This probably is the most pithy statement about life purpose or goal. Do read the book, which probably, along with “‘To Sir With Love” and “The Last Lecture” would stand among the top 3 books about teachers.
“I decided what I wanted on my tombstone,” he said.
I don’t want to hear about tombstones. “Why? They make you nervous?”
“We can forget it.”
No, go ahead. What did you decide?
Morrie popped his lips. “I was thinking of this: A Teacher to the Last.”
He waited while I absorbed it.
A Teacher to the Last.
“Good?” he said.
Yes, I said. Very good.
Having said earlier why you should not quit, there are certain times when you need to change your job.
They are as follows:
- You cannot adjust with your boss and vice versa. Both of you have tried and failed
- You are suffering from stress – headaches, sleeplessness, anger, anxiety and depression. You have undergone counselling and realised that this problem is not about you
- The culture is chaotic, verbally abusive, hostile, disrespectful and demeaning and you cannot handle it
- Your work is constantly criticised or ignored and no one is willing to give feedback or mentor you
- You have been layered – some one else has been brought in between you and your boss
- You have been overlooked for important meetings, task forces and initiatives
- Your company is about to be acquired or merged or your company is in trouble
- Your boss has been fired and you are known to be closed associated with your boss
- A new CEO has been hired and he has started bringing his own team and the effect is percolating downwards
- You do not feel like coming to office on Monday AND you look forward to the weekend
It is very important that you seek counselling before you act precipitately. Sometimes, the problem is you, but your defence mechanisms do not allow you to accept it. If the problem is you, then you will face the same problems elsewhere. If you have been changing jobs too often, you may want to examine your own beliefs and whether you blame others – boss, family, organisation, society, even God for your problems.
Remember that your CV does not invoke trust if you have not stayed in any organisation for more than 3 years.
Few of us are natural networkers. We all know the important of networking, but invariably, we postpone it for tomorrow, because shy folks like us do not like to meet with people and make inane conversation.
It is easy to believe that social networking or internet based networking (read Facebook) is a better option. However, Facebook based networking focuses on broad-based and shallow relationships, whereas true networking requires deeper relationships.
People do things for others if they believe in the relationship. No amount of ‘likes’ and status updates (which I believe borders on voyeurism) substitute for face-to-face or at least voice-based and meaningful communication.
Meaningful communication requires
- one-to-one interaction
- where both parties are speaking (bidirectional)
and which leaves both parties happy and satisfied.
Status updates do not satisfy either of the above criteria and therefore does not help in networking.
This article from inc.com talks about networking for introverts. Lisa Petrilli, author of “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” tells you how to:
- Network on your own terms
- Be comfortable
- Leverage your skills as an introvert
Adding to the tips in the article, you need to do the following:
- Create a 30 second brief about yourself, describing yourself, your background and your future direction (where / what do you want to go / do and why). This helps a person remember you and also how he can help you
- Find out what the other person wants to do in life. Get into specifics. This shows interest and it will help you look for real options to help the other person. If you can’t think of anything, offer to connect him to others who can help him
- Networking is not about selfishness. People sense selfishness and avoid creating a relationship. Give first before taking, or at least prove that you understand that you have to settle your debts of favours done
- Do not badger people unnecessarily, chasing after them. Your introvertism is an advantage here.
I had mentioned some time ago about the distaste with which people regard sales.
I wish to reiterate the reasons why Sales is necessary in a career
- During the placement process, I have observed a direct correlation between the ability to sell and the impress to impress the recruiters.
- These are uncertain times. All companies are looking to retain market share and revenues. Sales is king.
- We need to face our fears. Else, the fear remains in our mind and we somehow create the very situation we wish to avoid. It would, therefore, make sense to not to fear sales.
- You’ll learn to negotiate.
- You’ll learn to close.
- You’ll learn persistence.
- You’ll learn self-discipline.
- You’ll gain self-confidence.
The last five has been mentioned in the following article by Jeff Haden.
I am invariably asked this question from my mentees, “Should I change my job?”
Reasons for Quitting
When I probe deeper, I find that the reasons are broadly:
- An expectation mismatch between the manager and the mentee. The mentee typically blames the organisation, the management, the boss, the super-boss, the colleagues, the politics, the salary, the travel time, the office hours…this list is endless.
- Perception that life has been unfair. The perceived unfairness has another perspective, “I did all the work that was allotted to me, I fulfilled my targets, I did better than others…how come I did not get what I deserved?”
I have said this earlier and will re-iterate. If everyone fulfils their targets, everyone cannot be promoted, unless it is a bureaucratic / government job and even there, after a certain level, only some persons can get promoted. We cannot all become CEOs in the same organisation at the same time.
