“Why should I listen to your advice? Are you a Collector?” this volley of quick questions from a village lady had left Dr Priyanka Shukla stunned. She could not comprehend why a doctor’s advice to drink boiled water had no weight over a ‘Collector’s’. This was around a decade ago. Priyanka had come into the medical field to serve the Indian citizenry. Her wish came true and she continues to serve the people but in a different avatar. As an IAS officer.
In this article, Priyanka lists out some tips and tricks for the new generation of Civil Service aspirants to stay motivated, especially during the restrictive lockdown preparation.
With an All India Rank of 73 in UPSC, Civil Services Examination 2008, many things worked in Priyanka’s favour during her journey to become an IAS officer. Here, she shares five golden tips that helped her crack the examination.
“The number of hours you set aside doesn’t matter.”
“There is a strong notion that if you spend long hours with your books, there’s a higher chance of you clearing the examination which I completely disagree with,” Priyanka tells The Better India (TBI).
And she doesn’t say it lightly.
After completing her MBBS from King George Medical University Lucknow, Priyanka began working and preparing for the examination parallelly.
During her preparation, she had to strategise in advance to use her time well. She began by dividing the entire syllabus into bite-sized hourly portions. Once she had meticulously detailed out the daily content she had to prepare, she set aside 2-3 hours every day for it.
“I believe the key is to do things slowly and steadily rather than acting quickly and carelessly. Since I took the time to learn each part of the syllabus carefully, I was thorough with the portions. The point is to have a clear cut time set aside for preparation that you will commit to,” adds the IAS officer who hails from a middle-class family in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
Knowing that the process of preparing for the examination can be exhaustive and at times frustrating, she advises the contenders to find comfort in the company of friends and family.
“Turn to your loved ones in times of doubt.”
“I didn’t appear for any post-graduation entrance examinations after completing my MBBS since my mind was completely focussed on civil services. But there were several times where I would have the fear of failure creeping in, at times like this I would call up my mother and derive strength from her words of encouragement,” she says.
Priyanka adds that driving positivity from your loved ones is important when you’re preparing for the exam because there are going to be several instances where you’ll feel like giving up and the motivation from the people you surround yourself with will have to help you get back up on your feet.
And what about times when you face failures?
“Consider them as stepping stones!”
“I have never come second in my life so when I missed an interview call by 7 marks in my first attempt it was a major setback. But I took it as a challenge and reappeared in the exam in 2008 and when the result came in 2009, I had made it,” says Priyanka who, during her MBBS studies, received honours in many subjects including Surgery.
She goes onto say that all aspirants must have the ability to embrace setbacks as stepping stones and only then can anyone achieve their goals. These little nuggets are highly valuable considering that the journey to becoming an IAS officer can be a long one.
“But, don’t look for shortcuts.”
“After my first attempt, I took a year off and reappeared for the exam in 2008 and I had to wait till 2009 for my results. This taught me that patience is an absolute must in this long journey – always remember there are no shortcuts to success,” she shares.
She wants to remind all the aspirants to keep their spirits alive and strive to reach the top no matter how long it takes.
“Invest time in hobbies to energise your mind.”
“One of the best things I ever did was to involve myself in hobbies that sparked my interest like painting and listening to songs. This gave me a little time to myself and helped me energise before the next study session,” says Priyanka.
“But the most important thing to remember is that you must always have your eye on the goal. If you’ve set your mind to it, there’s no turning back and you’ll always find a solution to overcome the obstacles that come in your way,” she says.
Currently working as Joint Secretary, Health & Mission Director, National Health Mission (NHM), Chhattisgarh, the 2009 batch IAS officer has a stellar work profile.
Winner of many awards for her work such as the National award for effective initiatives under MGNREGS, the Rashtriya Saksharta Puraskar under Sakshar Bharat Program from President of India, and the President’s silver medal in recognition of the outstanding zeal & high quality of service rendered during Census 2011, among others, Priyanka feels that she is not done working for the people. Not by a long shot.
To know more about the work she has done, click here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)