Unveiling the Enigmatic Career Shifts: A Global Phenomenon of the 21st Century

The perfect past: From the nineteen sixties to the eighties, fresh graduates from various academic backgrounds, who then were first-time job seekers, got recruited for tailor-made jobs that fitted perfectly with their educational history. Employers, recruitment agencies and the job seekers themselves were on the same page following this single focused criterion. Hence, one who graduated in arts & crafts became a craftsman in their line, another who studied Ceramics successfully landed a job in a Ceramic industry, a metallurgist was absorbed in a ferrous/nonferrous manufacturing plant and so on. This ensured that the young recruit’s involvement with their job was whole and complete since what they did at work and what they had studied for fitted as a hand into a well-fitting glove. With time, gathering experience, the incumbents climbed the hierarchical ladder, assuming greater responsibilities, loving what they did, hence remained contended while employed with the same employer for a lifetime if they did not otherwise do a job switch. 

The NOW unsettling rumblings:  With the emergence of IT, there was a tyre squealing U turn to this logical reality. Today, globally, a great majority of graduates emerging from the conventional disciplines of arts, science, engineering, and management are constrained to accept jobs that has little to do with what they had studied and graduated. This reality blew on my face when I casually learnt from my regular cabby who usually drives me from home to the Heathrow airport, that he was indeed a qualified architect. I did not then know how to react, hence briefly nodded to assure that I had heard him. I feared that if I asked him why then was he driving a cab, I may have embarrassed him. I decided to do the asking on another trip. However, my curiosity was awakened. 

Being seismographic: Being a natural networker, I got into conversations with people I met, enquiring first what they did for a career/business and second what they had studied. I compared the two replies for a match and in most instances, there were none. Moreover, through this mismatch, I deduced something wrong from the embarrassed tone of voice of those in jobs that did not quite resonate with their academic specialisation.  

In search for an answer: However, I continued in my relentless questioning, sparing none of the people I met casually or at business, including clients, people networking at events, strangers at the post office standing with me in the queue, or a co-passenger in the tube-train or bus or even the technician who arrived home to attend to a faulty something. Strangely, the replies that I received from most was predictably the same. Thus, a post-graduate in Electronics, nostalgically recollected his student days ambition to teach at a college, instead later, he ended up as a salesperson in a home appliance store in Dubai. Likewise, a graduate in project management could do no better than to settle for the only option of selling fish & chips at a wayside eatery at Ealing Broadway. Another at Seattle, USA, qualified to be a textile designer, had to accept several part-time jobs to put food on the table for his family. To top it all, four of the six painters who arrived to paint my home, turned out to be graduate engineers with a bachelor’s! These are only a few examples from my exhaustive list. 

The revelation at last: With each of the people, I interviewed, I did not hesitate to enquire why they were doing what they were doing when they were qualified for something better? At first, they dodged the question coming up with a variety of reasons. Some did not seem to get the right opportunity. Others plunged into with friends at a mass overseas recruitment. A few responded (in a state of desperation) to a job vacancy advertised on a high-street shop window and were instantly appointed. A few others got jobs through the recommendation of a family member/friend that they reluctantly accepted to please the referrer. However, surface reasons apart, probing deeper, for the bottom line to this lop-sided situation in careers was this: those who found themselves in jobs far below what they deserved was because they failed in job interviews for entitled jobs!  

The Homecoming: To address this concerning trend and guide first-time job seekers effectively, I resumed training and mentoring after a gap of over fifteen years. My aim was to help individuals learn the essential skills needed to navigate any interview successfully and attain their desired positions with confidence. 

My primary goal was to identify the factors contributing to this regrettable trend. The following reasons immediately came to mind. 

The Conventional Belief: There is a prevailing notion that one should immediately secure employment upon graduating. The type of job or its nature is often deemed inconsequential as long as an individual spends eight to nine hours working away from home and earns a paycheck at the end of the month. Consequently, those who deviate from this belief are often criticized and even labelled as wasteful, aimless, or simply falling short of expectations. 

