There is an old saying that “Opportunity knocks on your door just once. Seize it with both hands, else you will flounder forever.”
Louis L’amour, the well known ‘Western Novel’ author also said something similar. With all respect, I would like to differ. Opportunity is what you make of life. It will be there, just behind the arras. Slide back the drapes, locate it and grasp it deferentially with both hands. Uh-Oh! As always, there is a catch to it, lurking thereabouts.
Before you reach out to grab it with both hands, pause and reflect on certain aspects: Are you certain that the opportunity (job) you are reaching out for will suit you? Will it satisfy you physically and emotionally? Will it being you self esteem? Are you ready for it?
Are you ready for it? This is the key question. You will find this question popping up quite often, in different guises, like your contribution statement. If you are ready, go for it. If you’re not sure, I suggest you pause a while and carry out a self introspection, which may mean answering more such questions. This key question is designed to put you through an acid test to find out if you are aware about yourself. I propose to first make you aware about yourself as a complete entity. Thereafter, armed with this knowledge, you will have to identify your niche and decide where the top of your ladder ends. We will look at the methods of climbing that ladder, which will be quite different to the ‘standard gravitating upwards till you retire’ ladder, simply because the goal is what you have identified yourself, based on the many self-analyses you have carried out and the time-frame you have fixed for where you want to reach by when. As you go deep into the subject, you will find what you are looking for if you know what you are looking for. It will probably be deliberately camouflaged by those who were there before you.
The Start: Take pen and paper and write down what your attributes are. This is simpler than
you think. Just stay chronologically correct. Start from as far back as you can think of, early childhood and nursery school days. What did you excel in? What were your likes and dislikes? Your hobbies? Your interests? Your activities, skills and abilities? Were you professional? What did you want to do next? What did you want to become? Who was your role model? Did you receive awards for anything? How was life at home? It may come out as a mélange, a goulash at first sight. No matter, get your chronology right and you will be surprised at the end result. It will invariably show you what you like to do best and that is actually what you’ve wanted to always do. But, are you are aware about yourself? Possibly not. You have only seen what you like to do best and that it is what you’ve wanted to always do. As much as I would like to tell you that I could induct you into the coterie that calls itself Career Counselors, I cannot. You’ve done exactly what they make you do and got your result gratis, with one small difference. They would have put you through a series of psychological tests, aimed at finding about your psyche, id, creative and motivational level; personality disorders, if any; your stress zones and in some cases, your breaking point. The fact is, you are not yet aware about yourself.
You may have noticed I just skimmed over the Maslovian theory and stopped short of asking if it was self-actualization you are looking for? The very fact that you are setting out and answering a questionnaire shows that you are at least one level below nirvana. In this Paper, I will limit myself to this one level below self-actualization till the end, which is when I’ll leave you to ask yourself that question. At this point, I’d only like you to know, perhaps rediscover, who you are and what you are willing to do. As a first step, this will help you decide what you want to do in the vast field of opportunities that we euphemistically call the ‘world of work’.
The Inner You: I don’t know if you are a parent and watched your progeny take its first step. If it had reached a nascent cognitive stage some months back and wondered why his caretakers were moving around at 90° to itself. Shortly thereafter, realization dawned that it was not the caretakers who were moving around askance; the child was the guilty party and a few weeks later, it summoned up the courage to take its first step, to the pride and joy of all. The child was only investigating what lay ahead of its nose, providing that the nose was brought voluntarily to the vertical. Well, that’s just what you should be doing next. That data sheet you made earlier, jotting down your vision so painstakingly will remain with you from now on, whether as an aide memoire or a To Do diary entry or an imprint on your mind.
Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535), in his 'Occulta Philosophia' wrote:
"The human being is the most beautiful and perfect work of God, as an image and a world in small dimensions, he has a more perfect and more harmonious physique than all other creatures and contins all numbers, measurements, weights, movements, elements, in a word everything, belonging to his completion and reaching through the human being, the most sublime masterpiece, its perfection, which all the other bodies do not possess."
The tests you missed out because they are conducted by specialists are no big deal. They can be administered by a competent authority and only Neuropsychological and Personality tests need Psychologists. Most of us have undergone psychological tests at some stage in life, anyway. Achievement and aptitude tests are usually seen in all educational or employment settings, and they attempt to measure either how much you know about a certain topic or how much capacity you have (your aptitude) to master material in a particular area.
