Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Reading Practice

Buying school books at the beginning of a new year was always something I looked forward to. The smell of fresh books, with their shiny covers and crisp pages, has always been an obsession. In grade five, when my books arrived, there was something new amongst them. There was a thick (at least it felt thick at that time) story book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and it was out of sheer curiosity that I picked up that book. I was already hooked on as I read the first few pages! It was magical! I imagined Charlie, his house, the way he had to starve, how he must have felt when he won that golden ticket, and then the Oompa Loompas, Willy Wonka, and his magical chocolate factory! I finished the book in four days! But I was hungry for more! This book was my gateway drug. It has been almost fifteen years since I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I have read hundreds of books since then. My teachers, my parents, and everyone around me appreciated me for my reading habits.
However, when I look around I today I see parents handing over IPads and Tabs to their kids. I barely see any kids, at least the ones I know, interested in reading. Yes, they are good with their studies and yes, they get good grades but they have no idea who Thomas Hardy was or who wrote Pride and Prejudice. Why is reading so important? How is our generation different from the up-coming one? What do books have that movies don’t? While I was teaching I used to ask my students to read Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code etc. and they used to retort back with the same clich├ęd answer that we have already seen the movie. So, I come back to the question I initially raised: What do books have that movies don’t?
                While it is true that reading a book takes you way longer than watching a movie but there are several advantages that reading presents. Most importantly, for young minds- it is important to make sure that they are imaginative and creative. While reading a book, a person imagines characters and situations, he/she forges links about situations and in truth plays the scene in his/her mind. Movies present one person’s depiction of the way the characters should be. The scenes and situations are a portrayal of that one person’s perception; therefore, there is an inherent bias when it comes to movies. For example, I never expected Willy Wonka to look the way Johnny Depp acted him out. I am not saying that it was bad. I am just saying that this wasn’t what I ‘imagined’ him to be like. So kids, who have seen the movie, will forever imagine Willy Wonka to be the way he was represented. And if anyone of the kids, who has seen the movie tries reading the book, he/she would not be able to imagine a different Willy Wonka. Therefore, the imagination factor has to be considered. We should let the children imagine what they want their favorite characters to be like and not induce a ready-made image in their minds.
                Secondly, when you read books you pick up new words, you learn new phrases, and you learn how to present your own thoughts. While I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory I remember consulting the Oxford Dictionary several times for there were words like: perplex, ludicrous, and loathe which, at my age, I couldn’t for my life fathom the meanings of. Also in some cases I noted that while reading some difficult words, I could easily guess the meaning of the word from the context that it was being used in. This was an attribute that I learnt through reading and one that I use even today. It was while reading that I realized the importance of vocabulary. I remember that when I was in grade eight I picked up Thomas Hardy’s novel “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. I read the first page and couldn’t get a word so I put it down, some days later I picked it up again and still couldn’t get anything and it was on the third attempt that I decided that I have to get past the first page and with the help of a dictionary I was successful. When I did get past the first page I was instantly captivated by the storyline. Today, Mayor of Casterbridge is one of my favorite novels.
                Thirdly, books are tiny knowledge houses. When you read books like ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘Da Vinci Code’, you not only enjoy the storyline, but also learn about such significant and diverse subjects like the French Revolution and religion. So, when I read Da Vinci Code I was prompted to research more about the Knight Templars and Free Masons. When a child comes across something like this it triggers his/her curiosity to learn more about the subjects touched upon in a book. Generally, when I tell this to my students the answer is: “Sir! We have Google and Wikipedia! Why do we need books?” While this is a valid question we need to consider one important factor here. How many of us generally go on Google and write terms like French revolution or Knight Templars until we have been prompted to do so by a teacher? Google and Wikipedia are used majorly by students attempting to do their assignments. While by reading books you get automatic triggers and learning about something that you are actually interested in is much better than doing a boring history assignment at 3 AM.
                Parents of this generation need to understand the importance of reading. While it is true that there are many distractions for the children these days like IPads, TV, Cell phones, and Laptops, the parents need to work on their child’s reading habits as well and make sure that they read books that stimulate their minds and make them more imaginative beings. The screen time should be minimal and their reading time maximum.  

