What is career? I only knew about “Job” . After spending good number of years i came to know little bit more about “Career”. Why career aspect is important? Obvious answer – because this gives us success, money, recognition, blah blah..May be. But for me, this is very important because this is where we end up spending (happy or/and cribbing) majority of our active life. This is why I think it is very important to understand what goes “behind” and “foreground” related to career. As India’s ( or any other developing country) economy is going to grow more and more people end up working in corporate or organized sectors.
Many elements goes into Career – Career selection, planning, growing, falling, exists, re-entries, politics, power plays, etc etc. This is like any other game. But did you knew these aspects before you jumped off? I had no idea. First of all, did you select your career consciously or your parents/relatives or some “well wisher” had selected your career?. Forget about rest of the elements.
By now, I have spent close to 2 decades of my life in the corporate world. Am I an expert in career area? Not at all. I just have enough learning from my own experiences (good and bad) and through my observations. I will share my thoughts on – Decoding “The Game of Career” and hope it will help some one some where.
Accidental Career vs Addictive Career
How would any one choose his/her career? You might choose your career based on market demand, pay prospects, your interest in a specific field, parents & others influence, family culture (business families, doctor families), etc.
Unless you have a very good understanding of what career you really want to pursue, it is very much of gambling and adjustment/compromise. This is what I call as “Accidental Career”. The closest analogy I can give is arranged marriage vs love marriage. In arranged marriage you (your parents) find someone and get married then leave your life to theory of probability. You will get a suitable partner if you are very lucky person. If not, then you will get used to your not so suitable partner through adjustments and eventually you will be locked due to obligations. And, if you get frustrated then feel like leaving your partner but if you are scared then you will continue with half or empty heart. You only leave your partner if the relationship is becoming unbearable no matter what obligations you have.
This is exactly how you your accidental career also works. So, the lucky ones will get the right career coincidentally in the first few attempts and the not so lucky people will go through the cycle of adjustments and frustrations. When you are so much frustrated with your career you will look for alternatives but if you are scared or have too much obligations then you are forced to continue. Result of this is no fulfilling career and mediocre achievement.
What about Love marriage? At least here you would have taken conscious decision based on your likes, etc. And, hopefully you would have done enough dating before marriage. You will know to some extent the other person. If you select a career which you are passionate about then most probably you will continue with your passion for rest of your career. This is the reason why almost every successful person (in any field) say that they are very passionate about what they are doing. If not, then they won’t be able to produce the results they are able to. Most of these people are obsessed and addicted to their career. This is what I call as “Addictive Career”. Addictive career is progressive, fulfilling and outstanding accomplishments.
Don’t analyze and think about pros & cons of arranged marriage vs love marriage. That is just for analogy.
Think about if you are living with “Accidental Career” or leading with “Addictive Career”.
In the “Game of Career”, the most important step is to understand what kind of career you currently have.
How Accidental Careers Drag down economy and development of a country
What is the real big deal if you live with “Accidental Career” not pursue “Addictive Career”. Life will continue right? Yes, you can continue. But it will significantly impact the quality of the fulfillment, accomplishment and impact you can make. Apart from your personal fulfillment, it will dramatically impact your nation’s progress and economy.
I personally don’t believe in patriotism as I thin’k it is just a different scale & level of protectionism and security. I understand this from survival perspective. Which is OK. For this blog purpose, let us assume most of you are are very passionate about your country and do some thing about its progress, etc. How are you really contributing to your country’s development?. Or what do you think the best way to contribute?. We most of often say politics or corruption or xyz is the problem. In my view, you can transform any nation’s development if majority of the people get into addictive careers. Imagine you have just 100 Ambanis, Sachin Tendulkars, Modis, Rajamoulis, etc. Can you imagine how rapid and progressive the growth can be for any nation?
Why do you think that US or any other advanced country has made significant advancement in most aspects? Do you think they have better they natural resources than other counties or they blessed with some special powers. What do you think?. I think it all boils down to freedom for an individual to choose addictive careers . Period. Then the rest of the the progress follows. All you need is 10 percent (or may be much lesser than percent) of people should be in addictive careers then nation will flourish.