At times, you know the outcome better, but stick with the assessment. Intelligence tests attempt to measure your intelligence—that is, your basic ability to understand the world around you, assimilate its functioning, and apply this knowledge to enhance the quality of your life.
Neuropsychological tests attempt to measure cognitive functioning.
Occupational tests attempt to match your interests with the interests of persons in known careers. If the things that interest you in life match up with, say, the things that interest most school teachers, then you might make a good school teacher yourself.
Personality tests attempt to measure your basic personality style.
This is a rough guess at what your inner self is. You are your own best judge, friend and enemy rolled into one. You cannot keep your inner self hidden from view-You will be the first to
know, and the outward manifestations will reveal your psyche to the rest of the world. It is an
integral part of your personality. Some people have simple personalities, some complex. But
then the world cannot pause for you, or idiomatically put, it takes all types……….
There are many other factors which remain to be added to the cornucopia of talent and the odd shortfalls that you are an integration or embodiment of. Allowing them into the open can be a double-edged sword. You could be another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Far-fetched theories aside, it is always best to allow your entire self into the open. Expression could well be healing, but repression is most definitely deleterious. Many great persons have had grave disorders: Socrates, Plato, Julius Caesar and Lenin were epileptics; Napoleon had gonorrhea, Isaac Newton psychosis and King Louis XIII of France had bipolar disorder. If expression is indeed healing, you are one step closer to self awareness.
The Outer You: The outer you is reflected in the mirror every time you look at it. Don’t forget, you are visible to the outside world whenever you step out of your house. As a matter of habit, you must project the best possible image of yourself at all times. The first impression is vital. Research has shown that the first impression is made in four seconds−just 04”! What does an observer see in four seconds? He sees bearing and demeanor, clothes, shoes, hair, shaven face and smells body odor and then draws your personality. You cannot afford to let it go all wrong here. It might even call for you presenting just a façade. But the means justify the end and at
this point in time, you are portraying your best self. If you feel that you have covered a facet that is weak, work on it and remove that weakness using sheer willpower, which you have. I quote from a 19th century anonymous source:
‘In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not necessary to possess wealth or power. Your bearing must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence. And not only does the evidence of parfait demeanor serve to impress one's importance on others and to keep their sense of his importance alive and alert, but it is of scarcely less use in building up and preserving one's self-complacency. In all but the lowest stages of culture the normally constituted man is comforted and upheld in his self-respect by "decent surroundings" and by exemption from "menial offices".’
Clothing: Here are some pointers on how to improve your chances at making a successful first impression. They are easy-to-follow tips that will help you project your best image.
Shoes, Socks & Miscellany: Your shoes and socks are a dead giveaway of certain unpleasant aspects in your personality. Maintaining shoes is not difficult at all. These days, the quality of shoes is so good that you can shave looking down at your toecaps. If your heels are scuffed, discard them pronto. Shortly before meeting anyone, use your car duster to rub your shoes, divesting them of dust while adding to their luster. Check the shoelaces, whether they have their clamps on or whether the lace ends are frayed. If you are like me, you might carry a small ‘housewife’ or ‘hussif’ as it is called, an old Army tradition. It has everything, safety pins to buttons to sewing needle and thread to a pair of mini-scissors to a tube of neutral shoe cream. The elastic on your socks better be in snappy shape; if not, throw away your socks. Wear laced shoes. Slip-ons hint at a tendency towards a casual attitude.
Cuffs, Manicure & Sweat: By now you would have realized that frayed cuffs are a no-no and got rid of the shirt. What about your manicure? Neatly trimmed nails reflect an innate sense of propriety and order. Are your palms grubby? Wash them. Do you sweat a lot? Does it affect
your palms as well? Carry two handkerchiefs, one specifically for your palms. Use a deodorant
and anti-perspiration freely for your armpits; make sure it has a mild odor as you don’t want to
be a walking perfumery. Wear a wristwatch and don’t look at your mobile phone for the time.
And if you are carrying a mobile phone, know when to turn it off.