So what determines who will be promoted?
The answer is simple – ‘Whoever the promotion committee feels should be promoted.” Why should the committee feel that you should be promoted?
- The boss must be promoted, so that a space is created for you
- Out of all prospects, your boss will recommend you if:
- He trusts you to do his bidding
- You make him look good
None of the above have anything to do with your work. Your work is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for your promotion or increment.
Managing the Power Play
You need to know the following:
- Power equations in the office (who determines promotions)
- What they want
- How you will benefit them (give them what they want).
If what they want is unacceptable, then you need to determine why is it unacceptable.
It may be that you would not want to compromise your beliefs. But the beliefs of the bosses matter, not yours. So you have the following choices:
- Change your beliefs
- Change your job
- Change the beliefs of your bosses
- Determine that you love your job and you do not want the promotion / increment
- Wait until a boss comes whose beliefs are the same as you.
I see a lot of my proteges / mentees having a lack-lustre linkedin profile and I am saddened by it. Let me put it this way. To paraphrase an author I read some time ago (frankly I do not remember, but this is not my idea…) in your self-branding exercise, Facebook is like a pub where we meet a lot of people, have connections, but over a drink and then we all go home. Twitter is like a cocktail partywhere we speak a small sentence and then move on to the next person. Youtube is like MG Road on New Year’s Eve, everybody trying to get in front of the camera and vying for attention. Linkedin is like a trade show where we meet like-minded people.
Join the groups that talk about what we are interested in. Even if we are bystanders, we will learn a lot of what the world thinks. It is a faster way to get people’s opinions and trends that reading some boring author. I know, I am one such author.
Check the news. This news can be customised to give us articles across the globe on the topics of your choice. It is obviously a better way than perusing gadzillions of newpaper pages (online or offline)
Under the “More” section, there is “Answers” and “Skills”. We should use these more often. “Skills” creates the keywords necessary for a job search. “Answers” allow you to brand yourself as an authority as more of your answers get selected as “best” answers.
I am increasingly seeing a trend where recruiters are looking at our linkedin profiles. Apart from the ability to have an on-line rolodex for networking, it allows us to help others get jobs, and it allows us to meet people with the same interests and connect with them professionally.
Midlife Crisis (as defined in Wikipedia) “describes a period of dramatic self-doubt” when persons reach their forties. It signifies a passing of their youth and the imminence of old age, augmented by physical incapabilities, deaths in the previous generation and other such reminders of mortality. There are self-assessing questions on career, work-life balance, relationships, expenses and physical appearance.
Are these questions relevant only after we cross 40? Do we not have similar questions when we cross 20? Do we not think of career, study-life balance, relationships, expenses and physical appearance.
So if we consider a life span of 80 years (arguable with medical advances, but do consider the balancing act of environmental contamination and genetic manipulation) we will have the following:
- At the start of our career, a quarter life crisis (Q1C),
- In the middle of our career, a mid life (Q2C) and
- At the end of our career, a three-quarter life crisis (Q3C).
The topics remain the same: career, work-life balance, relationships, major expenses and physical appearance.
During college (Q1C), we are concerned about our career, how much to study and how much to enjoy life, our relationships at the peer level and with our parents, the expense and repayment of loans, and how we look. This quarter-life crisis is as painful as a mid-life crisis. Although I have not been though a Q3C, I am sure, the questions would be similar but more introspective – about things that we could have done and things that we have achieved.
The difference between the three crises is in terms of possibilities and choices – which narrow down over time. The difference is possibly between optimism and realism. We are more optimistic and hopeful when younger. Maybe those of us who retain our optimism and hope remain younger for a longer time. But we do become more realistic about possibilities and capabilities.
There is an increased angst of unfulfilled desires versus capability. When we are younger, we believe that the whole life in there in front of us to fulfil our desires. However, we are impatient to get our desires fulfilled. This impatience drives us, but also creates stress, and makes us take a short-term perspective. By the time we learn patience and a long-term perspective, we are no longer young, and maybe our desires have changed. We also learn that desire and capability are distinct, and we start accepting our limits in capability.
This acceptance also helps in handling peer comparison. Earlier, we are concerned about what anyone thinks of us. Later, we are concerned about the thoughts of only those who matter to us. Even later, no peer evaluation matters. It is about what we leave behind us. Whose opinion matters, in fact, even who matters – also changes over time.
