activities your college is doing via a newsletter with relevant industry bodies so that they are impressed. Think about leveraging LinkedIn to invite industry on your campus. Create a resume book of your students and share it with potential recruiters. This will be a good way to build a brand and get people hired.

 

  1.       Professionalism and hospitality

Showing professionalism in every step of the way from the first email you send to a company’s HR to the way you and your college conduct themselves when a company visits your campus, makes a huge and lasting impression. Most large corporates, if not all, rate this as quite high in their list. Like a good host, your hospitality has to excel and the HR recruiters must remember their trip. You have done all the hard work to get them through your door and most importantly you need to make sure they visit your college every time. Hospitality is one of the factors that maintains your long-term relationship with any external party. It is also great way to network and build your professional relationships.

Most colleges have academics as a focus. However, when students enter their third year they are extremely anxious about the next step. This is where a strong placement cell can really help. In fact, the placement cell should collaborate with other student societies to build the communication and confidence of students in college as a whole. This will be required along with their academic scores to crack their dream job or Masters interviews. In case your college does not have an active cell, revive it and support the professors and faculty to build a brand for your college in industry. Wish you all good luck for this placement season!

 

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Is the MBA for you?

 

In the current competitive world, everyone is vying to differentiate themselves. For many, choosing a promising Master’s program is vital to ensure a safety net in their careers. In India, many graduates are especially keen to take the CAT, GMAT or state level entrance exam and apply for their Masters in Business Administration (MBA). People take gap years to study and invest significant time and money in preparing for the entrance exam. They additionally have to invest time and money doing the MBA program. The question is, is the management degree relevant in today’s world? Is it a must or can students do a more specialized degree and be equally successful?

Here are some reasons to do an MBA:

  1. Build a career in management

              An MBA can help you develop as a manager and leader. An MBA can add specific business managerial skills to your toolkit, such as leadership, innovation or strategic thinking. These will be helpful while managing teams and projects. An MBA will provide a new outlook on life, develop your survival skills and professionalism, and train you on how to handle stress and pressure. It is also designed to develop your communication and problem-solving skills which are essential for a managerial position. People keen to be generalists rather than specialists would benefit most from an MBA.

       2. Meet other leaders and grow a large network

              If you are looking for great networking opportunities, an MBA will provide you the platform to meet like-minded professionals. Some top tier MBA programs help you gain access to an extensive alumni network. Most programs have time built in to travel with your peers, work on group assignments and participate in team events. These opportunities will help you get to know people at a personal and professional level. This will definitely be helpful if you plan to work in a management role or eventually become an entrepreneur. You will also get to interact with speakers and successful business leaders who can become your advisers over time. If in a global program, you can broaden your cultural and geographical understanding and perspective. This could also help with cross border opportunities.

Sometimes, people feel stagnated in a job and feel the need to do an MBA just to move into a higher position or a different sector. Others might hope for an increase in compensation which may happen if you are selected into one of the premier institutes. In most cases, an MBA is not the only option, even a specialized course could prove useful. There is no specific time to do an MBA but ideally you should have worked for a few years to be sure that it’s the right track and worth the investment. Once you’re sure you want to go for it, you should choose a program that will give you an edge and caters to your individual needs!

 

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Read your way to success!

Pursuing your interest helps increase happiness and satisfaction levels. It could be reading, dance, music, photography or playing a sport. Experts from the University of Quebec at Montreal have found that participating in a passion can add eight hours of joy to your week. Leisure activities give you a break from your daily chores and make life fun. Reading is an activity that seems to be losing importance with the increase of social media and mobile phones. Reading doesn’t have to be boring. You can read self help books, fiction, biographies, newspaper articles or magazines. You will learn something different from each of them. Some will inspire you, some will relieve stress by making you laugh and others will make you more knowledgeable about the world. Here is why you should take time out for reading:

  1. Broadens your mind: Reading opens the mind. It introduces you to different points of view. According to experts from Northcentral University, reading expands a person’s appreciation toward others’ life experiences. It makes a person more empathetic. It drives you to think out of the box and hence improves your critical thinking skills. It is a good exercise for your brain. Psychologists say that reading helps your brain to retain information over time which makes you smarter and sharper.
  2. Reduction in stress levels: Pleasure reading is known to reduce stress levels. According to a study conducted by the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, reading can reduce stress levels by as much as 68 percent. This is a greater impact than listening to music or going for a walk. The professional world is growing increasingly competitive and stressful. Reading is a silent activity. It gives you relief from the commotion of everyday life. You can lose yourself in a great story once in a while and disconnect from your stress.
  3. Improved performance at college or workplace: Reading improves your concentration, understanding, articulation and writing skills. These are prerequisites for most professions. When you read, you conduct a single task for a considerable time period and this helps in improving your concentration. When you observe different styles of writing and the vocabulary used, you improve your communication skills. While reading, you develop the ability to synthesize and draw insights from large amounts of information. This is a critical skill at work or in college.

