Milestones

We’re born and then we die. But what defines our lives is everything that happens in between the being born and the dying. For the first few years of our lives our parents take the pains of celebrating every little milestone we reach – our first smile, first rollover, first crawl, first night without crying, first potty training, fully potty trained,…… Yes, some we wish weren’t recorded for posterity but it is the duty of parents to embarrass their children and the earlier you start the better. After the first few years, the novelty of a new baby fades and life and routine begin to take control and the celebration of milestones decreases.

Sometimes we refuse to see what all the fuss is about and slowly most milestones stop being marked in our lives until we feel that it is truly big enough to be celebrated. We succumb to peer pressure and begin to measure our success with society’s yardstick. As the years pass, the number of milestones that mark our lives, at least to us, begin to decrease.

As we age, we begin to lose the awe and wonder we held as kids for anything. Birthdays that were eagerly awaited and looked forward to all year round are slowly becoming days to detest. Acing an exam or a test, though harder now, don’t get the spot on the refrigerator it used to. We grow more critical of ourselves and only recognise our achievements and feats when it is first recognised by others. Happiness becomes something that comes from outside rather than from within ourselves.

This year has been a very big year for me. I’ve crossed some of the biggest milestones in my life. At the beginning of the year I got done with all my exams, the end of march brought to an end my time as an intern, in June I celebrated 25 years on this planet, in September I got featured on Freshly Pressed, I finished my thesis at the end of October, I got my first job offer in November, I finally finished my Masters in December and hit a 1000 followers this week. These are some of the biggest things that have ever happened to me. Things which, apart from the being featured on Freshly Pressed, will never happen to me again. Hence, the biggest milestones.

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YAY!!!

Yet, there have also been so many other smaller milestones along the way which I cannot forget and have given me immense joy. Every single like and comment on the blog, every single time that I spoke in German without a single mistake, every job application that I finished and sent, giving my very first job interview, touching down in Bangalore,… These are things that will continue to happen in my life but we give me the same joy as the bigger milestones.

I guess the other milestones are bigger because they bring with them a certain relief. A feeling of “Oh! Thank God! Finally!!”. That slight panic that we all carry in our hearts, a social clock (more like a time bomb if you ask me) if you will, to reach a certain milestone at a certain time is what makes that milestone more important to achieve. Add to that a certain level of difficulty and you have a big milestone. But that doesn’t mean the smaller ones are any less worth celebrating.

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1000 followers!

The world we live in today is so fast and fickle that we hardly have the time to get a grasp of what is going on, let alone orient ourselves in the direction we want to. There are more upsets and accidents which bring with them so much anguish and turmoil, which is what necessitates a little more happiness. We have become so cynical and critical that we  don’t recognise the smallest of joys. Or maybe we do recognise them but just refuse to give ourselves the chance to enjoy them.

I’ve always believed in living life to the fullest and I know I’m definitely not the most experienced person when it comes to how to live your life or even about how life is. But I have realised, at least for myself, that just sitting with a bunch of friends and talking absolute nonsense gives me so much more joy than going on that huge roller coaster at the fair. We’re all so caught up in living the YOLO kind of life that we forget and look past some of the most amazing things that are happening to us.

I still can’t forget that even after having defended my thesis, I felt no different than I had been feeling the rest of the time. I remember saying “I thought this was supposed to feel different but it doesn’t”. And no, it wasn’t because it hadn’t sunk in yet. I realise that now because when I look back on the last year, it’s the small things that come to mind. Finding a way to mount a component on the test bench after what seemed like forever, having lunch with my colleagues, celebrating with friends, roaming around the christmas market with them, hugging my mom and sister after a whole year of not having seen them.

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50th Post!!

So, here’s to all the milestones, big and small. To what has been an amazing year and looking forward to a new one, which will hopefully bring with it the same awe and wonder as the previous ones.

Dear Prospective Employer,

As I go through the process of looking for and applying to jobs, I feel the need to compose this letter to you. I’m writing to you because I don’t think two pdf documents and all my grade cards and certificates are enough reasons to consider me for a position let alone know me. I’m also writing to you because I want you to know how much effort goes into an application and how hard it is for all of us. Finding a job is hard in itself. Add to that the fact that you have to apply in a foreign language, know exactly what you want to do but can’t find an opening in it and you have a recipe for frustration.

I’m going through this process as a fresher while simultaneously working on my master thesis. This is how it is for most of us. We are more than aware of how important both our thesis and job applications are, but most of us can’t afford the luxury of applying once we are done with our studies. We have to because we can’t continue to rely on our families for financial assistance, because for a few of us we are the ones who support our families, because we have a huge loan in the bank whose interest is just waiting to drown us. For most of us it is at least one of these reasons and for some of us it’s all these reasons. Now while these are pressing reasons, we also can’t wait. We can’t wait to start working. We’re excited to see what we have to offer, we’re a little naive that way. And to be honest, you are better off hiring us at this time, bursting with enthusiasm and excited about our careers rather than when we have waited and faced rejection and are applying to anything and everything because we’re so desperately in need of a job.

