Not from XLRI or TISS, What does that mean for a career in HR? 

One of my HR colleagues asked me a question: How do you rise whist making a career in HR (in India) especially if you are not from XLRI or TISS?

I began my reply by quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Then I realized that my first reaction was rather harsh and I was trying to fit a wise quote unwisely to the discussion. Thereafter we had a great discussion in which I put forth my perspective based on my own experience.

I found the question very intriguing and despite not being from any of those institutes it never passed my mind in all these 27 years of my career. Thought of blogging about it and present my thoughts and perspective for a more richer discussion:

XLRI and TISS are institutions of great repute and are big brands when it comes to producing and supplying talent for the HR / Social Sciences stream (in case of XLRI also in other streams). I know hundreds if not thousands of colleagues and friends from these institutions. I have recruited many talented people from there and have/had the privilege of working with them. 4 out of 5 (my early-in-career) bosses were from there, I have engaged with and consulted many professors from these institutes over the years, I have visited their campuses on countless occasions. Like most, I only have respect for these two institutions. Having said that, let me share some of my thoughts arising out of this question.

I asked myself a leading question to try and have a wise discussion, I asked, “is it any different for a graduate from these institutions to make a career in HR as compared to talented people from other institutes”? Short answer is No, because….

All educational institutions play a vital role in developing its pupil and that’s undebatable, but just attending a institution of repute doesn’t guarantee anyone of being well equipped or best suited for future success. Not everyone from Harvard succeeds and many from lesser known institutes become the benchmark of success. Therefore, I have observed and have come to believe that it depends a lot on the person and less on the institute.

Graduating from an Ivy League does give you certain advantages. But to me those advantages are few and limited. For example your chances of landing a good internship and then a terrific job with a top employer are much higher as compared to others. The power networks you could possibly build and have access to (mostly alumni) is one of the major advantages. Of course last but not the least, access to high quality education should have made you learn better and wiser – but that’s an assumption. Each one of us is most detrimental to our own learning and development. No one learns more, better or less as compared to the other coz of the institute alone. Remember the “Slum Dog Millionaire Learning Style”

Most important; real life begins in the real world which, is when you are out of your institute. The ability to perform consistently and create value for self and others. Your attitude, values and capabilities are tested everyday and then begins the process of distinguishing the real talent from the rest. No one asks you or remembers your qualifications on a daily basis and most importantly your family, friends and colleagues don’t care about it as much as they care for your behavior.

A career generally spreads over a long period of time. For some it’s almost their entire life and for most of us in the corporate world it’s circa half of our active life. 2-3 years spent in an institution can have a significant impact and influence on your career but it doesn’t define, make or break it – you do!

Lastly, on the perception that coteries exist in the corporate world where people seem to have a bias for people from their institutions: well in my experience it’s not true. I was hired, developed and grown by people from these institutions and that too at a stage in my career when I wasn’t even a postgraduate (initial years of my career, I was just a graduate). When you embark on an international career and move out of India this perception even fades further as many in the other parts of the world don’t even know about or recognize XLRI or TISS as Ivy League (sorry my friends from there). The definition of Ivy League in US or Europe is something else. In my experience successful leaders have a bias for competence and diversity more than anything else. Hence no need to feel insecure about coteries and personal likes and dislikes of leaders.

Must say that, I have seen a few people who carry a chip on their shoulder about the institutes they graduated from and I don’t sweat about it as I know those chips shall soon fall and reality will bite sooner than later.

It’s said that nothing succeeds like success. I will build upon that and say, “your capabilities, values and attitude – set you up for success and not the branding of your institute”. Learn, work hard and live a life of integrity and you shall achieve/realize your own definition of success.

I dedicate this blog to all my team members and colleagues who have made a tremendous difference at work and are highly successful coz of what they are not coz of the institutes that they graduated from.

31 thoughts on “Not from XLRI or TISS, What does that mean for a career in HR? 

  1. Absolutely true Yash…in fact in my professional carrier spanning 8 years I found that the best of the individuals do not come from these Ivy league colleges. The Ivy league ones take their success quotient for granted and do not have the required fire in their bellies to succeed.