When we are young, we are overconfident and, I dare say, brash. This drives us to do things, which in the cold light of day, would make us exclaim, “What were we thinking?” But these actions creates consequences that make changes happen. As we grow old, we think (twice?) before we act, we think of longer-term implications, and therefore do not contribute too much to change. But we have the confidence of experience. People who have this confidence and still desire to make a difference are the persons who impact this world.
It is paradoxical that when we have the experience to do things right and we are not so concerned about peer approval, we lose the desire to do so.
Would it not make sense to inculcate the advantages of each stage of life in the first quarter. Suppose we have the desire and the experience and the disregard of peer approval, we could do wonders. In fact, people who do not shy away from experiences (good or bad), who maintain their desire, and care only of the opinions of people they trust are the ones who get ahead in life.
We all need to examine ourselves with respect to these three characteristics:
- get hands dirty,
- remain motivated despite failures and
- high self esteem.
The use of the word buttering implies that we are falsely praising a person. A few people (with very low self esteem) may enjoy being buttered, but others do not.
Consider this. We do not like criticism from anyone – except from those we respect and when we know the persons have a genuine interest in their hearts for me. However, we like praise from anyone. Sometimes, we wish that people notice our work and achievements and talk about it.
So if I am giving positive strokes to my boss for all the good things he has done, or the effort he is putting in, I am simply acknowledging his work. Similarly if I refrain from criticising; and, in fact, support his work with additional data or timely support, then it is not false. I am talking about fetching tea and coffee, polishing his shoes and acting as if he is God, but a genuine appreciation and support goes a long way in creating rapport.
People crave recognition and empathy and providing that makes a person positively predisposed to you. It is not possible to consistently deliver results (due to no fault of ours, but accidents happen) and this positive disposition helps during those times.
A hamster is a cute looking rodent which needs exercise. Since it is in a cage, a mobile wheel is provided for it to keep running without going anywhere. All the processes and activities that we do are for the purpose of changing something, from a current state to a new future state. There is an expectation, that an activity will change something, as desired.
So a process can be called effective only if it changes the current “state”. If we start something (remember our new year resolutions), and we spend time and money setting up the process, then start with enthusiasm, and then give up half way, or not put in enough effort, the desired state is not achieved, except the diminished size of the wallet.
If we look back on our road of life, we will see strewn on it, those treadmills, where we had spent a lot of time, trying to achieve something, but getting nowhere and then stepping off and continuing on the road, unchanged. When we look back at those treadmills, we lose self confidence because we are unable to achieve anything. Once we create that belief, we only see the broken treadmills, not our achievements, which further lowers our self-confidence and sense of achievement.
During placement season, the night before the interview, we swot vigorously from thick management tomes, past issues of the newspaper and the internet. If we do not succeed in getting placed, that swotting is like the treadmill, and our road gets strewn with a lot of such failed interviews. We start asking, what is the use of studies?
Why does this happen?
We do not know our goals. We spend a lot of effort doing this and that, trying various things right from lucky pens and totems, to prayers, to swotting book summaries. But to what purpose? How do we know that these are the right activities. Yes, the goal is to get placed, but where and how?
If we do a work breakdown structure, we realise that we get placed if we are better positioned than our competitor. Positioning is about perception, not reality. It can be product differentiation in terms of features. But it is also in terms of match between company’s needs and perceived benefits derived from hiring us. Therefore, to get product differentiation,
- we need to understand the mind of the buyer/recruiter and his needs,
- we need to match the needs with the benefits we have to offer (the benefits of hiring us) and
- we need to prove that we have the features that showcase these benefits.
So instead of trying at the last minute to enhance our features, which we may or may not have an opportunity to display, given the time available, we need to focus on the following:
- Do an analysis of the customer’s industry and the company to understand its problems and therefore the perceived needs of the industry and the company with respect to other companies in that industry. The industry analysis should be done beforehand, and the company analysis, once we know the name, should be done ASAP.
- During the Pre-placement talk (PPT), we should understand the roles and designations of the persons, and look for the keywords that they are repeating. Based on their roles, they have certain professional needs.
- Develop a set of keywords (use our friends who are not interested in the company to help develop these words) and ensure that we use them during the GD. We have to try to link the topic of the GD to the company and the industry so that we can highlight our knowledge. It may be great if we can use these words during the Q&A after the PPT.
- We should use the same friends to quickly understand the needs of the recruiters and which of our features showcase the benefits that will satisfy these needs.
- Since most CVs are in the same format, unfortunately, and they hide our uniqueness, we should have an alternate mode of showcasing the benefits of hiring us. This can be in the form of a presentation, an elevator pitch, copies of our blog articles, and other physical evidence that highlight our uniqueness. All these are features and their benefits should have been determined earlier on, not at the last moment.
