Graduating in 2021

Until this year, I used to think batches graduating in 2009 and 2002 would have found the employment market tough going.

2021/22 puts all other years in the shade, and that is an understatement.

One of the students graduating this year from the Gokhale Institute, Devansh, asked if I have any advice to share for their batch.

Here it is, make what you will of it:

  1. A quote that is usually attributed to Mark Twain goes something like this: swallow a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. We don’t know if he actually said it (probably not), but the one good thing about graduating this year, of all years, is that the same principle is at play. Might not seem like it now, but in the long run, graduating this year will stand you in good stead.
  2. If the future is about working remotely, you stand half qualified already. We have had lectures, examinations, seminars, job interviews all move online, and we’re now veterans when it comes to having your work be online. Exploit this fact to your advantage while landing a job, while in your job, and for moving across jobs.
  3. At the margin, you’ve probably (and hopefully) learnt that there is nothing especially sacrosanct about learning from us professors in offline classrooms. In fact, you’ve probably confirmed a long-held suspicion: learning online is actually easier.
    A healthy dose of “what gives you the right to tell me?” isn’t a bad thing to have at the start of your career (please don’t ignore the adjective in this sentence!)
  4. You’ve also likely learnt how to hunt down the answer to your question online. This trend has been around for a while, but the pandemic has accelerated it. Get better at it than you already are, and try and do this everyday.
  5. Think like an economist. Understand that the supply of certificates for having completed online courses has gone up, and that exponentially. Therefore, there is a reduction in the value of those certificates. Get them if you must, but there is not much value in flaunting them.
  6. Continue to think like an economist. What is in short supply is work experience. There is a glut in showing that you have learnt. The doing, in other words, is in short supply. So do! Take publicly available data and crunch the numbers in MS-Excel. Put it up for public consumption. And that is just one example – there are literally millions and millions of things you can do.
    I’m not buying the “But I’m not Professor Damodaran!” argument. There is only one Musings on Markets, and nobody is expecting you to be as good as him. But begin by recreating his files, if nothing else. What works for writing works for spreadsheets as well!
  7. This year will teach you to think like a hedger, rather than a speculator. There is a lot of merit to taking care of the potential downsides first. Remember this lesson, for it is a valuable one.
  8. Your batch will, more than any other, appreciate the value of a face-to-face meeting. It’ll be that rarest of rare years where folks (eventually, not right now) will want offline meetings to take place. I look forward to learning from all of you about the underrated aspects of meetings. And I mean that quite seriously.
  9. Pay it forward. Cast your mind back to the start of this academic year, July 2020. Think about how daunting this year has been, and think about how you could have done with a steadying hand on your shoulder. Your juniors are going to be in the same boat a couple of months from now. Reach out to them, mentor them, and let them know that there’s help available if its needed. Who better than you to know the feeling? What better way to build out your network?
  10. Finally, all the best! God knows you guys have earned all the luck that will come your way.