  2. Dear Sir, You are absolutely right!
    But if you are following Jobs advertisement in different job portal you will find – organizations are not allowing people to apply (who are not from those so called reputed institutes).They are being paid very high. I don’t know if HR department have ever calculated R O I. Which according to me doesn’t have any business sense. one or two people at top from those institute is ok & understandable – as they make strategic decision & give direction to the organization.
    I am sure if you start taking people with good attitude & good past performance ( even non MBA) will do tremendously well with – least CTC- probably with 0.8 compa. What they require a bit strategic direction & guidance. I feel the organization will get a good diversified group.
    Thanks for reading.

  3. The XLRI or TISS mark should make people more humble and approachable as such institutions like XLRI are build on great leaders like St Ignatitus of Loyola the founder of the Jesuits and TISS by the Tatas who were seemingly very humble people. But this does not mean to hurt the sentiments of the community of XLRIians or TISS but I have still to meet a humble person from these institutions.

  4. Very aptly put…. Pedigree can open the first door may be the second one too but after that it’s the individual and his/her capability that decides the future….

  5. Dear Yash & readers,

    I believe therefore I am.

    The concept of ivy leagues and great institutes enhances one’s believe in capabilities & self worth.
    Having said that it is not the only way to have it.. In fact it is among one of many ways to build it…

    Testing your limits , capabilities and zooming in & out of individual comfort zone gives one an edge to be a competent person ..

    Attitude drives learning & living both as person and successful corporate being..
    So enjoy what you have ..


  6. A good write, thanks for the same.
    But the main issue is that when the organisations go for HR hiring across the level incl MT-HR, they prefer people from XLRI, TISS, XISS, SCMHRD, MLS (in Mah) etc. At that time the HR should put there foot forward and categorically told the management that we will choose the best people irrespective of the institute.
    Another thing which is happening in the corporate world is that the people from these institutes promote their alma matter ignoring other good people.
    Atleast in the HR Function, we HR Professionals should ensure that we will recruit best of HR people irrespective of their institutes.
    if we follow the above in HR, others will fall in line.
    Long Live HR Profession.
    Proud to be a HR Professional.

  7. Doesn’t agree with thought,,,A guy from tier-3 or Tier 4 Institute lands at Recruitment,,over the years he grow being in that Industry comparative to a corporate talent acquisition guy but fails to get into a well established organization.
    Other Institute graduate in HR doesn’t even receive a reply from Companies , even if they have scored well…this is the true story behind other Institute pass out…and this my story …4 Yrs post qualification …Batch Topper…but no corporate have entertained my Resume ,,,because i wasn’t from a brand…
    When i passed ,,,i was running with an ambition to grow as Generalist HR,,but now my role and learning have stopped ambitions are also went down…i see myself after five years as frustrated, irritated recruitment profession. we always feel boredom when we do repetitive work,,and that an other institute guy does…this is the true story..
    I too feel now ,,,if were from rich family…if i could afford coaching and other required expenses , i would have been a true HR professional rather than just a recruiter..

    Sir you may be right at your part, but 80% of the other institute professional thinks in my way..

  8. Thanks Yash for the valuable though. Hope all the HR Colleagues will follow this and assess the skill and knowledge required for the job instead of brands.


  9. Very well captured but the “FACT” is that not many (pls read – no one) hires candidates from tier – 3/4 business schools, other than tier 3/4 organizations.

    I’m part of an executive search firm & till date haven’t come across any client who prefers to hire candidate from a “lesser known” business school. Infact many a times, the clients reject candidates purely on the basis of “educational institute” itself – if it’s not premiere

    Hope things change in the long run…


  10. Very well articulated thoughts Mr Yash, and must say I agree with you. I am from a TIER 2 B School and have managed to perform (if not out perform) equally well along with my peers from XL and TISS. Currently am working outside India and it is only the competence and attitude that matters and not if you are from a Top Tier B School or not!

  11. Dear Sir,

    Your thoughts are truly inspiring and i also believe that any professional will create and market his own brand with his competencies/skillsets rather than a carrying a tag of an institute.

  12. Excellent thought Mr. Mahadik!

    The success of any company depends on the diverse human capital they build over the years!

    The HR plays a very important role to maintain the current employee strength along with the new recruitment strategies to create equally opportunities with diverse culture in the organisation.

    The top institutes can teach most strategic way of looking at a subject but none of the above institutes (including tier 1 & others) will be able to teach you the basic HR traits like integrity, responsibility, being approachable, trustworthy and being assertive in the most possible optimistic way.