Bottom line is – Pursuing “Addictive Career” is not just for your individual satisfaction but for your entire national development. So if you are patriotic then instead of talking all other political issues just focus on getting into “Addictive Career” not just for you but for your next generation as well
Know Your Core Talents/Strengths
I was working as an Account Manager for some time in US. My client asked for a DBA resource. I didn’t had one. I had some Java profile. I was trying to tell my client manager how good this Java person is and I told him he can do DBA work also, blah, blah. I was just trying to sell this profile to DBA position. Then that manager jokingly said ” Kishore, don’t try to fit Circles into Squares and Squares into Circles“.
Since then I remember this phrase very well. This is very apt phrase when it comes to career selection and growth. If your career or specific role is not matching with your core strengths then it will be a drag and you won’t fit. Can you imagine how much drag? Just imagine an unfit (for this role) person leading a country or an organization how it will negatively impact. At the same time imagine the opposite- right people in the right roles. Progressive returns. 10X plus. How many such examples have you seen – both types?
But how one can find out their real talents/strengths?. Most often it is based on gut feel and you kind of get what you are good at. The main issue with this is very often people will get confused with skills vs talents. Skills comes with practice. Talents are inherent and with minimal effort you get highest return. And you want do more and more – sign of a talent.
Fortunately, now there are many scientific assessment tools available to know your core talents. You would have heard tools like DISC, MBTI and Gallup’s StrengthFinder. You can explore any tool you like. My personal favorite is StrenghtFinder. It has really helped me a lot to really understand my core talents. Even some of the large organizations are moving to “Strength based organizations”.
It does not matter whether you are entry level into career or senior level, it will be huge benefit to know your core talents. This is really the foundation basic building block.
Strength based Individuals -> Strength based Organizations -> Strength based Nation
Know Your Players
Selecting right career and knowing strengths is just the beginning of the “Game”. Right career path, passion & strengths are just not sufficient to win the game. We need to know what it takes to win the game.
I believe most people did not knew what it takes to win the game when they have started their careers. When I entered into corporate sector I had no idea what is needed to be successful. I was told and believed that if I have good “technical” skills and hard working nature then I can “grow” very easily. This was the case for first few years. Then I learnt that these are not enough and I need to have team management skills along with other two skills. Fast forward, suddenly I was told you need to “align” with right people and “sell” your work, etc. Then networking, politics and then power plays. None of these are neither good or bad. These are all essentials if you have to win whether you like it or not.
Let me quickly introduce game of cricket as analogy here. Assume that you need 11 players to play and win the game. In our context, 11 players can be technical competency, hard working, team management, networking skills, internal selling own and others work ;), alignments, political maneuvering skills, etc etc. And based on the pitch (company for e.g) your players need to changed to suit to the pitch conditions.
Do you know what are the 11 players (competency/skills) you need to win in your pitch (company)?. If so what is score?
What is your CSQ?
What is CSQ? I just coined this word to make you understand your score in your current career. CSQ (Career Success Quotient) is simply the score expected to win vs your score. This is very simple. And let me explain.
Let’s say you are in the first 5 years of your career. In those early years, what is mostly required and expected is technical competency (any field) and ability to work hard to delivery the work. Let’s say the weightage/score is 50 and 50. So depending upon your technical competency and your effort you know your score. Life is very easy right?.
Now move to 5-10 yrs range. Here you are expected few more things like people management skills and little bit networking skills. So the expected score gets distributed among these based on the importance. Observe how the weightage changes here. It will get very interesting further.
Once you are in the 10-15 & 15-20 yrs zones, you are required to “manage” many things. Slowly the games becomes complex. You need to have ability to market/sell your work, build personal brand ( people need to know who you are), managing internal politics and most importantly you need to “align” properly. Align with your organization culture, your unit and your boss and his boss and his boss.
It will be altogether different game when you get into senior positions. It requires completely different “talents” to win the game. The game becomes very intense. Not every one can play this game. That’s why very few can go to the top.
Did you know notice the 180 degree shift from your where you have started in terms of what is required?. Don’t look at any thing (alignment, politics, etc) in the negative shade. This is how things work on the ground. Take any field whether sports, politics, business, movie industry and every where there are different kind of players required based on the game you are playing.
Above table is just a framework for you to understand. Don’t debate on the skills required or scoring mechanism. Just take it as rough example.
What is the benefit of this score? It will give you your career astrology. You come up with your table and derive your score. You will know why you are not growing or growing. Not every would have the talent, interest, focus and priority to grow in career and win . It is all based on your biology, beliefs, psychology & philosophy of your life. But the point is you get the clarity (I hope) from your score.
