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You can’t succeed with a Sri Lankan university degree! Here’s why

If you have graduated from a Sri Lankan university, congratulations! Now what? Have to find a job right? That’s where the magic happens!

Fist month, you apply for all the “right” jobs. Management Trainee, Marketing Executive, Business Development Executive, Accounting Executive etc. When nobody responds, you start applying for “somewhat right” jobs. Sales Executive, Sales Rep and even Medical Rep when you have a management degree! (I actually did apply for medical rep)

And this continues for about 2 months. Some of your friends have already found jobs. Now the pressure is rising. Your parents wonder why you cannot get a job even after “graduating” from a leading university. You start worrying a bit. Then you see a school friend who didn’t even make it to A/Ls is driving a Honda hybrid. What’s going on here? Sounds familiar?

Finally after months of applying, you land on your first interview. When they ask about your degree, you proudly say “I graduated from (insert your university name). Next thing you know, they haven’t even heard about your university!

Some of them ask for experience even before you get experience! That’s when you realize that something is wrong with the system.

Sri Lankan university

Let’s say somehow you landed on your first job (after lying and promising sun and moon).

First day at work.

You’re scared a bit but ambitious to become a great employee. You imagine how you’re going to use all the theories you learnt in the university. You imagine about deploying business “strategies” and saving the day. Then your manager gives you a laptop and a million Excel sheets!

After your first week, you realize that work is nothing but entering data to hundreds of Excel sheets! Next thing you know; you’re creating budgets and forecasts. You realize that you can’t even remember how to add two numbers on Excel!

There is a mismatch between what you learned and what corporate expects

What you learned and what you have to do is two different things. Negotiating with suppliers, cold calling prospects, analyzing data and trying to figure out why sales came down; you didn’t learn any of them at the university!

Universities have no idea what’s happening in the corporate world

Yes, yes I know. According to your university curriculum you’re learning the latest knowledge fresh out of the market. They say you’re armed with knowledge that can turn companies around. Your lecturers promise you that by the time you’re done with your degree, companies will beg you to join them. Here’s where everybody went wrong.

Most of your lecturers have no idea what’s happening out there. They haven’t even set foot in a company but they managed to become “professors”. That’s how the system works. They have no practical knowledge about companies and the cut-throat competition in today’s economy.

All your marketing lecturer ever did was reading out loud Philip Kotler’s book. Even a monkey could have done it if it knew English! (If you’re a marketing lecturer reading this, my apologies!)

We all became “Katapadam” experts (memorizing)

All you ever did was photo copy notes and cram during the last week for exams. That’s how we got through university. Whenever my buddies meet, we always discuss how we cannot remember a single theory we learnt.

Is that so hard to believe? The reason we don’t remember anything is because we didn’t learn anything. We became experts in passing exams. That’s all.

How can you become great at work?

So now you know what’s wrong with the system. But if you’re fresh out of university or about to graduate, my blabbering won’t help you. You need a solution.

I think I may have found a solution but this is not going to be easy. It requires you to make some effort too. After all, it’s your future. Not mine. So if you don’t wanna suck at your future job, listen carefully (or rather read carefully.)

You need to learn different skills

If you need to match what you learned and the expectations of corporates, you need a skill set which is not taught in universities.

Networking and relationship skills

In a nutshell, you need to know how to handle people. You need to cultivate great people skills to tackle your business goals. You need to know how to sweet talk and win hearts of everybody at work (it sounds nasty but it’s really a great skill to learn.) That’s how you’re gonna land those sales targets. That’s how you’re going to nail those corporate presentations.

A great way to improve your networking and relationships skills is joining a Gavel club or aToastmasters club. It’s a great way to practice your communication.

Another way is to read How to win friends and influence people. This book is profound.

Productivity and prioritizing

I know you said that you’re great at multitasking when asked for your strengths in the interview. But honestly, multitasking isn’t working and it’s one of the greatest ways to increase your anxiety at work. Learn tips and hacks to increase your productivity. You can read my favorite hacks on increasing productivity here.