Books have the ability to make you happier, peaceful, patient, motivated as well as inspiring in the long run. According to Harvard Business Review, deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of the greatest business leaders. They can catalyze insight, innovation and empathy. With so many benefits of reading, you should definitely start a book. It may be challenging in the beginning to finish it. You may get distracted by your phone or TV. However eventually, you will start enjoying reading different genres of books. Books transport you to a different world, and help you grow exponentially. Happy reading!

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Managing your life away from home

Many Indian students leave home at the age of 17 or 18 to study across India and abroad. A significant number of students in reputed colleges are outstation students. For example, according to some reports, up to 70% students in reputed Delhi University colleges are from outside the city. When students get the opportunity to live away from home, it comes with mixed feelings. They often grow up faster, become more mature and transform in their few years away. However, keeping certain things in mind might help you make the most of your years away.

Here are some ways to make the most of your experience away from home:

    1. Get to know yourself: You will learn to juggle between handling your hostel life, academics, extracurriculars and volunteer work. The important thing is to know how much you can take on and balance your time. You will suddenly be in control of your calendar which will be hard initially. You will learn to handle pressure and eventually find what you love! It will greatly help in developing your personality. 
    2. Be responsible: The independence that comes with living away from family is amazing at the outset. You may be drawn to try new things and experiment with new activities. While it’s important to have fun, you don’t want to get involved with the wrong crowd. Make sure you’re being productive and responsible. Taking drugs or substance abuse could result in a waste of your experience. According to government estimates, around 7.21 crore Indians are affected by drugs. It is crucial for you to draw the line between fun and bad habits.
    3. Push yourself: You will learn to take care of the tasks that you earlier wouldn’t have been so concerned about. They could be household chores, paying bills  and managing your bank account. You will have to interact and deal with your roommates and college friends. Colleges usually have more diversity than schools. It may take a while to get comfortable with the diverse environment. It will compel you to learn how to adjust with people and eventually you will start thriving in various scenarios. Getting out of your comfort zone is important for your growth.

 

 

Initially, you may miss your hometown and family. However, stick it out.  You will learn to make new friends, keep yourself healthy and make wise choices eventually. It will make the whole effort worth it. Living away from family is an exciting and rewarding experience. Treat the experience wisely. Cherish each moment of it and you will soon find a new, more confident you!

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Value of community service in a student’s life

Many people hope for a better world, but few actually work towards it. In a world affected by inequality, poverty and environmental degradation, it’s great to see several young people trying to bring about a change. Many schools and colleges have made community service part of their curriculum. For example those doing the IB curriculum, or enrolled at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, commit to a specific number of hours of community service.

There are many opportunities for the youth to volunteer or work in the social sector. There are lakhs of NGOs ranging from small to large. You can choose to get involved full-time through Fellowships or part-time alongside work or college. Even if you’re stretched with college commitments, it is always a good idea to take some time out for someone else. Here’s why:

  1. Learn about different issues: Social work will give you an opportunity to learn experientially. You can explore your interests while working for the community. You can serve the community in different ways such as caring for the old and and teaching underprivileged kids. You can help plant trees or save water. You can travel to remote areas and help them with their resources. Whatever the issue might be,  learning by doing is the best way to learn.
  2. Build your resilience: While trying to make a difference, you will encounter many challenges. Through this, you can learn to look at the brighter side. You will need to remain optimistic and keep everybody motivated even during hard situations. You will acquire the ability to have a vision and translate that into action. Since you will have to manage your school or college activities along with community service, you will learn how to work under pressure and prioritise your tasks. This will increase your ability to multi-task and problem solve. According to a UNDP report, teacher volunteers have become more employable.
  3. See better satisfaction levels: By giving of yourself, you will gain satisfaction and happiness. According to research from the London School of Economics, people who volunteer weekly are 16% more happy than those who don’t. Every drop makes the ocean. Even one person’s effort can make a difference to someone’s life. You can inspire others and eventually bring about a change at a larger scale. This will make you feel happy and fulfilled.

You should consider your time commitment, what kind of  impact you want to make and the skills you possess before you choose the volunteering activity.  So get inspired and start solving society’s real problems! You will get an opportunity to leave a better world behind.

Value of community service in a student's life