Letter to graduates

Bhutanese Blogger

“Bhutanese Blogger” left a comment on “Leadership of the Self”, a post targeted at this year’s graduates.  In his comment (don’t ask how I know his gender) – which happens to be a letter he’d posted on his blog last year – he talks about career choices, the need to develop a strong resume, the importance of cultivating useful networks, entrepreneurship and further studies.

These are, indeed, some important issues that our graduates should ponder. So I’m reproducing his comment here to allow graduates to access it easily.

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This was written in 2009. Some figures have changed since then.

Dear Graduates

An unemployment level of 4%, prospects of a smaller civil service and the layoffs in the private sector aren’t good news for you all. Our job market has become more challenging in recent times.

All of you sound incredibly talented and well grounded, and I am sure that your expectations are realistic. You don’t normally graduate again. So take some time to assess where you want to go on from here but be ready to be disappointed in your search.

For many reasons, everybody aspires to work in the civil service. Yes – it provides wide ranging opportunities – from attending to the public to working on a national policy – but you can also become a clone (a typical civil servant who is satisfied with life). So be sure that you have good networking skills – they are useful at all stages and places. You should also have a huge supply of tolerance and patience to see you through long meetings, demanding bosses and people who complain how inefficient civil servants are. If you have good ideas – better. If you don’t have any – be open and willing to explore. Work hard, voice your thoughts and take initiatives (although these may not be demanded of you). Avoid the temptation of being a ‘YES’ man and develop a reputation for delivering results.

But if you are entrepreneurial and enjoy working really hard, consider working for a private company or starting something new. All you need is a good idea and a lot of passion. You will develop commercial skills that will place you well to take advantage of our economy which is being liberalised. And Bhutan needs more entrepreneurs. With our Government committed to developing the sector, the opportunities will only increase.

Another option is to go for higher studies but personally, I think, a few years of working experience makes pursuing a post-graduate degree more enriching. And you could still be looking for work after three years.

But if you aren’t interested in any of these, there is yet another career path you could choose –

You have a degree and qualify to to represent your people in the national assembly. Network and develop your political capital. Go home and establish your credentials. I hear that being an MP isn’t a difficult job. My convictions come from desiring to see or hear of something substantial done by the MPs. I could be wrong. But you have a good opportunity to prove that MPs need more talents than just the ability to be either garrulous in their arguments or subservient in their conduct.

Finally as you start looking for jobs, enhance your CV either by volunteering your time or learning something new. Now is the time to meet people, question and learn as much as you can. As you mature – you are expected to know something and lose that liberty to ask questions.

And maintain lots of positivity and modest levels of overconfidence (overconfidence does help).

All the best.

Good job

The prime minister, in his State of the Nation address, on employment:

I am pleased to report to the Hon’ble Members that a total of 320,900 are now employed. This shows that 96.69% of our workforce is employed leaving an unemployment rate of 3.3%, marking a downward movement for the first time in recent years. This indicates very clearly that this government is well on track to achieve its ambitious target of 2.5% unemployment rate in the next three years with a huge labour market in the making.

This is good news. After all, unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is one of our biggest concerns.

Working women

working women

Wonder women

A good 52% of the participants in our last poll said that we do not discriminate against our women. But 44% said that our women do face discrimination. And the rest, that’s hardly 4%, said that they couldn’t tell.

A majority of us feel that our women do not suffer discrimination. That’s good. And that must be so. After all, our society is, more or less, matriarchal; inheritance favours daughters; men move in with their wives; wives don’t take their husbands’ names; widows and divorcees can remarry; and our laws protect women.

For these reasons, and many more, we pride ourselves in having the least amount of discrimination against women among all the countries in South Asia. Some of us even boast that our women are better off than those of many advanced nations.

But wait. Let’s look at employment, an issue that is becoming increasingly important in all our lives. Let’s look at jobs. And let’s look at what we consider to be the most attractive jobs – the public service.

The civil service has 19,835 regular employees. Of them, only 6,166 are women. That is, women account for barely 31% of the civil service. Or, in other words, the civil service currently employs less than one woman for every two men. Suddenly, the situation does not appear too good, does it?

But it gets worse: of the 181 executive level civil servants – that’s directors and above – only 8 are women. Of the 50 specialists, only 6 are women. And only one of the secretaries to the government is a woman.

And worse: the heads of all, but one, of the government owned corporations are men.

And worse still: we have never had a woman as a dzongdag. We have never had a woman as an ambassador. And we have never had a woman cabinet minister.

Our first Parliament is dominated by men. Of the 72 members, only 10 are women. And all its leaders – Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the National Council, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, leader of the ruling party, and leader of the opposition party – are men. The secretaries general of both the houses are men.

Only one of our 205 gups is a woman.

Now ask yourself again: do we discriminate against our women?

Our next poll is straightforward. I want to know how often we go to our villages.

World No Tobacco Day

Well, no tobacco

Well, no tobacco

Eighty seven people participated in the poll on unemployment. And 75 of them, a whopping 86%, said that unemployment is already a big problem. We need to do a lot more to generate gainful employment. And to make our youth feel more hopeful about their futures.

 I’ve been talking to many youth about their hopes and aspirations, their ambitions and careers, and their fears and insecurities. And about unemployment. I’ll start featuring some of their stories in future entries.

But today, 31 May 2009, is World No Tobacco Day. So I’m reminded of our earlier attempts to discourage tobacco consumption in our country. And of our government’s continuing commitment to ban the cultivation, manufacture and sale of tobacco and tobacco products as proposed in the Tobacco Control Act, which will be tabled for discussion in the third session of parliament.

This week’s poll asks you if a prohibition on the sale of tobacco products is a good idea.

A second chance…

During the Nasscom annual strategy meeting held in Thimphu last week, Narayana Murthy, Infosys Chairman, announced that he would train 100 Bhutanese in his company. The offer is timely and, if used well, would be the first significant step towards creating the knowledge and skills base required to develop a viable ICT industry in Bhutan.

A similar offer was made by Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s PM, during his visit to Bhutan in June 2005. The visiting PM “…commended the Bhutanese’s versatility with the English language…” and publicly announced that he would be prepared to employ many Bhutanese as English teachers in Thailand. How many have been employed so far? Zero. Why? Because no one was given and no one took the lead to followed up with the Thai government. No one – not RCSC, not BCCI, not Foreign Ministry, not MOLHR – no one.

So this time let’s not squander the opportunity. Let’s get serious. Let’s make full use of Mr Murthy’s offer. Let’s begin by signing an MOU between Infosys and the government. Then let’s start the selection process.

At the least, Mr Murthy’s offer would be a welcome respite for our recent graduates, many of whom are concerned of looming unemployment.

An overqualified sweeper?


Meet Sonam Choden. She’s 20 years old.

She completed Class X from Motithang High School in 2005. A year later, she did a six month certificate course in IT at RIIT.

She’s employed as a sweeper in the National Assembly.

Unemployment is real. It’s serious. And it’s growing.