Selling and negotiation

I have a chemistry/engineering/art degree. Why would I learn selling? WRONG! Everything today is about selling. The presentation you do for your boss is selling. Asking for that raise or promotion is sales.

In case you haven’t realize, life is all about selling. You have to sell yourself at the interview to land that job. Don’t take selling at the conventional definition of “selling a product.” Selling is much more than that. It’s an art that you have to learn and master. So learn to sell.

Patience, patience and some more patience

If you’re not patient, you gonna have a really hard time at work. You will have to take a lot of shit from your superiors and when that happens, you gotta be patient. No other way. Learn it. Practice it. Master it.

How can you learn them?

Your best bet is to do internships. That’s the only way. Even though you hate internships, that’s one of the best ways to learn all the skills you need to have a successful corporate career.

Sri Lankan university

Do you want to become a digital marketer? Try to find an internship in a digital marketing firm. If they don’t have any vacancies, work for free. After all, you need to learn what’s going on in a company.

Are you an aspiring writer? Reach out to media companies and write free content for them. Try to somehow get into a company in the field you’re studying. Are you studying to become a lawyer? Talk to few lawyers who actually do what you want to do. Try and work for free. Learn their culture.

Corporates love to offer internships because they can get all their crappy work done for free or basically for rupees. So reach out to them and offer your time. If that doesn’t work. Talk to me. I’ll let you intern at

Corporates, you have a role too

If you’re a head of a company or if you run your own company, here’s your chance to help Sri Lankan undergraduates. Provide internships for undergraduates. It’s a great way to get your work done while making things right in our education system.

Even though many top corporates don’t realize, interns are great. They are fresh out of the university so you can mold them easily. They can even help you to innovate because they are more aware of market trends than your energy drained, blood sucking existing employees.

But when you recruit interns, make sure that they are given necessary opportunity and freedom to come up with ideas. Let them sit at your board meetings. Listen to their suggestions and let them do new things that you have no idea of.

Be genuinely interested about their lives and help them with their education. Make them feel like they are part of the company (some companies that I’ve worked in the past didn’t allow interns to participate in company activities. That kinda sucks. Bad Company!).

I hope now you have at least a slight idea of what’s wrong in our university system and how to make a good future for you.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to share it with your friends. Let’s try and spread some love.

P.S. I’m writing this on 25th of May 2017 after receiving so many good as well as some really bad comments from some bad people. Just wanted to make some points clear to you.

First of all, this post is not about the “Government universities.” If you read the post carefully (I hope you did), it doesn’t say anything about “government universities” or “private universities.” I’m talking about the university system as a whole. So if you’re an advocate of “public” or “private” universities, don’t assume that I’m supporting any side. I don’t support both sides.

I see that there is a mismatch between what universities are teaching and the demands of corporates. The intention of this post is to encourage undergraduates and graduates to learn “different” skills additional to your education in the universities.

If you are a successful product of a certain university, I congratulate you. If you have a different point of view, that’s also great. If you don’t agree on this post, that’s also fine. Please don’t assume things for me or about my education by just reading the title of the article.

If you have a counter point of view, or if you haven’t understood what I’m trying to convey, you can always contact me. I’m happy to clarify things for you.

Also, I have removed the featured image of this post. Previous picture was an image of myself and few others on our graduation. That image led many readers (who didn’t read the article but was happy to comment like they read it!) to assume things about my university and my education. This post is about the entire university system. Not a particular university.

Disclaimer: To all the “well-educated” readers who who think this post is about “your” university, it’s not. First of all, when I say “university” I don’t imply “Local”, “Private”, “Public”, “International” or “Government” universities. I’m talking about the “university system” as a whole. So relax and calm your ti*s!

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Nishan De Silva

Nishan is the founder of He is a Blogger, YouTuber, Coach, Speaker, and Entrepreneur.

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