15 Jun Career & kingdom building: Nurturing skills for tomorrow
During the month of December 2021, job loss figures soared to 10.5 million salaried employees and entrepreneurs as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Naturally, the lingering gloom over the Indian job market remains a weighty concern among our young. When overthrowing Saul, David brought in men from the tribe of Issachar who could understand the time and plan accordingly (1 Chronicles 12:32). Likewise, today’s students must understand the demands of our time and be equipped with the right skills in building the Lord’s Kingdom on earth through their vocation.
Prior to the topic of skills, a healthy theology of work is helpful for setting the right tone of this article. Often, we see our career and job as secondary in Christian life. It is left to the ‘secular’ domain along with education, finance etc. At best, we see ‘secular’ engagements as opportunities to make a living and share the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelieving friends. But when Jesus redeems us, every area of our lives is to be lived out for Him and His purpose. 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us that we are a royal priesthood in Christ – Kings and Priests at the same time. We are priests who restore the world to a right relationship with God in Christ (Deuteronomy 33:10, Leviticus 10:11, Hebrews 5:1). We are also Kings appointed by God to be stewards over all creation through God-given skills and wisdom (Genesis 1:26-31, Matthew 6:10, Ephesians 2:10). In this regard, our calling to work in this world matters. The Trinitarian God is a God of all creation. All subjects, disciplines and knowledge belong to Him. We merely steward these resources on His behalf for the peace and prosperity of all. Every employment or entrepreneurship opportunity can be the fulfilment of the Lord’s calling to build His Kingdom ‘on this earth as it is in heaven’ where we glorify the Lord and serve humanity through the outcome of our work.
BUILDING THE RIGHT SET OF SKILLS
Once we see the intentionality of human life, education and skill development become more substantial as means to glorify God and serve His people. I still remember pondering during my higher secondary classes, “Lord, if the Bible doesn’t ask me to study maths and science, why should I learn these complex theories and intricate ideas?” When 17th century German Astronomer Kepler said that learning and discovering laws behind the universe are about “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”, he was able to see the purpose behind pursuing knowledge. Learning can be much more joyful if we perceive it rightly.
You might be a student of arts, science, commerce, management or any other discipline. To make your knowledge and skill set relevant to human needs around us (a.k.a. job market demand), I propose 3 sets of skills that can be nurtured.
1. Systems Oriented Skills
These are skills associated with your expertise in the domain that you are interested to work in. It can be categorised into two: Core and allied skills. Core skills are those must-do skills for the required job while allied are those that aid the task to be done efficiently. Some examples are given below (kindly figure out for your own domains)
Developing both sets of skills is decisive in getting into jobs that you desire. Some of the ways in acquiring industry relevant skills are:
a. Internships in companies (paid/unpaid) based on the length of your vacations. Even though companies might not have explicit internship opportunities, use your networks or referrals to get such opportunities. LinkedIn can help in building networks.
b. Online Courses have made learning easier, accessible and flexible. Udemy, Coursera and EdX provide quality content with certifications at a reasonable cost from premier universities.
c. Clubs in campuses related to your subjects can make learning fun and experiential. I vividly recollect memories of a batchmate who built small cars as part of Team Unwired (Engineering & Technology Club). Today, he is the founder of an upcoming electric bike company.
d. Live projects of faculties can be rare opportunities to enrich your experience in hands-on knowledge of subjects and to publish research papers. (Hence build good relationships with them!)
2. People Oriented Skills
Organisations are looking for those who can collaborate and be team players. It is here where our EU fellowships play a big role. The upbringing in EU fellowships include leading Bible studies, mentoring, working in teams, serving each other selflessly and giving generously. These engagements build deeper qualities in our EU students that are often not found elsewhere. Several college activities such as sports, music clubs, group assignments, college festivals and other initiatives are also fertile ground to build these skills. I would like to recommend a skillset that’s badly missing these days: reading newspaper and good books. It will not only enrich us and help us understand the times, but also relate with people from diverse backgrounds.
Here are a few people skills the industry is looking for as suggested by Forbes:
It is interesting to note that many of these values are actively promoted by the Bible. The world out there is implicitly acknowledging the divine wisdom in the Word when they incorporate the value of ‘Servant leadership’ in a prominent software development model known as AGILE. A true Christian will innately build these values as they grow in the Lord in the company of believers and the institution of a local Church.
3. Self-oriented skills
These are skills that prepare you for changing environments, newer challenges and untrodden paths at your workplace. Some examples are:
When our workplace becomes more than a routine chore that earns us a monthly salary, and instead the fulfilment of a calling of a lifetime, that passion will enable us to face new challenges.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE: GETTING A JOB AFTER GRADUATION
Getting a job after graduation requires more than expertise in the domain. Here are some tips to catch the attention of the recruiter and to communicate your skillset.
- Creating a catchy resume using free online tools such as www.canva.com or www.overleaf.com and don’t forget to mention the 3 set of skills you have made. Share it with seniors who are engaged in senior managerial levels for feedback.
- Maintain an active LinkedIn account with articles/features from your academic background.
- Talk to professionals who are engaged in similar jobs. UESI family has a wide pool of all sorts of professionals who can share their story with you.
- Job referrals are a much easier way of getting a job than a walk-in-interview. Hence keep talking to people in your circles, and feel free to reach out to extended relatives or mutual friends to see if there are opportunities in your area of interest.
- Practicing mock interviews before the actual interview will build confidence. Steps such as preparing potential questions, reading in depth about the company/organisation and checking current affairs material related to your domain will help.
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: FREELANCING, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND GOVT SERVICES
Freelancing is where you get paid for the specific work delivered. With the rise of ‘gig economy’ in India, it is home to second fastest growing freelance market in the world with an estimated 15 million freelancers. Very few within our UESI circles take the road of freelancing, entrepreneurship or government services out of the fear of failure and risk. Here is where informed decisions can be taken through conversations with people who have gone ahead of you in these domains. Many in our EU circles are impact making entrepreneurs in domains such as IT services, banking, development sector, industrial automation and livelihoods. Likewise, many are employed in All India services, central services and state services across the nation, striving towards public good. Remember that you are not stand-alone individuals but those standing on the shoulders of giants who have gone ahead within the body of Christ.
CAVEATS & THE WAY AHEAD
Many of the North Indian states (especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities) have job opportunities with lack of good human resources and hardly any Christian presence. As the ‘salt of the earth’, prepare yourself with the right skill sets to prevent decay and promote prosperity in these parts of India with your time, talent and intellect.
Let me conclude here with a caveat. Timothy Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods quotes, “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’” Finding our identity in Christ alone, let us walk as sojourners and pilgrims on earth, imitating Christ in love and service through our vocation/work.
Dipin V Panicker is a software engineer turned policy consultant working with Govt of Meghalaya in the area of skill development, livelihoods and entrepreneurship. He is married to Rijo Ann Varghese who is an IT professional. He is currently the Chairperson of EU2EGF Transition Task Group, NEGF Committee, UESI.