The double-edged sword: Campus recruitment, especially prominent in India, offers an excellent pathway to secure employment particularly to those qualified in IT. Whereas employers participating in this process, seek candidates with general skills to later train them to their requirement. This ensures that individuals with degrees in fields like civil engineering are placed in roles where they cannot directly apply their knowledge, hence relegated to unrelated blue-collar positions. This causes frustration and hence they leave for something else which could be nothing short of a compromise.  

The non-habit of thinking: A significant portion of students often do not contemplate their future or career path, assuming they will address it when the time comes. Moreover, parents and elders typically trust that educational institutions will ensure their child's employment, especially given assurances made during the admission process regarding guaranteed placement. However, when these students lack proper foresight and subsequently falter in campus interviews, their initial enthusiasm wanes, leading them to accept any available job out of necessity. For example, a father recently appointed his son, who holds a degree in computer science, as a Server/Waitstaff in the restaurant he manages. 

The herd mentality: When the time does arrive to take a career plunge, perhaps in the final semester or just after, it becomes a matter of convenience for a student to do what other students do and end up being poor fits to wherever they are. 

What then is the solution? It’s those well-trained students, with the best balancing of ingredients such as skills, knowledge, awareness, and the manner of presentation both in personal appearance and communication, non-verbal and verbal with sound resilience demonstrated during the job interviews, who are finally successful and selected in job interviews.  

The Perfect approach: A few students are proactive in both thinking and taking prompt action that would take them to where they want to go. Months before the academic term ends, they take time-off to do some quality thinking about what they wanted to do most in their career. Once they are clear in the mind, they research into which organisation in their line of expertise would give them the opportunity to exercise their knowledge and passion to the fullest. Zeroing in on that organisation, they research even deeper, in the context of their personal background, as to where and how they can add value to the organisation? Thirdly and importantly, they write to the organisation introducing themselves outlining what they can do. It is no surprise that the exercise did not go in vain from the replies received. The organisations gladly invited the students for an internship. In short, for a litmus test of the claims.   

Sell thyself: During the internship, the trainee’s market themselves most efficiently. They demonstrate the fine qualities by being punctual, communicative, respectful, responsible, taking accountability when given small tasks. In other words, acted as though they already are a part of that organisation. Therefore, several receive job-offers to join full time on graduating. Further, it comes as no surprise that some even get the dream opportunity of continuing association with their hosts in the interim period. In my experience, they were requested to work during the weekends on special futuristic projects. Hence, they travelled with enthusiasm every Friday evenings on these special assignments to return to college on Monday mornings. Many such students have risen to become captains in their industry. 

The fulcrum is in the finishing touch to give first-time job seekers, in the words of Archimedes, “the place to stand” for them “to move the world!”    

About the Author

The writer of this article is the author of ‘Becoming Recruitable’, his second book. He had fashioned the Finishing touch that launched many first -time job seekers into successful careers in the early part of this century! His first book ‘Mirror your mega success image’ reflects the spirit of this unique mission. Ash Nan can be reached at

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  • An excellent article focusing on the current immediate needs of hungry young wannabe professionals. The Author has clearly laid the current predicament threadbare and has addressed the needs by offering a safe way out to achieve their goals. Krish Gopal Senior Manager London School of Commerce (LSC), London.
  • Excellent article. Krish
  • This article paints a vivid picture of the evolving landscape of employment, contrasting the past where career paths were often directly aligned with academic backgrounds to the present where many find themselves in unrelated jobs. It highlights the disconnect between qualifications and job opportunities, shedding light on the frustration and compromise that often ensues. The author's dedication to investigating this phenomenon is commendable, particularly their proactive approach to seeking answers and offering solutions through training and mentoring. They identify various factors contributing to the mismatch between education and employment, including conventional beliefs, campus recruitment practices, lack of foresight, and the influence of herd mentality. The proposed solution emphasizes the importance of proactive thinking, research, and effective self-presentation during job searches, showcasing the success stories of students who have taken this approach. By encouraging first-time job seekers to take control of their career paths, the author advocates for a shift towards a more strategic and proactive mindset. Overall, this article provides valuable insights into the challenges facing today's job seekers and offers practical advice for navigating the complex world of employment. It underscores the importance of preparation, resilience, and self-advocacy in achieving career success in the modern era.