Describe yourself – the best approach

 “Tell me about yourself” can be an overwhelming question to answer. “So, tell me about yourself.”

It’s one of the most ubiquitous interview questions, and often one of the most difficult. With such a wide breadth of possible answers, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

Hint: If your go-to response includes a run-down of where you grew up or what you studied in college, you’ve probably already lost your interviewer.

While the hiring manager does want to get to know you, at this point they are only focused on figuring out if you’re the right person for the job — and your most critical task is showing them that you are, writes Skip Freeman, the CEO of executive search group Hire to Win, in a recent LinkedIn post.

To prevent hurting your chances before the interview even warms up,  Freeman breaks down this question into a simple three-part response that will hook the interviewer without inundating them with unnecessary details. Here’s his technique:

  • Part 1: Start with a condensed version of your career history. Try and keep it as concise as possible, Freeman suggests.
  • Part 2: Next, give a brief summary of a specific achievement to capture the interviewer’s interest. “It must be an accomplishment that can easily be explained and/or illustrated,” Freeman says. “Plus, it must also highlight a ‘bottom-line’ impact for the potential employer.”
  • Part 3: Conclude with a few definitive sentences about what you hope to accomplish next in your career — but make sure it’s relevant to the position you’re interviewing for, Freeman warns.

Here’s an example from Freeman of a good one-minute response:

“I am a five-year veteran of LAN/WAN administrflowers 1ation and systems engineering, with substantial experience using a variety of contemporary business software systems.

“Recently, as a long-term contract employee at a local regional bank, I learned that the bank was about to install a particular software system and was planning to use an outside firm for the project. I let them know that I had done a similar installation at my last assignment, outlined how we could get the job done with in-house staff, and successfully completed the installation for $55,000 to $65,000 less than it would have cost with outside consultants.

“For the next step in my career, I would like to move away from contract work and find myself as a direct employee of a large firm where I can join a substantial IT team and be involved with a group that focuses on email and network security applications, while having access to the knowledge base that would come with a large, diverse IT group.”

Instead of giving the hiring manager a broad overview of who you are, show why you’d be a great fit for the position. “Y ou will clearly and quickly brand yourself as a true professional, someone who knows the value of what you have to offer a potential employer,” Freeman says.

On Line Education

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The world is moving on and we too. India introduced information technology (IT – computers and internet) in governance and is now pressing the throttle on it. IT is already a mission critical enabler in the corporate sector. Therefore, its limping status in the world of education, particularly in the rural areas is a bit of harassment. It should quickly catch up with the others.

Drivers and Dampers

One may ask whether it is due to the lack of awareness of older teachers, lack of funds, absence of electricity, unreliability of knowledge databases that are held online, or simply lack of government initiative. The students are already using computers, internet and mobiles in day-to-day life. Unless we start using computers in schools, we will never know what we really want out of them.

Yes, some institutes have adopted distance learning, but this is for reducing their permanent expenses on teacher salaries rather than for providing quality and flexible education for the students. Bright students, who fail to cross the obstacles of reservations, may be compelled to choose on line education. They could very easily do it for informal professions or vocations; areas where certification or degrees are not required. Who knows it might become a blessing in disguise. Who knows, the government may become lenient, driven by the volume of illiteracy rather than by their own initiative, in allowing examinations, certifications, valediction etc for on-line studies. But these should not become the drivers for on-line education.

One could present an argument that on-line education needs intensive investments, but if Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister in UP can spare 1.5 million laptops for the students, where is the hitch then. Recently, there was an amusing cartoon of a female teacher coming to the CM to get the laptop battery charged, because there was no electricity in the village for many days.

How to Deploy Computers for Education

In the USA, some new initiatives have been experimented with, and with astounding success. The K-8 and K-12 programs are the online versions of education for the Kindergarten to 8th or 12th year of education. K-8 is a bit state oriented, but K-12 is universal. The well-recognised features and advantages of these programs are as follows

  • Anyone irrespective of age or qualification can get registered
  • Subjects can be selected at will, and a package created for himself by the individual
  • The system is highly standardized and well regulated by the authorities
  • Learning is individualized or customized for individual student, and has an individual learning plan
  • Pool of certified and motivated teachers, who can operate from within the confines of their homes, is made available
  • Home environment suits all, the teacher, taught and the parent. At high school level students are more independent and self-serving therefore they are serviced accordingly
  • The system incorporates, in person events for social interaction, and it needs interaction with other non-computerised systems
  • Students are already familiar with facebook, pinterest, twitter and other social networks. Instead of wasting time therein, time can be utilised for learning. One cannot deny that being on the networking sites delivers knowledge, even to elders.
  • On-line learning may have social inadequacies, how to tackle these may be a challenge but innovation and creativity can turn it around.
  • In fact, more time is available for social and sports activities because the travel times are reduced and the process of learning is optimised for efforts.
  • It is certainly a workaround for the handicaps propped up by reservations

On line Knowledge Databases

If the formal education systems are to depend on the computerised knowledge databases, then it is only imperative that these databases are authenticated and certified. The domain knowledge on the databases must be prepared by a team of qualified teachers or professors through an organised process. If authentic databases are available, and interactive webinars [1] are conducted by competent teachers, probably from a central remote location, there may not remain any inhibition using computers on line for formal education.

