The Seminal Guide to Career Advancement
THE PROBLEM with us is that we are hesitant. I remember once I was sitting at my desk and one of my very junior employees loitered in. Flat hierarchies have a lot to answer for since it gives everybody an excuse to walk into the boss's office and make it an excuse for skinching off work.
Still I looked up from my mechanical cheque-signing routine and asked him what he wanted and he said shyly that it was nothing. No, he didn't say that, he said "Nothing." So, I continued with my signing and twenty minutes later there he was still shifting his weight from one foot to the other and watching the perspiration manifest itself on my fevered brow.
Finally, I asked him what the problem was and after fifteen minutes of sustained humming and an equivalent time hawing he poured out his tale of woe that was so involved and complex that several soap opera writers would have bought the story rights to it on the spot at a price beyond the dreams of avarice.
If only, I thought, the poor fellow had come out with his problems several days ago; I could have solved it for him. But no.
He bottled it up inside and allowed implosion after which I could do nothing except pick up the pieces.
To prevent a recurrence of this particular brand of idiocy, I made it a system that people do the following to see that they were heard and that management learnt more about each individual employee.
The reticence had to go - Unless people have the guts to ask for advancement, very few companies provide it. I have seen good people suffering year after year because they were too decent and polite to ask for uppage.
While those that did were kicked upstairs. When I joined the world of business, I discovered that the management types that sit on top of the corporate dung heap have absolutely no clue about their people because they are so focused on their own advancement, unless they are told, they do not register it.
Planning - It's amazing how many people don't plan their careers. When they graduate, they take the first job that comes along.
Hence, several engineers in call centre jobs. What a waste of education. I've seen management graduates as customer service executives. And before long they are frustrated and wonder why life and success has passed them by. I had a letter today from a management graduate asking me whether he could get a job based on his qualifications, in Germany.
He couldn't speak German and hadn't realised that the language might be required there. On the other hand, if he had planned on Germany while he was studying, he could have taken up a German course and be ready to leap at the opportunity when it presented itself
Questioning - Something that is never done in offices. After the reticence, there is usually no follow up on the action. Fatal! Ask what happened. Enquire from the boss if your contribution has been noticed by the powers that be. If you ask enough, he might remember to mention it in passing. Careful though, sometimes it's easy to cross the magic line between enquiry and irritation.
At appraisal time ask what it is that will deserve a promotion. Make sure he notes it down and then - do it! Who can deny you the advancement once you succeed?
Guru search - It amazes me that the majority of our young graduates and professionals forget that important part of our great Indic tradition, the Guru-Shishya bond. It is, in my opinion, essential for our people to have someone to emulate and lean upon for advice and wisdom.
Why this has happened I really don't know, because we are a naturally helpful race, always ready with help and advice to those that ask. Find a suitable person of your acquaintance and ask, as did many of our great seers, that you be instructed in the wisdom of the world. Above all, I have seen that people that quote their gurus to their bosses are taken more seriously than those that don't (even though they have one.)
Soft skill savvy - This cannot be blamed on students and job seekers and responsibility must rest firmly with institutions that expect their students to somehow be able to master etiquette, group discussion skills, interviewing and other communication skills without being taught this at their institutions.
Actually, almost every institution in this country is to blame for this lacuna in our talent pool. The vast majority of our professional graduates are totally lacking in internationally accepted behavioural skills and suffer as a result.
If these institutions pull up their collective socks and make this learning compulsory, there should be no stopping our talented young people from scaling the heights across the world. One engineering college I know took proactive steps in this regard and got a provider to give their senior year students soft-skill inputs every Saturday for twenty weeks during their final semester.
The result? Every single student was successfully placed. The cost was a mere Rs.100 per student for a four-hour session every Saturday. Attendance was 100%, actually more than for their regular classes.
This year on, the college has hired the provider to do his magic
With this under your beanie, you should be able to get somewhere, especially if you are on the bottom rung. But then, at that level there is only one way to go and that's up! All the best and get your skates on.
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