Source: http://playgrounddad.nextimpulsemedia.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/76806713.jpg

I am sure I will be one of the hundreds or thousands of resumes stacked on your desk. On some days I may be the best of the lot, and the worst on some, but for the most part I will figure somewhere in the middle. I know this because most of us have the same grades, have done the same number of internships/student jobs and won the same number of awards. Competition, today, has grown so much that it’s hard to find people who have a below average grade or who have absolutely no practical experience. So I can only imagine how hard that makes it for you. At first glance we all seem the same to you and yet, we’re not.

Our grades, internships, awards, they don’t define us. These are things meant for us to do. What matters is the effort we put into our grades, the factors that led us to decide on an internship. It’s these behind the scenes decisions and work that define us as professionals and as individuals. Yet, these are inappropriate in a résumé and the space in the cover/motivation letter just isn’t enough to do justice to it all. We could try, but we’re not great writers. I guess that’s why we chose engineering as a profession.

For me, a glance at my grade card wouldn’t necessarily tell you what I like or find interesting, and while I would love to say I cherry picked my student jobs, projects and internships, you know I would be lying through my teeth. Some of them happened out of circumstance and some out of luck. That’s not to say that there was no effort though. They took a lot of effort and I’m really happy I did them because I learnt so much. I’m not saying it because it’s expected of me but because I really did. I tried to make the most of every situation. I dabbled in many things and while you would dismiss me calling me fickle, I would like to clarify that I was curious. After all, I was only a bachelor or master student still finding my footing. To say the least, I was curious. I was looking for that elusive love for work. What I’ve seen in my mother when she talks about her job even though she’s been doing that for 30 odd years. Thanks to all my fickleness, I have finally found it.

I’ve always liked cars and I thought knowing what I liked was enough. Apparently not. Why, I was asked. Frankly, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve loved cars for years just like I love chocolate. I’d like to see you try to tell me why you like your favourite colour or your favourite shirt. Sometimes there is no answer. I could bore you with conventional lies like I used to open up radios and toasters to see how they worked, so I knew I’d be an engineer but I didn’t, I would have gotten a nice spanking if I had tried. The best I can offer is that it was love at first sight. I know it may seem a frivolous reason to choose a profession, but what is the ‘correct’ reason?

I come from a country where education, especially higher education, is a luxury few can afford. Even in the case of those who can afford, only a few professions are considered lucrative and hence feasible to study. Throughout my academic career, I’ve met more people who were, disinterested at best and hated at worst, what they were studying. Is the fact that the profession earns you money the correct reason to choose it? It is a reason none the less. Most résumé on that list are there because of the above reason. Me, I’m not immune to it either but I’m in it because I love it. Passion and curiosity are my reason and that, I believe is my selling point.

Being a girl in the mechanical field can be hard. Not from the technical point of view. Thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer will seem like a cake walk compared to the bigotry you face in this field. It’s a male dominated world and they don’t like trespassers. Most people, even outside India, eye you with suspicion and distaste when you say you are studying mechanical engineering. I’ve had people in very high positions ask me ‘By choice or by chance’. It’s something my male counterparts have rarely faced. It’s very insulting. My gender is not my limitation. I’m here, always, by choice. It’s my passion that keeps me ticking.

I could tell you a lot about the subjects I’ve studied and the projects I’ve worked on but I’ll leave that to my résumé because I don’t think that is the reason you should recruit me. In my short experience I’ve realised that grades are just numbers and certificates are just pieces of paper that have no value once you step into the office. Whether at the top or bottom of the class, at work, we all start from zero. There have been days where I’ve not understood something, my grades didn’t help me then, my curiosity and stubbornness did. There have been days when my models or codes have not worked, my projects didn’t help me then, my perseverance and creativity did. On days that I didn’t get the results that I needed and my boss was not too pleased, my certificates didn’t come to my rescue, my fortitude did. I’ve worked with people from different countries and backgrounds, the seminars only gave me a background but my outgoing and social nature helped me get started.

I was not the smartest kid in my class and I may not be the best résumé on your desk but I hope you will give me a little more than the customary one or two minutes before tossing me away. I know this is asking a lot, but while to you it is just a résumé, to me, it’s a gateway to my future. My résumé can’t tell you that I’m sincere in my work, that I’m a loyal friend, that I’m stubborn (in a good way, I promise), I’m curious, friendly and punctual. It won’t tell you how I discovered my love for chassis and suspension or why I want to work in the research and development department. It won’t tell you how much I love cars and how I think they are pieces of art that most people can own unlike ‘actual art’ which only the rich can. It won’t tell you how much I respect and admire the amount of work that goes into making each and every one of them. It won’t tell you how I still squeal like an awed two-year old every time I see a car I love (I’ve been in Germany for 3 years now and I still can’t look the other way when I see a car I like). It can’t tell you that thanks to my curiosity I read about many different things and hence, make for pretty good lunch company. It can’t tell you that I believe excitement and passion are big motivators in a job, and that is why I am writing this to you. I want to be a part of the future of the auto industry and I can’t wait for the day I am. I hope you will be the one to give me my big break.

Yours sincerely,

Manasa Manjunath