Raghav Agarwal, a first-year MBA student at the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, runs a free website along with his brother which provides previous year’s exam papers of about 15 Mumbai schools. Aim: To make exam preparations simpler.
Tucked neatly within the folds of charity, however, is a hard copy of his curriculum vitae.
Agarwal is among a growing number of students who are doing social work to make their CVs look better. Companies in India and universities abroad admit that they do take more kindly to those who take kindly to others.
“Giving back to society even when done with the intention of sprucing up the CV is a very positive thing because ultimately every contribution counts,” said 21-year-old Agarwal, who plans to work on completion of his MBA.
Education counsellor Viral Doshi catered to over two hundred students in the last academic year alone, all of who mentioned social work experience. He says the competition to study abroad is so intense that a lot of students end up applying with similar scores and recommendations. At that point, universities look at the student’s extra-curricular activities, including how they have given back to society.
“However, it is important for students not to get carried away by making false claims, as the actual involvement of the student in any initiative can be gauged from the essay they send with their applications,” said Doshi.
Companies agree social work is a plus on the resume. “We look to recruit individuals with a well-rounded personality. Participation in social work gives students a lot of vital practical exposure,” said P.S. Deepa, Manager, KPMG Advisory Service Private Limited. “On interaction with the candidate, we can gauge their extent of involvement.”
While the National Service Scheme has been there for decades, now institutions themselves are forming social work cells. The Social Responsibility Forum (SRF) at NMIMS University, Vile Parle, organises events like blood donation drives, tree plantation drives and a socio-economic business plan contest round the year. This year, 100 students are expected to enroll for such work, compared to 50 in the last year.
Sumit Kumar, a second-year NMIMS student, undertook a project on micro-finance with a team, which exposed them to the market situation in villages. “Listing my work on the CV certainly gives me an upper-hand once I have been shortlisted by a prospective employer,” he said.
Students of Welingkar Institute of Management, Matunga, had a three-hour lecture on corporate social responsibility from Ujjwal Banerjee. The enthusiastic students are already building up a Young India Rural Entrepreneurs Fund.
Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), a global non-profit organisation with its office at Springfield, Missouri, USA (India office is at Syntel, Seepz, Mumbai) encourages college students to formulate business models which make the community self-reliant. The college with the best project from each country is selected to participate in the international competition, judged by some of the biggest corporate houses in the world.
“Students associated with SIFE automatically get more attention from universities worldwide. Even companies prefer recruiting students with some background in the social sector because they know that in case of any emergency, they have a pocket of individuals who can always be banked on,” said Malathi Kembhavi, Country Head, SIFE India.
Jai Rohra, public relations head of the HR College SIFE team, said working for a social cause would add immense value to his CV because many companies ran community-based business models.
“SIFE, which is associated with multinationals like KPMG, Syntel, PWC, HSBC and Reliance Money, is a good opportunity to showcase your talent, as these companies are also looking out for prospective employees who know how to work in a team and have strong leadership skills,” he said.
However, not every student finds formulating business models easy. Many opt to assist established non-governmental organisations instead.
But groups like Akanksha insist on volunteers spending a few months at least teaching underprivileged children.
“We like to have stability here at Akanksha. The children wait in anticipation for the volunteers to come which is why we prefer if the volunteers are regular and take their work seriously,” Avantika Sinha, HR Manager, Akanksha.
Jumana Dohadwala (19) is the joint secretary, National Service Scheme, Jai Hind College. She is pursuing her SYBA with English honours for which she needs to compulsorily complete 30 hours of social work over nine months (one academic year). Being a member of the NSS also makes it mandatory for her to do another 40 hours over the same period.
However Dohadwala, having enjoyed her work so much with Akanksha, which involved helping the teachers there teach the children at Akanksha, far exceeded the minimum 70-hour requirement.
“There are those who do social work to spruce up their CVs and those who do it from their heart. I derive satisfaction from my work. If doing social work for one’s CV gives a student satisfaction then so be it,” she said.