- We have to ensure that we highlight all three types of features: Attitudes and Traits, Transferable Skills and Subject Matter Expertise (these are all specific to the interview)
- During the interview, we should ask permission to ask questions and once they relinquish control, validate with them our perceptions of the needs of the industry, their company and the recruiters and therefore offer concrete evidence of our ability to contribute towards fulfilling the needs.
For each interview, the future state is different, as the job is different and the path towards that job is different. Therefore the process is customised, instead of being generic. I hope that this will decrease the number of treadmills we see in our past life.
Of course, another way is to forget the past, and not turn back to see the treadmills. But typically we cannot do that, and we waste time going back and re-examining those treadmills and weeping over the carcasses and wasted resources.
Segmentation allows us to slice and dice the general population according to their capability to buy and according to their needs and wants. Needless to say, creativity in segmentation allows us to get massive gains. It allows us to create demand where supply is less, commanding higher prices. Segmentation allows us to focus our sales and marketing strategy, but the narrow focus may seem too restricting to some strategists.
We segment the recruiters in the basis of the specialisation. Another way of looking at it, we specialise based on this segmentation of our recruiters.
Horizontals become verticals
All specialisations can be treated as horizontal specialisations, wherein a person, performing a specific function, can be employed in any industry . That means that any company running operations, be it BPO or manufacturing, can employ an Operations MBA. Any company having an HR department will hire an HR MBA and any company having an in-house IT department would hire such an IT MBA.
Since companies outsource their internal functions, each of these outsourced functions are set up as organisations providing such services. Therefore a horizontal becomes an industry vertical. For example, HR recruitment firms help their clients recruit – which, earlier, was an in-house function. So a person specialising in HR can join any company in their HR department, or a company in the HR industry, providing HR services.
The same goes for Operations and Marketing.
Broad segments can be sub-segmented. Male Shavers can be sub-segment by age groups. All specialisations have sub-specialisations. HR can have Human Relations and Industrial Relations (factory or production set-up focussing on labour and wages, not knowledge workers and salaries). Another way of segmenting HR is by sub-processes like recruitment, payroll processing, policy design, policy implementation, appraisal implementation, downsizing (“Up in the Air” movie) and so on.
Operations can be segmented as manufacturing / product based operations or services based operations. In product operations you can have FMCG operations or Consumer Durables operations. Again, functionally, it can be Purchases, Supply chain, Distribution chain, Inventory management, Logistics…
Marketing can be segmented by Product category, Services category and by Sub-processes.
Finance has even more ramifications. You can have Corporate Finance which is Financial management in an organisation (typically done by the CAs), and related functions like Costing, audit etc. You can have sub-industries like Corporate Brokerage, Retail Brokerage, Investment Banking, Commercial Banking, Corporate Banking, Retail Banking, Rural Banking. You can have operations processes like Sales and Relationship Management, Front office Operations, Back office Operations, Risk and Middle office Function, Settlement, Cash Management, Custody, Reconciliation, Treasury Management etc.
IT was and still is a horizontal function, and has slowly got outsourced into the huge IT industry. This can be segmented into software and hardware. Within software, you have services – low end services like body shopping firms hiring out programmers, project based programming. You can have software product development and sales and implementation support.
In hardware / networks you can have design and development of products, implementation and support. You can sell boxes like PCs etc, or infrastructure, or services like storage services and so on. The various modes of segmentation is left to the imagination.
You can have higher-end services like design of IT services, Business Process Modelling, setting of ERP, CRM-type enterprise level software. You can act as interfaces between the users and the developers both to gather requirements and to test the applications. As MBAs, since you have knowledge of business functions, you should know more than the average programmer.
You may get involved in high end consulting, preparing a company for the internet world, set up internet marketing, blogs, websites etc.
How do we decide what is the right specialisation for us?
The convenient way is to ask: where do I get the most money, the best growth prospects and a branded company my parents can be proud of. Seniors, alumni and well-wishing relatives and uncles / aunts abound, justifying their existence and their specialisations. Some give good, thoughtful advice, the rest shoot from the hip.
The other way is to look at your traits and determine what is the right specialisation. “I am a peoples’ person, so I should do marketing or HR”. “Most women go for HR.” “I am good at numbers so I should do finance” – so is a cheap calculator good at numbers.
Another way is to ask what it takes to succeed in an industry? What traits and what skills? Find out an ideal candidate profile for each type of a job in terms of attitude, transferable skills and subject matter expertise. Then determine whether you have them, or can you acquire them. The subject matter expertise determines your specialisation. The others you need to acquire assiduously through other means.