“Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things you did not do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from a safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” (Mark Twain).
Not for reasons of only being a professional but also for being grateful to Divinity, for giving us life, we must plan, on how we will put to use, the days, months, years of life, we are blessed with. Planning is not for a single day. To undertake tasks of substance, the thought cannot be restricted to the daily things-to-do; unless each single day is part of the plan, encapsulating the chores of the day, week, month, and years that go to impact “our life”.
As a first step, an individual has to “decide”, what is the quest? Once the ultimate goal is in mind, then one has to undertake an exercise to determine, how things are to be prioritised; which task should precede and which can be placed on the back burner. Here, it is also important to judge and evaluate, if the quest, has any conflict between personal objectives and professional objectives. The two can be different, but the gulf, if any between them, must not render the objectives to be opposite to each other. Glaring conflict must be quickly reconciled. Setting goals that are clear, precise and specific always helps. Having said that the word ‘goal’, I am amazed at the way and manner, it is abused in the management of resources, particularly human resources, by management gurus and practitioners. A goal is an objective to achieve, nothing more, nothing less. As a student of management, I am unable and unwilling too, to distinguish between goals and “smart goals” – I believe this overplay in semantics does not, in any manner, alter or change the basic elements of setting goals and objectives. An affix of “street” to any human characteristic or trait is at least not my cup of tea. What in the world is “street smart”? Does it mean one has to adopt “street” behavior, language, nuances, attitude or what? These concepts to me are management humbugs – just set your goals, as you see for yourself, depending on your personality and skill set, both the existing and of the ones to be acquired in future. In the determination of these goals, let no prefix of any adjective take you away from gentlemanly behavior. You can achieve goals at a cost; never attempt to achieve at “any cost” that may force you to infringe upon your moral, ethical, social, or religious standards. If there is a dichotomy between personal goals and professional, then revisit them with the lens of your own values and traditions. Those who stick with universally accepted value, usually move faster on the organisation chart, then those who try and discover the art of bending and playing with fundamental of values, by either rephrasing them or by adding unnecessary adjectives as a suffix or a prefix.
To plan a career, without setting time lines for putting major milestones, on the journey towards accomplishment of targets, is akin to following an illusion; a mirage and a chase towards nowhere. Each planned career move must be flagged with a deadline to achieve results. This allows for praising oneself, once the target is achieved, which in turn converts into a major motivational factor, for furthering higher objectives. As is said, nothing breeds better than success. Each success as small or as high is an impetus to continue on the pathway of life for in life, generally, there is no such thing as “ultimate success”. From the ascending of each pinnacle of summit, there is always to see, emergence of, a new horizon that needs to be discovered. Self-fulfillment has the best characteristic to motivate, and it is generated internally; no external stimuli are required, to move on towards newer destinations. For your career development, do not rely upon or depend on external factors. These external factors are never in your full command and control.
Work or tasks must be used and looked upon as tools for self development. The classical approach, that the job of the manager is to “get work done” by others, is close to obsolescence; present day standards of performance, require of managers to “get people done” (i.e., trained professionally) through work. Focused endeavors must be made towards seeking and development of new skill sets. The supervisor must see in you, a better professional, than your peer group. It is not to suggest that effort must be made to make your colleagues look bad or unprofessional; taking such route is not only negative, but also fatal to gains derived, if any. These are neither sustainable nor long-lasting. Develop your career based on “your strengths” and not on “weakness of co-workers”.
In pursuit of career objectives, no sight must be lost, on your internal values and belief system. If the organisation you work for has different set of values that are not in conformity with the fundamentals of universally accepted principles, then do not think just move it. It is for sure that if values conflict, the results are bound to be disastrous, for both, yourself and the organisation. Stand firmly against unjust principles and never bend under the self- deceiving guise of “compromise for status quo”. Firstly, do not use proximity to the boss for advancing your career. And secondly, if you have to, then do so with grace and dignity -- do not become a doormat or on the other extreme do not exercise undue influence upon other colleagues through the barrel of power borrowed by closeness to the boss. It is futile. It hurts ultimately. Success through proximate cause makes more enemies than admirers.
The recognition of hard work must give you “visibility” in the organisation. Best be known for hard work and diligence; and not be popular as an apron hanger to the bosses’ coats or a shoeshiner. Always seek to associate with those who have clarity of purpose in their lives. Those who are just. Those who are upright. Those who would not waver from the path of honesty, regardless of enticements or even temptations. Building character traits that distinguish you from the masses go a long way in helping shaping one’s career.
Be distinct for reasons of being tolerant to diverse opinions; adopt to demands of changing ways of conducting business; be adept at acquisition of new and fresh knowledge. Seek to get nomination to training and development programs, both within and outside the organisation. While doing so, prepare to move with focus horisontally on the organisational chart, just as much as you would do, to move vertically. The need for diversification and variety of experience is an imperative, if your aim is to get the ‘numero uno’ position in the organisation hierarchy. Career management also requires a fair degree of understanding the need to anchor in an organisation. Moving stone gathers no moss. But, simultaneously also, timing for being in a given company, a division, a department or a section must be fixed. If the entity fails in its responsibility of ensuring you rotation, then take the bull by the horns and guide your way through, by way of interacting with the CEO (chief executive officer) and HR (human resource) Head.
While destiny does play its part, it is also true to say that only upon those, who are hardworking, talented and focused, does the lady luck smile upon. Success, by whatever individual meaning and definition, and incompetence, are never good friends.
Besides, acquisition of the knowledge of nuts and bolts of each section of the organisation, effort must be made to harness management skills that must include appreciation of interpersonal skills, clarity of purpose, clear communication, the value of interdependence and the overall development of a stable and mature personality. Jokers or court jesters have limited shelf life; so do pretenders and the deceitful. Do not get beguiled by their limited success. I have seen many youngsters straying away from an otherwise successful career path by following and adopting the managerial skills (??) of those who are conceited, indulge in backbiting and are never shy to progress on the shoulders of skeletons.
Always do what you are good at. It helps the individual as well as the entity. Don’t lose sight as a leader of people where there is recognition that no crabs can be trained to walk straight. Do not invest to do so for failure is the most certain answer to such an effort.
Career decisions must not be procrastinated. If a decision has to be taken, so be it. Seek to be resolute in your aims and ambitions.
The writer is a free lance contributor