Professional development opportunities such as scholarships, mentorships and internships play a key role in shaping up aspirations, capability and confidence of students.
Our thesis with Opportunity Project has been that undergraduate students are unable to leverage such opportunities not because they are not smart, but because
- They do not know about opportunities
- They do not have guidance on how to go about it
- They don’t believe they can secure such opportunities
I recently came across the term “Opportunity Gap” which made perfect sense.
“Opportunity gap” refers to the fact that the arbitrary circumstances in which people are born — such as their race, ethnicity, ZIP code, and socioeconomic status — determine their opportunities in life, rather than all people having the chance to achieve to the best of their potential.
Taking the case of students in Kerala alone, I can easily see how they are unable to leverage opportunities just because they are in a certain geographical location or are studying in a particular university. While students studying in IITs and NITs enjoy the privilege of their university brand, students here have to cover for that as well. By virtue of studying in a city that has a rich working culture and brings forth tons fo opportunities, students in metros have better access to internships and jobs.
From my own personal instance, I studied in GEC Thrissur and Thrissur as a city doesn’t have a lot of options for exposure/learning. Students there are quite off from mainstream activity and to be involved in the happening things, one would have to travel to Cochin or Trivandrum. Having realised this, I started spending my weekends attending meet-ups or sometimes organising them in Cochin. This simple activity opened up lot more access to people, networks and opportunities for me. I eventually started receiving information about scholarships/other programs from my new network and discovered people I could collaborate with on projects.
If I were to converge on a keyword that would help bridge the opportunity gap or inequality, it would be “Exposure”. If you have to travel to Cochin, Bangalore or even the US to get yourself the right exposure and opportunities, then you absolutely must figure out how to get yourself there. If you know that working for a company/person will get you closer to your aspirations, then figure out how to work alongside them. And when posed with an opportunity to get further exposure to the world beyond what you know, take it with both hands and make use of it.
If we wait for the systems to get updated and for opportunities to be ubiquitous, time will fly by and we’ll continue to remain right where we are. It is on us to put ourselves in places and amongst people that would widen our knowledge, access and ability.