[1]  A webinar is a seminar conducted on the World Wide Web using the Internet, where numerous participants from all over the world can interact with the presenter as if they were all sitting in one room.

The Education Policy

cropped-201-03-02-my-books-009.jpgPolicy is the statement by the regulatory body or ministry of the government for use by all and sundry. It should be implementable, checkable and devoid of the need to revise frequently. In the absence of strict monitoring mechanisms, even the best of polices would lie dormant.

It should direct the education system for the good of the citizens and the country. It should discourage profit making by those who provide funds. Of course, reasonable profit making will not hurt anyone. It should define inclusivity targets for each level of education. If reservations are to be given their place, the politicians should lay down timeframes when reservations would stop. The policy must remain non-parochial and it should not be influenced by sectorial beliefs.

Education policy will become unwieldy if it attempts to go into the nitty-gritty of the content design, infrastructure, processes of admissions or examinations, the teaching methods or the selection of teachers. For these activities, executive bodies already exist in the country. In the past, political leaders and the executives have been accused of corruption in the recruitment of teachers, their placements, or for allotment of land for educational institutes; this speaks volumes of disinterest in the purpose of education.

In particular, the policy should lay down rules of engagement for the corporate who undertake educational ventures; what should be regulated and what kept to the discretion of the institutes.

The Core Issues in Policy

The fundamental issue in education is how to manage the large volumes for primary education, and how to fund the expensive infrastructure required for the higher education.

Doctrines and Targets – Educating is as much a political consideration as it is socio-economic. Every major change in political regime requires a relook at the education policy, particularly with two aspects in mind; inclusivity percentage and economic options such as manufacturing, agriculture or service sector.

Funding Methodology – Universal Primary Education requires mammoth funding since it must meet the conditions of inclusivity. Securing funding for this level is more difficult than for the higher levels because corporate does not see any returns from these undertakings. Charitable institutions are sporadic and temporary, and long-term dependence on them is unlikely. The policy should therefore elaborate on the rules of engagement, particularly for subsidies, taxation etc, so that funding for primary education can become win-win situation for all.

Belief System –If the government promotes itself as a secular state then it must ensure that the religious schools are restricted from tuning the young minds towards fundamentalism. A balanced view is required on the modern ethics, morality and law keeping in mind the attitudes of the modern youth. What must be encouraged and what not, must be laid down lucidly.

Polarisation – is a menace in our society, but if is allowed to influence the education curriculum or syllabuses it will bring in degradation in character for generations. Primarily these factors are religion, language, region and reservations.

Teachers – Primary education needs numerous teachers; able, noble and motivated. The policy must make provisions for recruitment of adequate teachers, with satisfactory compensations and reasonable timings for them. The role of women in teaching should not be oblivious to their role, commitments and responsibilities as mothers for their own children.

Computers and Internet – Although there is general proliferation of computers and internet in the society, there is still a large scope in deploying these technologies for education. In fact, there is no uniformity in how computers and internet are deployed in different schools, colleges and universities. Things are left to the fancy of individuals who show some knowledge of the subject. Conservative or fearful approach to information technology will hamper the optimisation that we could achieve in resource utilisation of teachers, facilities, and other aspects that require funding. The catch is that the knowledge imparted through these devices should be authentic, well paced, creative and not addictive. It should reduce the student’s burden on time, travel and expenses.

Meetings and Conclaves

The process of policymaking is important as well. Who makes these policies, what processes are followed for this exercise. The forums and conclaves, one could call them meetings, seminars or anything else, are generally attended by a lop-sided gathering. In official meetings, one sees the presence of corporate. In commercial seminars, business partners are present. The representation from administrators and teachers is generally scanty. The press is always present.

Participants of these high-level meetings are unaware of the grass root level issues and difficulties therefore their priorities are skewed. In one such meeting for primary education, a representative of the tribal area asked the logic for attaching proofs of residences for the tribal students in different forms, when such a document is not available in general. Another representative demanded the answer for charging the computers with electricity in remote villages where it was not available for days. And decision makers, were planning to introduce more automation in education at the remote schools!

Those attending such meetings have personal axes to grind, mangers looking for ease of implementation, intellectuals wanting to promote a certain subject, businesspersons looking at profit making avenues and regulator too thinking about joint ventures with the corporate. Speakers overstress a particular aspect as if their experience is more relevant and their recommendation just the perfect fit. The official seminars suffer from the authoritative attitude of those in the chair and hours are wasted for recording minutes of the meetings. Seminars, if commercial, have no standard method of submitting findings and proposals to the authorities. Imagine if hundreds of such conferences are conducted with hundreds of viewpoints, how a policy can be drafted.

The Direction of Meetings

In policy meetings, four issues are generally discussed, content, infrastructure, teachers and methods. Executive thinking of the government focuses on increasing the number of schools, conducting training on teaching methods, formulating innovative syllabi and improving the system of admissions and examinations as the props to good education. They are dead right. It is just that these are details not guidelines. The crux of the educational challenge is not merely dealing with the numbers or techniques, but the question whether our system is able to deliver to the society, individuals with the required traits of character and the ability to perform professionally.