Smart Choices Bad Moves
ANSHUMAN BORDOLOI [MBA (FT) 2003 BATCH]
While I was thinking what to write for the first blogpost of Samannay, one old memory of CMS days flashed into my mind like a fresh lash of air. It was a bright winter morning. We were at the class and our teacher Anirban Sir came to the class with a new idea, an experiment called self retrospect. Incidentally it was my birthday, although nobody except me knew about it. The exercise was like this: all of us were asked to write about ourselves based on some questions. I don’t remember the questions exactly, but one had to think of self as a product, make a tagline for oneself and give reasons for associating oneself with that product. We also had to write about great things and big mistakes we had done in the past. Associating me with a product was an easy and interesting job. But I had a tough time thinking and writing about the great things and mistakes I did in the past. I thought over and over again but could think of anything worthwhile. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity for me to delve into the past and realise – am I on the right track in life? Similarly, when I joined my present job and attended the induction training, we were asked to tell about how do we see ourselves in future –say after a period of 10 years. It’s never easy to visualise the future but all the more interesting to imagine the future and tell things like –I want to see myself heading a division… or as a highly successful professional…..or get my success story published …and so on. But after spending a considerable amount of time, when we unknowingly enter mid career stage, when we look back and evaluate, we realise about the packet of good and not so good incidents and moves that have shaped the stage where we are today.
Self retrospect is a necessary exercise of one’s life & career. It’s just like a performance review. Just close your eyes and think about the first day of your job and the journey that led you to where you are today. While certain things would fill your mind with a joy of accomplishment, certain things would bring regret about certain decisions and moves. The feeling will be different at different stages of career and life. Consider our Alumni Association – while for fresh graduates the feeling of nostalgia that emotes from being part of the association wouldn’t be so natural, our batch mates being the most experienced (may not be more than some of the alumnus from part time batches), are in a better position to experience this phenomenon.
We often get to hear colleagues’ comments such as – “I shouldn’t have joined this industry, this isn’t just right for me” or “I shouldn’t have accepted the offer to stay back” or “I should have hopped long back but now it’s too late”. The problem is that, unless our job is too frustrating, we gradually develop a comfort zone in our career. We keep doing the same things; we started liking to do things in a certain style, so much so that this inertia pushes us to a point from where we can’t go back. We get ready to go to the office every morning. We wait eagerly for the weekend. Weekend comes and goes in a whip. The cycle starts over. It continues and one day we realise that we’ve just become a robot and then we ask ourselves why haven’t I broke this cycle, why haven’t I switched to something I enjoyed, why did I let things happen instead of taking control of things.
It’s always easier for a fresher to experiment with career. You can change as many jobs you want; you can even change your industry. You can keep changing until you settle somewhere you think your best fit. It becomes riskier and more challenging as you progress in your career. In the middle of one’s career, changing job is possible but changing the industry may spell doom. Because it means starting from beginning sacrificing years of experience you put in your previous job. Responsibility of family coupled with EMIs, peer pressure, health issues, concerns about layoffs act as big deterrents in mid career jumps. In classroom we learn about managing so many things, but very little about managing our own career. Career is a sensitive thing which needs to be managed from beginning taking each step consciously and evaluating each move continuously.
Everybody must have heard about Chetan Bhagat. Yes, the famous author who has not only written bestselling novels but also made English fiction popular in India. Many of us know that he was an Investment Banker in Hong Kong. After completing the most prestigious combo of IIT and IIM he chose the obvious career path. But he was a writer at heart. After publishing his first 2 books he rose to an enviable stardom. As he started selling the rights and movies were made based on his novels, success poured in terms of commercial gain. That was the time he gave a second thought to his career. Much to the surprise of his professional fraternity but not much surprise to his fans, he bid farewell to his hectic but blooming career in Banking, to take up full time writing as a career choice. He moved to Mumbai, ostensibly to get professional independence, to follow the passion, have time for family and activate a social life.
But as he released his new books one after another, the sales figure dwindled. The readers discovered that there was nothing new and all his books contained the same old masala with similar story-line. Movies were still being made based his stories but he didn’t received good share of the pie. He realised fiction writing was not going to give him a steady stream of income. He changed his focus to political writing. But it was a completely new field for him where he faced tough competition from proficient journalists from established media houses. He used social media extensively – making comments on twitter and facebook posts – to popularise his political writings. But social media promotion is a full time job and many companies and media houses employ a team to manage their social media. The result: a more hectic life with little success and low commercial gain. Eventually, he had to say goodbye to the new found career and start something new – motivational speaking. He still writes novels but only as a second career option. Fortunately he had a strong brand reputation which helped him to hop from one career to another – banking-novelist-political writer-reality dance show judge-motivational speaker. Many of us are not as fortunate as him.
The bottom line is: if you want to follow your passion, recognise it early. Otherwise, keep it as a second career option. Remember the obvious and most sought after career options may not necessarily suit you. If you are good with numbers, it doesn’t mean you can’t sing & dance.
Popular Bollywood movies have been made to reinforce follow-your-passion brigade. Many of us know that the famous movie 3 Idiots was made based on Chetan Bhagat’s book Five Point Someone. The maker of the movie accepts this and Mr. Bhagat was even paid for the rights. However, the truth is, the movie advocates a totally opposite philosophy. If you have read the book and have seen the movie as well, you will know that while the book was about –what not to do at IITs, the movie was about how not to mess up your career. In fact the movie was a big smack to the author himself. Consider Bhagat’s own life: a young man with a natural passion for writing joins the nation’s top Engineering college and then the top Management Institute. He then becomes an Investment Banker. But he is actually neither an Engineer nor a Banker. He is a writer by heart. The author’s real life situation was depicted by a character in the movie – a young boy with a natural flair for wildlife photography who joins an Engineering college due to parental pressure. At the end of the movie, his parents realise that their son will be happy if and only if he is allowed follow his passion. Also, the prime character of the movie was inspired by a real life person Sonam Wangchuk of Ladakh. An ordinary looking man from Ladakh, Mr. Wangchuk used his grassroots innovations for the betterment of the people of the region. He is a proof that one need not join MNCs and need not study in top institutes to make a difference to the society.
Finally, ask yourself, where do you want to see yourself in the future – say after 10 or 20 years. Take it as a mission and plan accordingly. Periodically, stop, look back and ask yourself the questions – “am I on the right track?”, “do I need to change?” If yes, then the time is now!