tanaypratap's letters

All we can learn from government job aspirants

Published 4 months ago • 3 min read

Do you know what Indian students are best at? Don’t read ahead and try to take a guess.

It’s not programming, finance, or marketing. It’s aptitude.

Lakhs and crores of students apply and prepare for government exams every year. They all are extremely hardworking and they are amazing at solving aptitude-based questions - questions that you and I would fail to solve.

Although the odds of cracking a government job is one in tens of thousands, these students have much that we can learn from. (Kids hoping to enter the private sector, I am looking at you.)

the patience and rigor

All of us have that distant cousin who is preparing for UPSC - the one who never attends any family functions and who has been trying to crack the exam for years now.

The average number of years it takes to crack a government exam is 3.

Do we have that kind of patience to prepare for private jobs?

I have observed so many students who start expecting jobs within months or even days of taking up a skill.

Whereas these government exam aspirants stay at it for years, making attempts, trying again and again - probably that’s why it’s called “cracking” the exam because it takes that many continuous, repeated hits.

Moreover, they only get a chance to take the exam once or twice a year. In private jobs, you can take an interview almost every week.

You need to invest time to get significant results. There is no other way. And these government exam students understand that.

the fear of repetition

Last week, I told my gym instructor that I wouldn’t do 15 reps of an exercise. Just one or two. He should forget about sets - not happening.

You would think I have gone crazy. Because to build muscles, it requires repetition. You do the same exercises for months and years to get results.

Yet, we forget about it when it comes to preparing for private sector jobs.

You talk to any programming fresher. Ask them how many if-else problems they have solved. How many functions they have written? The number would hardly ever cross single digits. When the foundations are not strong, the skill doesn’t develop well.

Moreover, these kids want novelty every other day. It reminds me of the story of the thirsty crow. The crow did not jump pots just after throwing one or two stones. It was a boring task but it continued till the water rose high enough.

Students who are preparing for programming jobs learn front-end development for a week. Then they switch to mobile development, then Android for a few months, and whatnot. They keep changing the metaphorical pot, without persisting long enough to let the water rise.

Think of the government exam aspirant now. The same subjects, the same topics, the same syllabus for years - yet their dedication keeps on growing.

the necessary mindset shift

We are a country with a low cost of living and high Internet penetration. A kid in the USA cannot stay at their family’s home and prepare for years. An Indian kid can, and I must add, with the support of parents. Our parents understand that every good thing takes time. It’s us who don’t.

To break it down in detail, here’s what a government exam aspirant’s 4-year journey looks like:

Year 1: They give the exam just to understand and get a feel of the environment and task at hand.

Year 2: They have started their prep but they know that there’s only a slight chance that they will crack the exam.

Year 3: They understand how they can solve the questions within the time duration. The hopes increase.

Year 4: They finally start feeling confident of their chances.

Government job aspirants don’t measure their growth in days or months. Neither do they hope for good results from the start itself.

There is a saying in Hindi that goes something like this:

करत-करत अभ्यास के जड़मति होत सुजान। रसरी आवत-जात ते सिल पर पड़त निशान॥

It means that a delicate rope can make indentations on a hard rock with enough persistence.

Persist and see the results. Keep jumping ships and end up nowhere.

The framework is clear - equally applicable to cracking private jobs as government jobs.

Spend time. Build depth. Don’t be scared of repetition.

till next time

The idea of writing this newsletter is to share my perspectives on education and career growth. I hope I am able to do that. I understand that it might make sense to some people, whereas it might irk others. But even if it helps one student out there, I will be content. So, please subscribe and share it with anyone who may need it.

tanaypratap's letters

I write about mentorship, education, tech, career, and startups.

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