I’ve been reflecting this month on my trip to India in 2015 and some of the common career issues that came up when visiting the school my church has been sponsoring since 2003. After conversations about this, the principal invited me to speak with the 9th and 10th grade students, which was a fun surprise and challenge. Yep, that’s my photo of them. It all reminds me that as different as groups may be with language and culture, we have quite a bit in common….something helpful for us to remember about humanity.
One shared pattern was the influence and wishes of parents on their children’s education and future. I certainly hear this with at least half of my career counseling clients. In India I learned of two divergent parental influences. In this poor, rural farming village, I learned many parents were discouraging their sons from finishing higher grades since they were needed on the farm. On the other end of the spectrum, I met a mother who said she would go without food to pay for school expenses. This mother was so proud of how many of her children later became teachers!
Another common thread was about whether school seems relevant to the tasks of actually earning a living. I remembered hearing frequently from engineering students at Carnegie Mellon who thought many of their courses would not be used and were simply hoops to go through. In the case of the India farming community, I was coached to share with students that a good education would enable them to write farming grants and that math would be needed to make calculations for crop planting calculations and efficiency.
A third common thread was the idea of nepotism and networking. I recall hearing that in India, it very difficult to get a job in the government unless you are related to someone. Here in the United States, I naturally encourage networking as a job search strategy with a 50-80% success rate. Networking is simply a foot in the door to get an interview. Hopefully in both countries, the employer wants to hire someone who can actually do the job well.
The reason I have been reflecting on my India experience is that I spent the last three months helping launch a crowdsource funding campaign for a rainwater harvesting facility for the school so students can have water with every meal. I hope you will take a moment to read the article that follows this.