As a start to any new mentoring relationship I get into, I always ask what my mentee’s goal is. If I had a rupee for every time I heard, “I want to be a VP making Rs 60 lakh a year”, I would probably be a billionaire myself!
But, “So what?” Is it wrong to want to advance in the workplace? Or even earn enough money where money is not the concern? Absolutely not! But it may be time to step back and analyse how we choose to define our aspirations. Is it still good enough to just want higher designations and fatter salaries? Or is it time for a shift in our mindset and aspirations?
Jerry Rao articulated this well in the foreword he wrote for my book “You Don’t Need a Godfather”. Here is an excerpt from that foreword:
“I have come across two types of careerists (and let’s not be coy – we are all careerists). The first category manager feels good because she got promoted, she became the youngest V.P. in the company, and she made it to President in record time and so on. But if you ask her what she achieved in terms of market share, customer service, technological innovation, morale building and so on, she is silent – perhaps because she has little to say. The second category manager is not oblivious to promotions or job titles, but she sees genuine objective achievements, e.g., increasing market share, improving customer service, introducing progressive innovations and other such actions as her direct contribution, which would then as a corollary lead to promotions and career rewards.”
While the first category of careerists has traditionally done well, I think a paradigm shift is coming where the second category of folks will be the forerunners. As India moves from a nascent to a mature market, it will no longer be enough to just prove that you have done it before and that you can do it again. The days of swapping one CEO with another at a higher price tag are ending. The wannabe managers and leaders will need to show adaptability and hunger for challenges. They should be able to chart unknown territory. And the goals they set for themselves will need to reflect this hunger and want for knowledge.
Trust me, after decades of experience with both the HR and the business sides of the house, it is not a tough job to find a GOOD fit for most roles. If you pay well, there will be a plethora of people to choose from. So if you set your goals on a monetary measure, you can always find a better paying job, doing exactly the same thing. But the chances of you doing much more than that, of actually being energised to come to work, doubtful... Instead of reporting to Bala, you will be reporting to Ram and when times get tough, guess who will be the first to go...yes... The guy we overpaid to do something that is done cheaper elsewhere!
Now, that doesn’t mean you take whatever is available and lose focus on rank or money. Those for the lack of better are fairly standard scales when it comes to India. But, when evaluating your options, try these on for size:
- Will I get to learn something new?
- Will I get exposure to higher level problem solving and challenges?
- What value adds will I bring that will positively impact the new role?
- Who will my colleagues and leaders be? (This is not so you can judge the entertainment value of water cooler conversations but to understand the level of intellectual power you will be able to draw upon.)
We are going to be facing a paradigm shift in the next few years. Our value will not depend on the number of designation changes listed in our CVs, but from the number of turnkey projects, transition management interventions, logo wins and other such tangible outcomes any valued employee of an organisation would be proud to boast about.
Employers will look for those candidates that can land on their feet in uncharted situations, not hang on to their past laurels. They will look for people who have a better answer than just, “I need a salary jump”, or “I am not valued” when asked why they are job hunting. Employers will want a true asset to the company rather than one drawn in by the pay package.
As a parting thought, I will leave you with this true story I heard from a friend. She was conducting some admissions’ interviews for her alma mater (it is a growing trend these days that colleges ask former students to help interview and select future students. Who else will be more mindful of the quality and the good name of an institute than those who also hail from the same place?). After a long day of meeting some great and some not so great candidates, a young man entered the room with his CV.
Now, those of you in the IT field will resonate with this more than others, but I think everyone will get the gist...This CV had everything. How this gentleman rose from a trainee to a senior associate; how he was top of his class; how other colleagues came to him for advice; AND how he was already performing his boss’s job but without the recognition.
When she asked him, why he wanted to join this school and what he would do after getting his degree, he replied: I will be able to get a higher job in my workplace. Good enough. Now this is where it got interesting. Since she was from the IT world, she asked, “Well, if all you want is the next level, how about I offer that to you now? You can join my organisation and save a year and tuition fees and be where you want.” The young man quickly accepted that if that was an option, he would gladly consider.
Suffice to say that he got neither the job nor the seat in college. It was clear that he did not understand the benefits that the degree would give him. As for the job, he had no aspirations beyond what he was already doing and he did not have the drive to learn and challenge. He simply took what was given to him.
So, as you read this and think of all the billions out there to be made, keep in mind, money and title will always be an outcome of effort and results. Set your goals and aspirations well, and the rest will follow. Don’t worry too much about your bank balance. Think about the balance you have to learn and achieve!