Intangible assets (Published in Republica)

Last week I saw a TV advertisement of a college around where I live. I had not even heard its name till then. It makes me think of how many plus two colleges we have just in the Kathmandu Valley. With the amount of colleges that we have, we expect that students are better prepared for the job market and more college-educated youths are being employed right away at various companies and government offices. The reality however is different.

Student life is filled with a lot of responsibilities to manage. With plus two or college classes, work, family life and other commitments, there is no question that the work is cut out for the students. In addition to 12 hours of daily load-shedding, transportation hassles, frequent strikes, bandas and other distractions, students definitely have to manage their time and schedule well. Having said this, at the end of the day, students have to be responsible and prepared for their career. Students themselves have to manage their careers the best because the schools and their future employers will not cut them any slack for facing the above problems.

With the rising number of college graduates each year and the level of competition for internships and jobs, I want to share certain intangible factors that can help students stand out amongst their peers and be better prepared for their future careers. These intangible factors are what I personally believe in and I apply them in my own life.

First and foremost, I advise students to follow their intuition. When in college, people rarely talk about intuition. Students have a structure to follow, they have their academic life already outlined for them and intuition gets lost somewhere in that hectic schedule. I personally value intuition because you cannot prepare and know everything ahead of time. Each individual is unique and they have to make decisions based on their passions, interests, plans and so forth. Many times you just have to follow your instinct and trust your decision. It is important to do the work that makes you happy. If there is a group or club in college that you passionately believe in, go and do that. Do not join clubs and organizations just because it looks good on your resume/CV. I have seen a lot of students do this and I am guilty as well because that’s what I did when I was in college. The quantity of clubs and organizations you are a part of in college impresses very few people. The same goes for being involved in organizations after college. What you should put more focus on is wholeheartedly participating in the club or organization that you sincerely feel is important to you and can devote your time to. It is vital to follow your intuition both in your academic and especially your professional career.

Second, being self-motivated is a true asset. If you are self-motivated, you will be presented with more opportunities than others who are less motivated. Motivation goes a long way. If you like a certain subject, say supply chain management, then go ahead and research online or consult books in the library. Pick a company like Nike and study how they manage their supply chain and logistics and prepare a report. This exercise will not only increase your knowledge on the subject and increase your business acumen but also impress potential employers. The motivation however has to come from within.

You should not wait until your teacher gives you a project to work on and your only incentive to do the project is to get a good grade. The same holds true in a professional setting. Motivation is not something you get out of taking a class or attending a seminar. It starts with you and only you can make it happen.

Third, as students you should be very proactive. If you only do what you are told to do, read only what you are told to read or perform only what your job requires, you will remain average. In the workplace, it is very easy to replace an average performer. I sometimes feel that college students want to take a shortcut and do less assignments or projects. At the end of the day, as students you should be challenging yourself and focus on learning as much as you can during college. You will not have this luxury of time when you graduate. You have to be proactive if you really want to stand out in college and even after you become a graduate. There is no other route. Nepal’s education system mostly rewards students when they do just enough. But you have to do more. There is just too much competition out there to do just enough. Hopefully, there will be some changes in our education system in the coming years. Young companies like Edushala and Karkhana are already implementing practical approach to learning in their office spaces and in schools.

Fourth, let curiosity become one of your biggest assets. You should focus on gaining knowledge during your college years and certainly continue to amass knowledge and skills even after graduating from college. Being curious will keep you young and knowledgeable. It is too naive to think that once college is done, you are done with taking additional classes, training or anything related to gaining more skills. Going along with curiosity, you should also work on becoming a very good listener. In school you should really listen to teachers, advisors and people you come into contact. If you are really curious, there is nothing that can stop you in today’s world. For example, if you are keen on developing public speaking skills and want to watch and learn from Anil Shah, CEO of Mega Bank Nepal, then just search on YouTube where you will find many videos of him speaking at events throughout Nepal. If you are into finance and investments, then search on YouTube and listen to Warren Buffet speaking at various events and conferences. When you are filled with curiosity and want to learn, the world is literally at your fingertips.

Fifth and lastly, whatever you decide to pursue as your major in college or in your career, you should really care about the work you are doing. You should be sincere to the job you hold and believe in the dignity of work. We know that there are a lot of problems that Nepal faces and we can definitely make a difference if we care enough about the work that we do. This means that if you decide to join a government office, do your best so that the perception of service at a government office changes with you. I truly believe that if everyone wholeheartedly did their jobs, we would become more productive individuals and have more profitable companies and efficient government offices which would create a more productive society.

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