Attitude: What’s attitude got to do with the outer you? It’s abstract, whereas you are a proper human entity. True, but in your first impression you must show you are the happy kind; a bundle of infectious effervescence packaged well. Think of it as Body Language. Your disposition gets reflected in your work. No one likes a grump. Folks would rather spend their working hours with people who have a bounce in their step and a smile on their face. A depressing outlook on the visage of people tends to make others depressed. Daniel Goleman, an expert on Emotional Intelligence says, "Research shows that when people are in a good mood at work, it builds emotional capital and enhances productivity. The art of leadership is getting work done well through other people, and laughing together is a great way to do that."
What have we achieved so far? We have achieved a shell of the person called you. We are trying to get you into your best possible job, from where your career will take off on a self-created ladder, achieving identified mini-aims as others watch you pass by. They may console themselves by saying, “What the heck, my job and paycheck is secure.” Is that so? Look at what the financial disaster that Greece has caused the Euro zone economy. Years of unrestrained spending, cheap lending and failure to implement financial reforms left Greece naked when the global economic downturn struck. This whisked away a curtain of partly fiddled statistics to reveal debt levels and deficits that exceeded preset limits. The EU requires and has collected one trillion dollars to just stabilize the freefall! Jobs are going in Greece and Greece-related offices in Europe. So much for job security! Have a look at the corporate job sector and the competition to climb the Japanese corporate ladder, probably the toughest in the world.
Tough, isn’t it? That too, in Japan where everybody works 16-18 hours a day, often staying overnight at the office. Not that the wife minds it. She too is exhausted at the end of her equally long day at the office. The national tendency to have only one child is the obvious outcome of such a lifestyle. The grandparents look after the child, or the child spends long hours after school at a nursery cum crèche, or a child-minder becomes the surrogate mother. Not my cup of tea, probably not yours either.
In the conventional corporate promotion system, the beginning is smooth. You, along with your associates are at par, having joined together after graduation, whatever. You move around the various departments at the lower echelon, gathering information and experience. If you are the type who wants to move up quickly, it’s not possible at this stage. Many events are yet to take place in your life. Girlfriend, marriage, children, housing and mortgage, one/two cars, etc. You are too young and immature to eye that special slot and top of the line career yet. Don’t even think about it at this stage. You have to first reach that phase in your life where you can self-introspect. That’s a few years away. Temper your ambition with patience. The end result will be much better than you would expect. Recall Mark Antony’s classic utilization of the word ‘Ambition’. I quote Mark Antony from Julius Caesar,
“He hath brought many captives home to Rome, whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff”
Keep your ambition under check; a time will come when you will have to display that ambition.
Where You Stand: Figure 3 is the basic chart of where all stand and where all want to end up. In the first ten to twelve years or so, you have gained a fair amount of exposure, experience and hands-on knowledge. Assuming you joined at the age of 21, there would have been quite some movements on the family front and the basics of life. By now, you know the routine, and also know that the routine is not good enough for you. You have developed your personality and are fully capable of holding your own. So what happens to the average employee, your batch mate? He too moves around for those twelve years like you, but there is a difference. He hasn’t lined up his sights as you have on that great career and intermediate checkpoints. Let’s assume he stays on and doesn’t fall prey to normal attrition. Three years along the way, he meets up with his first eligibility test; he has to meet certain specifications in his work reports and get past them. Now his progress is through such barriers every year, or after a consolidated period of three to five years. For him, the goal is still distant and he has to cover quite a distance to reach there, crossing both known and unknown hurdles along the way. At times, the path to his final post seems like a minefield, and not without cause. His rise can never be meteoric in a world that has nepotism and flattery as cement blocks attached to his legs. All the same, let’s not decry him but give him his due. After 32-34 years of service, at an age of 53-55, he is one of the four who have made it to the black hat on the chart. Three years later, he gets to his final slot, in all probability as No. 2 to another contender who has additional assets in the form of contacts and influence. He does not make it to the golden arrow and his quiver is empty. Yet he is happy to have made it to the top four, something 95 of his team mates could not.
