“The Doctrine of Lapse” is a phrase I vaguely remember. It was in my History lesson of class VIII or IX. The definitions of Fjords and Interlocking Spurs were taught around then, as well. The symbol of Silver from my Chemistry class, the diagram of the digestive system, the underlying thought behind Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the mind is without Fear’- are all of these parts of General Awareness?
The Fed gets a new boss, the Supreme Court gives a new ruling, the Congress party launches its campaign in Odisha, the Indian cricket team loses to New Zealand, Aamir Khan makes a new film. Is this General Awareness too? Burkina Faso is a country in Africa, the fate of the EU, the next Football World Cup in Brazil, and the melting polar ice caps? Who can know all this? And why is it important?
General Awareness is that metaphorical sword that seems to loom over every one of us as interview time approaches. It is the one fear a lot of us seem to carry within. What constitutes this endless subject? Where is the text book? Is there a syllabus? Where do I begin from? Why should my competence be judged on my ability to retain random events from my past life? Is that a fair means to judge a candidate’s likely performance and his ability to contribute to the bottom line?
General Awareness connotes knowing something about everything. It is an indicator of the breadth and width of a person’s awareness of his surroundings and knowledge of the world. It signifies one’s curiosity and the effort that one makes to satisfy that urge. It has no beginning and no end, no form and no shape. It is seamless and never ending. It is our ability to learn from all that is around us. It is about the air we breathe, the people we meet and interact with, the classes we attend, the journeys we undertake, the books and magazines that we skim through, the debates and discussions that we participate in, the text that we must know and the times that we live in. It is a measure of being alive; of being aware of our senses and using them appropriately; of having a sense of responsibility towards the world that we live in.
So why do recruiters test us on this seemingly vague indicator? It is an easy way to test a candidate’s interest in his surroundings; the same surroundings that businesses function in. Politics impacts economic policies; financial decisions affect business climates; history has a large role to play in human behavior; sociology determines consumer decisions; geography is closely linked with everyday purchase decisions; arts are an indicator of the dynamism of society; all of which will determine business decisions which will impact top lines.
So, just use those senses well. Know what you see, touch, smell, taste and hear. And know it well. Tell the recruiter that you are alive; that his business is your business. And that you know, and KNOW IT WELL!