My experience as a student was marked by a diversity of interests and a desire to channel these interests into career path that would be both exciting and challenging. Having had the benefit of attending a liberal arts college, I was able to explore everything from accounting, to advertising, to philosophy. Though I began without a clear vision of what, exactly, could fulfill my aspirations, in my studies I began to discover certain things about myself: I had a creative disposition; I was fascinated by the ubiquity of economics; I wanted to make a positive difference for those less fortunate than me.
With my growing self-knowledge, my various academic explorations began to converge into a unified path. My transcript started to reflect this, with courses in economic development supplementing courses in philosophy and ethics. But as I continued my now more focused journey, I became frustrated by the lofty nature of theories of justice and the often impractical place they hold in modern society. I would contemplate how we could work with economic forces, rather than against them, to solve these social issues based on simple concepts of supply and demand. It was around this time that a friend of mine told me that some program in India was coming to give an information session at my alma mater, Boston College.
I left the information session in October excited to apply, and by April I was accepted and ready to join. But before I get into the “whys” and “hows,” I’ll explain a little about what the program is. The IDEX Fellowship is a ten-month program focused around social enterprise. They currently have fellows placed in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Bangalore. About half of the IDEX fellows are placed in affordable private schools, the other half in more traditional social enterprises. The goals of the program are, first, to provide these social enterprises with valuable human capital to help them achieve growth, scale and sustainability, and second, to nurture a community of young business minded individuals, giving them early career experience, and fostering a deeper understanding of social enterprise.Why was IDEX right for me? In short, I saw it as a solution to my aforementioned debate between the “right” and the “practical.” In microeconomics classes I learned that the goal of the firm is to maximize profit. In justice classes I learned that excess profit leads to inequity and injustice. From here it’s easy to create two polarizing views, on the one hand that the free market inherently produces injustice, on the other hand that there is no justice to begin with and thus one must only look out for himself. But here was this concept of social enterprise presenting the novel idea that you could have a little bit of both. IDEX entered my life serendipitously to offer this reconciliation and to give me the means to enter its world.
For those who find themselves in a similar position, or perhaps just looking for something exciting to do after graduation, here’s a bit on the application process. It’s long, so if you’re interested in applying, start early. You will need recommendations, a CV, and a few short essays expressing your interest in social enterprise and what you hope to gain out of IDEX. Though it might seem daunting, it’s really for your benefit that they know as much about you as possible, not just in terms of whether you would succeed, but also in terms of what sort of placement would best suit you.If you’re application is selected, you will be invited for an interview. They won’t ask you technical questions using complex business jargon, or ask you how many jellybeans can fit inside the Mumbai cricket stadium. They just want to get an idea of how you would fit into a challenging environment, how you handle responsibility and leadership. So one piece of advice: be yourself and treat it as a conversation. Beyond that, be prepared to talk about your experience and qualifications, and you’ll be fine.
Having been in the program for only about a month, it’s hard to articulate exactly what the program means to me. I do know certain things, however. I know that I’m learning new things every day, whether it’s from my placement at Yourstory.in, or from the people I interact with day to day. I know I’m gaining invaluable experience and exposure to some of the brightest entrepreneurs in India. I know that I am being challenged to maximize my potential, to test my limits, and to explore my passions. So as someone who graduated without a precise idea of what job would suit my aspirations, I can’t think of a better alternative to IDEX Fellowship.
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Author Credit: William Sloan
William Sloan is an IDEX fellow placed at YourStory.in
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