Three things to ask for when you get the interview call

The moment we get the call announcing, “your interview will take place on…” we start fretting, worrying, and getting all nervous in anticipation of how we will do in the interview. Most of us start thinking in terms of what to wear, from shoes to our ties, and from make-up to the hand-bag that we will be carrying. Interviews are more than just dressing up and looking pretty and/or handsome. This article will provide strategies of how to deal with the interview call.

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind is that you should begin the strategizing process the moment you get the call. There are few very important questions that you need to keep in mind when you pick up the phone and make sure that you ask these questions straightaway. Keep your cool, the person on the other side is a human as well and he or she is NOT the one judging you, at least not on the phone call. The first thing you should ask for is the name of the caller so that if you need to call back for some more information you should know at least who called you. If possible, note this down somewhere along with the number/extension from which you got the call.

Know the Job Description
During the call make sure that you ask for the Job Description (JD) in detail. The person calling you might seem reluctant in giving away too many details. One reason for this might be that he or she has to make a dozen more calls and, therefore, does not want to spend too much time on one call. However, try to be polite and wheedle out as much information as you can. Knowing the JD is critical. Why? Because you have to tailor all your experiences to fit that specific JD! For example, if you organized an event where three hundred people took part in, you can modify it differently for each JD and for each department, so for instance if you apply for:
Finance “I had to manage the finances for the event. In total we raised $XYZ and I had to allocate this amount to the boarding, lodging, activities, and social activities budget heads. I did so by using Microsoft Excel and then conducted regular budgetary checks to ensure that the amounts for each budget head were sufficient. At the end of each day I shared this data wih the event heads and ensured that everyone was strictly restraining to the budget allocated”
Marketing “For the event we needed a total of $XYZ. I made a list of sponsors who will be willing to contribute for our event. By approaching each sponsor with the event proposal and presentation we convinced JHT, KJY, and TYU to sponsor our event.”

Therefore, it is critical that you know the JD. Also, it is certain that you will be asked about it during the interview. So, make sure that you have the memorized the entire JD. Also, after the call Google the JD and see what is required of you.

Know thy Interviewer
During the call make sure that you request for the name of the Interviewer, in some cases you will get the name of the Interviewer instantly, in some cases you will have to badger the caller a little. Why is it important to know who the Interviewer is? Knowing the person who is interviewing you will help you prepare better. So, once you get the name of the Interviewer go on the internet and Google the shit out of him/her. Most professionals have LinkedIn profiles these days which reveal a great deal about them from their professional experiences to their skills and from their career objectives to their interests. EVERYTHING. If you are smart you can take a great deal from their profiles. If they have written research papers, articles, and blogs- Go through them. Know their psyche. Know what interests them and then try to model your answers based on what they would like to see in a candidate. Plus if during the interview you can quote what they said about a particular subject it would prove to them that you are actually interested in job and you made an effort.

Know the Misc.
While some callers will tell you to bring the resumes and related documents, some won’t .Ask specifically for the documents that you are required to bring along. After you get to know the documents require- Get a file. Organize your documents. If possible make a separate file for all papers that you have written, this will show your preparedness for the interview. Have at least three copies of your resume, tailored according to the JD, neatly stapled, and put in file covers already. It is always impressive as an Interviewer to see that the candidate is meticulous and well prepared for the interview. Know that an interview is the gateway, and for you to clear the gateway you should be excellent and impeccable. During the call, ask for the timings and the place of the interview. Ask also for the floor you are required to come to. This will save you a lot of last minute hassle. Try to be there at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

© Junaid Shafqat Interview Skills and Resume Writing Material, 2014