    Thus a people’s person with a strong drive to excel the employee’s life at work and the commitment towards the organisation goals makes a huge difference than just a degree with a top institute brand on the paper.

    A broad-minded HR professional should have a holistic view towards the hiring and not follow the crowd by only looking at candidates from Tier 1 institute. The company indeed should spend time on recruiting the right HR candidate by evaluating the person’s psychology and ability to deal with people since the function is purely people-centric!

    Lastly I would like to Thank Yash Mahadik for sharing such an unconventional thought to mend the traditional way which will make more sense to the HR hiring process.

    Tejasvi Maldikar

  13. Dear Yash,
    Couldn’t agree more. Actually, this thinking needs to be nurtured in our fraternity.It can broad -base the supply of quality talent in our profession. Not to mention the optimism it would generate among those not from the Ivy League institutions and help friends from these institutions have their feet on the ground.
    Warm regards,

  14. Good one Yash. While I am a premiere institute product, I would say the brand gives you a good launch pad in your initial days, but then it is your own hard work, dedication, capabilities and networks which take you ahead in your career.

  15. Thanks Yash, thought provoking as always. As ‘one of your friends from far’ I have built a lot of respect for the Ivy League institutes in India as I had the fortune to recruit and work with quite some talented people from there. Though fully with you on the key differentiators being the person, continued learning agility, attitude, willingness to reflect and drive to start the change with yourself rather than your schooling roots. Keep sharing your thinking!

  16. Yash I strongly buy u r statement, it matters how you get along with the current business and people in making change which is beneficiary for both to do this u r theory will give less weightage and reality is experience will make u wise.

  17. Nicely quoted sir! This blog has certainly addressed the million dollar question which always exist in the mind of all HR fraternity who are not from XLRI and TISS. Eklavya also developed his archery abilities just by his inntate passion, eagerness to learn and infinite respect and trust for his guru Drona, despite of the fact he was not allowed admission in erstwhile XLRI “Guru Drona Academy” where Arjuna was already a Management Trainee. So he had to loose his thumb for having edge over of Arjuna, so is the thin line demarcation still exist in corporates wherein many Eklavya lose their shine in absence of a right Guru . The leaders should come forward and should create mechanism identifying such potential candidates and groom such people as future leaders.

    Hare Krishna!

  18. Its a great topic for debate!!!

    The fact is institute, brand counts and it counts in the world when one is going to earn to live …..Without brand rares are seen on top. In terms of efforts, learning, expetrise, intelligence and hard work is more to do for non branded product in the market however with a brand you will get a lot with little of all those.

    But irrespecive of this, in the end one’s mindset, satisfaction level, inner peace, “GOAL” and belief counts!!!


  19. Education and the genre of Institute apart, the passion to excel and reach the top is the key to excellence. For organisation to identify such talent it takes time, till then the league shines like a Neon Sign attracting all.

  20. This is a rather generic “if you are capable, you will succeed” kind of inspirational post with very little actual research other than “I have seen […]” or “In my experience […]”. While some of the points you make are valid (such as “not everyone from XLRI / TISS is guaranteed to succeed”), many others are over-simplifications. Yes, anyone can achieve anything, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that XLRI / TISS graduates get better opportunities to succeed.

  21. Dear Mr. Yash,
    Its a thought provoking blog and is really admirable. Undoubtedly, talent is not dependent upon premier or less premier business school. Its inner strength and capability of the individual to perform / outperform. These institutes surely shape up their learning in best possible way hence the corporate world should have the balanced and practical approach towards them.

  22. A wonderful article which take the entire HR concept to a different level… It reiterates the fact that HR is not mere a theory which can be attained via certification only, it is rather a philosophy. It assumes more importance in today’s era, wherein the line managers are expected to exhibit the right HRQ. Possibly, thoughts in this directions by HR fraternity would go a long way in enabling enhanced people centricity in organizations.

  23. Very interesting thought. The “real” experience speaks here…! I had a similar experience while recruiting Associates from B schools. Though I am not from HR, this is certainly thought provoking and I am sure this is a hot topic of debate within HR community.

  24. I agree with you partially on this. I majorly agree to the point of whether colleges equip students for the future. The comments are basically focussed on success, for which I wonder that would we write off the significance of a qualification in HR just because people without HR Degrees have also been successful in the field? Same goes the analogy
    Here’s my take on this perspective of whether being from a premier college matters?

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