You, on the other hand, at the age of 33-34 years, have identified your goal and spent a lot of time researching what you need to do or be to achieve your goal. You have developed sang froid and nimble feet to pass blind corners without a scrape or a bruise. You are now in a position to train your sights on your long-cherished post and have mentally charted the path to your golden arrow, which you reach much earlier and which is where you wanted to be all your life. And strangely enough, there may come a time when you feel that you have achieved the mystical enigma that self-actualization is. You may not want to continue and thereafter, retire to a life of inner peace relatively early. The dotted red line indicates that inclination.
But how did everything fall into your lap? What exactly did you do to branch out (the blue curve in Figure 3)? The answer is deceptively simple: You defined and then set about building a great career. In your focused learning curve over the past decade, you actually carried out an unbeknownst investigation. You investigated career opportunities. How? By learning about requirements, demands and sacrifices involved, working conditions, salaries and educational requirements. Knowing about the wide range of working environments allowed you to relate what you knew about yourself to the many occupations available, which you started to filter. Let me just expand that a bit. After you choose your field, you must prepare to enter your career area by creating a realistic set of goals comprised of mini-goals and plan to attain them sequentially. Your plan will naturally include the education and training necessary to reach your career goal. Part of your preparation is being professional. Professionalism is an asset that differentiates an achiever from an average person.
What is Professionalism? Professionalism has been defined as ‘meticulous adherence to undeviating courtesy, honesty, and responsibility in one's dealings with customers and associates, plus a level of excellence that goes over and above the commercial considerations and legal requirements’ (www. businessdictionary.com). Heather Eastridge, a business professional, believes that professionalism is an essential trait both in business and society. ‘It is that quality which drives a person's appearance, personal and professional interactions, and which provides others with a first impression.’ Sounds familiar, I’d say. Professionalism is of significance as it plays an important role in how a person is perceived by his employer, his co-workers and casual contacts-actually, by every person with whom he interacts. The greater the degree to which a person exemplifies professionalism, the easier it will be for him to be set apart from people around him. This outstanding characteristic will cause his superiors to take notice. Professionalism can and should be applied in every business setting in all industries. The more a person displays professionalism, the more opportunities for success he will have.
John Zaremba, a professional writer for newspapers, says it is a great compliment to be called a professional. Professionalism suggests a high level of competence, proper appearance, superb skill and often extensive formal training. There are lots of types of professionals with varying standards, but at their essence, professionals do their jobs according to a certain code of conduct, adhering to the standards, practices and ethics of a given occupation.
Ten Common Characteristics Employers Desire: A survey has shown that the ten characteristics commonly asked for by employers are enthusiasm, work ethic, initiative, reliability, communication and interpersonal skills, computer skills, flexibility and adaptability, curiosity for learning, team player skills and professionalism. This is what you imbibed in your early years (Figure 3). What else did you do? Ten-twelve years is a long stretch of time. Figure 4 below shows six attribute boxes, which, when used in concert, can absorb all ten characteristics.
At the extreme left is the composite you. Hidden behind the screen of attributes, which includes ‘Ability to Give’ is your goal. As said earlier, there will come a time when you will pull back the screen and see your goal beckoning you. You will notice that I have added a prominent column qualifying your goal-your Great Career.
" There is no philosophy which will help man to succeed when he is always doubting his ability to do so, and thus attracting failure. No matter how hard you work for success, if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your effort, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible." Charles Baudouin
Signs of the Times: Globalization has changed the business paradigm of the world. The change has been sudden and dramatic and many countries are facing acute problems as their charades
are being ripped apart. Even the US couldn’t handle the sub-prime crisis, another form of which has crossed the Atlantic to hit the EU through the Greek fiasco. All the same, the economy is inexorably moving from the Industrial Era into the Knowledge Era. Matters are far from settled and the world is in a dithering state of flux, with new tigers twisting it by the tail. China is an emerging power, so corporate strategies have that element factored in. We have already seen the fallacy that the only way to succeed is by climbing the corporate ladder with a lifetime employer, while enterprising souls pass you by. We have also seen that there are no limits to what you can do and how you can shape and mold your own career. While the world laments its misfortunes, you can use your initiative to put together a great career for yourself – something you look back on with pride because it involved doing exceptional work. And we have dwelt at length on how to go about building that great career.
