PESTL or the importance of reading the news for everyone

Some time ago when holding a job search resources workshop to a group of international students, I repeated a piece of advice which I often have given before: ‘In order to become better candidates, professionals … just better people, it’s essential to read newspapers.’ An especially active student (both participative and with regards to texting during class) smiled at me and told me ‘we are a new generation – we don’t read the news or are interested in politics’. My swift response to that was that maybe this reluctance might contribute to her not yet having a job. Besides a moment of classroom banter, there was a deeper point which I was trying to make – and it has hit me this morning again when reading the news about how London Metropolitan University students are being sanctioned for perceived failures of their institution by the UK Border Agency. While I agree with the student that paper-based newspapers may be on the way out, it is their content that matters even more than it used to, to candidates and students. It’s a classic trick question in interviews to ask which relevant news source a candidate reads – invariably they are given the FT, the Economist, etc. – and then to follow up asking for details on an industry relevant current news story. This weeds out the only superficially prepared candidate from the ones who are closer to acting like the professionals they want to become. I would go beyond that though and say knowing your news – and getting daily, if not hourly – updates, all day, every day, is essential to function as a candidate, employee/r and professional, just in order to keep abreast of anything that might impact on them. Basically, one has to be in the process of conducting a constant PESTL analysis. To stick to the current example: changes to the UK student visa conditions have been going on for a long time, and it’s fairly clear that political considerations seem to trump the economic argument that international student bring in something like £4bn into the UK economy. So the legal and regulatory framework has been shifting for a while, based on a policy to reduce the number of international students coming into the country – impacting on exactly those directly when applying, or just simply wanting to finish their courses. Is this knowledge that can quickly be grasped in its complexity on the evening TV news? No, understanding this requires constant reading, updating and following relevant news sources. I don’t do this on paper either – I use Twitter, RSS feeds, LinkedIn, and several blogs to know what is going on in my field, but also in society which might impact me personally, perhaps even just later today. I used to work at London Met, and I harbour warm feelings towards my old colleagues and the many committed students I have met there. It is sad to see that they are now in maelstroem of the political, economical, social – admittedly not so much technical – but certainly legal kind. But there it is – we can learn from this that we need to be constantly on the lookout what is happening in politics and wider society, as it may affect us quicker than we think.

September 4th, 2012 by