What reality are students facing on graduation? Employers are impatient and demanding in job interviews, often starting with a blunt “Why should I hire you instead of all these other people?” and ending quickly if the answer is not convincing. This is particularly the case in India where almost half of the population is under 25.
On top of this, students who want to move into startups and new businesses will find financiers and advisors similarly impatient.
The reality for student graduates is they are entering a fast-moving world that demands to be convinced, right now. Can they do the convincing?
Repeated studies by employer groups suggest students are not at all convincing, not articulate, inexperienced in teamwork and show little leadership aptitude. How could they be, when most universities do not teach these skills?
Can we solve this problem? Can we create a generation of graduates who are job ready, who can hit the ground running?
The answer is “yes”, and the key to this is not so much the old fashioned soft skills training programs but it is found in the exciting world of “pitching”.
In the last quarter of 2017, several parties combined to conduct an Indian Student Employability Pilot Program in Melbourne. These included Australia India Business Council, ISANA International Education Association and my company EastWest Academy Pty Ltd.
The objective was to test whether a short intervention could add significant value to the students in terms of: Presentation skills (pitching); Interview techniques; Linked In profiles; CV’s.
The program included three group sessions plus interaction via WhatsApp, email and personal contact. To add real zest and motivation, the final session was an opportunity for the students to pitch to the board of ISANA International Education Association – a challenging but exciting prospect to convince influential leaders.
By focusing our intervention on a rapid program of developing a dynamic “pitch” for the forthcoming board meeting, the students had a clear goal, timeline and motivation.
Outcomes were exciting to experience. The pitches were competitive, with much improved clarity and pacing, slower speech and clear transmission of information. What was really exciting was the students quickly learned that any claim they make needs to be supported by proof – generally one additional sentence.
In addition, the presentation to the board was interactive and showed a good ability to handle tricky questions and effective use a two-part answer – if the question is about weakness, outline what that might be and then state what steps you have taken to improve. Or if about strengths, again, outline what that might be and then show proof of when you used that strength.
The key to this success was the excitement around “the pitch” – this is what the students wanted, they saw it could work for them and they put energy and skill into making high impact pitches. They are ready for the future.