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All you need is one unit of English.

Published about 1 year ago • 2 min read

You must be living under a rock if you don't know that I actively post videos on YouTube these days. But do you know what is the one question I am asked the most in the comments?

English has evolved beyond being just a language. It is now considered a skill based on which recruiters hire and reject candidates. One does need English. However, the understanding that one needs to speak like Shashi Tharoor is wrong. Let's understand why.

What do you work as?

If you want to succeed in your career, you need to have a certain level of English proficiency. A common statement, right?

But this level of proficiency varies based on your profession. For instance, a journalist would need at least 3 units of English, whereas an author would need more, around 5-6 units of English. A programmer or a financial analyst would only require 1 unit of English.

What does one unit of English mean?

It means that you should be familiar with the technical terms related to your field. For example, if you are a programmer, you should be familiar with terms like React, Redux, server, client, system, browser, and internet, and you should be able to define them in English.

Similarly, if you are a financial analyst, you should be familiar with terms like balance sheet, income statement, profit, dividend, revenue, and so on. You don't need to have fancy or ornamental English. It should just be a medium of communication.

Having one unit of English is enough when you have vertical skills.

Vertical skills are the specific skills related to your profession. The vertical skill of a web developer is basically their tech stack or programming language. The vertical skill of financial analysts lies in their ability to create, analyze, and forecast financial statements.

A horizontal skill like English is only useful in the presence of vertical skills.

Let's try to understand this idea with an example.

Prajwal has 1 unit of English and 8 units of programming skills, while Tanay has 1 unit of English and 10 units of programming skills. Ankita, on the other hand, has 1 unit of English and 0 programming skills.

If a recruiter had to choose between Prajwal and Ankita, they would clearly select Prajwal because he has the vertical skill of programming. The recruiter, in this scenario, wants a programmer, and whoever satisfies that criterion gets hired.

Tanay and Prajwal would be hired based on their programming skills, and Ankita would not be hired because she does not have any vertical skills, even though she knows English.

Only when there are no vertical skills, recruiters have to hire based on English.

Let's go over it again.

In India, most people only have one unit of English. If you look at your neighbors and relatives who have been working in offices for years, none of them speak ornamental English.

That much English is enough for you as well.

Learn the basic terms, and you can manage with Hindi, no issues at all.

I know what you are thinking now. What about interviews then? One has to speak English in interviews.

In technical rounds, you will not face any difficulty because you have vertical skills, and know all the necessary terms. You will be able to answer technical questions. Sorted.

The remaining HR questions can be practiced beforehand. You can do a quick Google Search of commonly asked HR round questions, find their answers, and practice them until it starts feeling easy.

TL;DR
Build vertical skills that showcase your depth and expertise. No recruiter will then care about which language you speak.

Till next time

I have started writing more about education, hiring, and entrepreneurship these past few days. I hope you have been liking the transition, and obviously, the letters. Do share what else you would like me to write about.

You can reply to this email or tweet and tag me @tanaypratap.

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tanaypratap's letters

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

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