Choose the Right Pitch
Did you calculate your CSQ Score? How much did you score? If you have scored good then all the best. If not then what is the way forward?
I think you are matured enough to know what to do. But here are few of my observations & thoughts.
- You can try to improve on your players (skills) . This is the general management or personality development pitch. But I have some reservations on this. I agree that some things can be learnt through practice. But some are difficult to learn. They are not really difficult but difficult for your personality. Let’s take “selling your work” or “alignment” example, some people say they don’t like to do this because it is conflicting with their belief or value system. This is why I think some are very difficult to adopt and learn.
- Assuming the above assumption is correct (you can not change (at required level) certain key skills ), all you can do is choose the “Right Pitch”. Right pitch can be right role, division or right company or altogether new career choice based on your core strengths and skills.
I believe at any point of your career you can focus on your core strengths and move ahead but you need to find the right pitch. This may not very easy and you may need to go through some experimentation until you find the right pitch. If you are not experimenting enough then fear (any form) may be stopping you. That’s why it is very important to first learn “How to Romance with Fear”.
“Corporates are full of politics” – this is very very commonly heard statement.
Politics are there every where. As long as there are two people involved there is a scope for politics. It can start from your home. And the politics will go up to world super power vs rest of the world. If politics are there every where then why we crib about only corporate or any workplace politics. I guess the biggest reason for this is we idealize corporate world and hence the expectation. This will never happen. Period.
But what is politics means in this context? From Google – “Activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization.” I think definition fits well. Depending upon “Activity” and what your value system is you can define whether it is good or bad. But that is relative.
And I think playing politics is an art and not a simple skill to practice. That’s why not everyone can pick this up easily. And most dislike this word even though they do it indirectly but they will choose a different name for it. Some are pure souls and they really don’t like to do it. Some are savvy politicians and they love playing it . Others play situational and need basis.
Bottom line – expect politics as normal and don’t become emotional about it.
Out of 11 players (skills) some of them are very important but often they are not taught or ignored.
Mentors play very important role in career journey. Take any line of career – sports, politics, entrepreneurship, etc and you will find hardly any successful person without having a good mentor(s). I am not sure of the exact reasons but when it comes to corporate environment this is not taken as very high priority item. May be we realize the importance of mentors late in the career . And it will be too late to build strong relationship and also you may think you know every thing by that time.
Most corporates have some kind of mentoring programs. I am not really talking about those mentors in the system/process for compliance perspective. I am talking about the mentors with whom you have real good relationship and the mentor is really interested in your growth. You would be really lucky to get such mentors. If you get one very early in your career then I am very sure your career would be very different. Why mentors are very important? Mentor will give you your most optimal route from their experience. It will save lot of time and reduce pain (from mistakes).
Your mentor can be from with in the organization or out side. In side mentor is always much more effective. Depending upon your depth of the relationship your mentor can be just mentor or can be your god father.
Go and find a good mentor ( it will take time) , if you don’t have one yet. It will really help.
Digital Era CSQ
While the key principles remain same, “Career” (in every field) itself will transform dramatically in the rapidly changing Digital era.
I believe each career CSQ table will get redefined in the Digital era ,while scoring mechanism is still applicable. You would not be able to operate and play the way currently careers are being managed. You can’t simply play by “managing” things. Your table will have new key players like – “Deep Expertise”, “Innovation” , “Speed” and “Adapting to Change”, etc. For e.g “General management” will be replaced by “Deep Expertise”. It will be an era of specialists. This is applicable to every field.
You need to define your “NEW CSQ table” by envisioning how your career area will be shaping. And accordingly you need to build required skills and move @ much higher speed. And don’t be surprised if your so called “career” itself will be eliminated from the picture. I mean the careers which will/cane be automated and replaced by technology. Yes, there are many such careers and some “blissful” people are not able visualize the danger.
To further dwell on, read my earlier blog on HOW TO CHOOSE CAREERS IN THE DIGITAL ERA?
The intent of this series was not to preach or teach (never be the case) but to share my experiences (of doing and not doing) and observations. There are hundreds of books on career and general management. People are already bored with them. So I just touched upon what I thought are important for career.
In Fountainhead (By Ayn Rand) novel there is a small paragraph which talks about why it is important to choose a work which you enjoy. I got the para finally. Here it is..
““But you see,” said Roark quietly, “I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”