The Great Career: We’ve been going on and on about this Great Career and what treasures it holds in store for you. Perhaps I should jog your mind here. In the simplest of terms, your Great Career is that career you chose after prolonged deliberation, identified the critical path and the multiple mini-milestones to achieve by a fixed time frame. You were always willing to give, or contribute, even if it entailed sacrifice. Using your honed nimble feet and simple common sense, you bypassed others stuck in the slow-speed elevator as you reached the top of your selected career years in advance of your contemporaries. You even thought of retiring early. So it all comes flooding back to you now?
Ten Tactics to Use for Great Career Seekers: Here is a list of ten tactics to use by around your tenth year of work, and which you must keep applying as the world changes and as you get
more responsibility. The average age of great career seekers has been found to be 32-35.
A great career is an entirely individual concept. The perspectives and hopes that term signifies to you will be different to what it implies to others. It is not important what vocation is involved or how much you earn. I reiterate that your appreciation of what a great career is will come from within you. When you cut out the frills, it is more than likely that a great career will incorporate these three elements:
A Great Problem: You want to tackle great problems, problems that stun simpletons and defy the better educated. Great careers are built solving complex conundrums.
A Great Effort: A great career is a stimulant. It makes you want to dig deep and do the best work you are capable of doing. Unlike a 9-5 job, when you have a great career, you will revel in your work: “I’m being paid to do what I love to do!” Getting off the office chair will be difficult. When you’re getting an incentive to do something you’re passionate about, you want to get to work each day, come hell or high water. You’ll end up doing things you and your loved ones will be proud of and you would be more than happy to be judged by your output.
A Great Contribution: Anyone who has a great career makes a distinctive contribution to his organization. The urge to make a difference comes from within, because you’re very good at you job. Your output raises the status and strength of the organization, making both company and clients value you more because you indirectly benefit them and add value to their holdings. Is it true that great careers are restricted to the rich and famous? Why should great careers only be available to those in specific professions – like doctors? The fact is that there is no such limitation. Anyone and everyone can have a great career but we've seen that very few ever take the time and trouble to understand the concept. Even now, it’s not too late for them to make a contribution statement. A contribution statement is, in some ways, a partial SWOT analysis. It requires pen, paper and will power. The strengths stand out loud and clear. And opportunities will keep coming. As long as the will power exists, the response will be ready. This response will obviously be of the best quality−it needs to be, if a contribution statement is to be demonstrated to all, reassuring them of the capability of the person in the limelight.
“People who are only looking for a job have resumes. People who are looking to make a great career have Contribution Statements," says Stephen Covey.
Now is a good time to be working towards making your great career happen because we’re almost into the Knowledge Age. Workers in the Industrial Age were considered to be “small cogs in a large machine.” That concept is not acceptable any longer, in this day and age. First the whirling dervishes of the Arabian oilfields and now the ongoing maelstrom have changed the dynamics of the marketplace. Hidden problems are now surfacing and those who can solve these problems will do well. This is the time when the iron is hot. STRIKE!
Passion: Career Expert Jonathan Fields says, "If your passion happens to lie in some field with a clear path to a great income, like law, plastic surgery or programming, you may be one of the lucky few who can make a great living doing what you love by simply following the mainstream path. But, what if you love teaching? Will the money really just automatically follow? Possible, depending on how good a teacher you are. It’s not easy to support a family of four on a teacher’s salary. So, if there’s no ‘mainstream’ way to make money to live well in the world with your passion, wisdom says drop it or sacrifice passion for money. In such a case, should you take the plunge and go for your dreams? It’s not easy. It may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It’s a giant, challenge…but it’s a challenge worth rising to! There’s no magic to it. No secret strategy, etc. So, Identify your genuine passion, test for viability/market demand and adapt, acquire the knowledge and assets you need to act, define and commit to daily action, and then take consistent action, without excuse, until you reach your goal.”
Martha Stewart, the American business magnate & TV host also has strong views about
passion. “Without passion, work is just work, a chore. To be really successful, strive to understand your customers. Appreciate them and care about their happiness. There are no people more important to you in your business life. When faced with a business challenge, assess the situation, gather the good things in sight, abandon the bad, clear your mind, and move on,” says Stewart
Swanson’s Rules: Bill Swanson, CEO Raytheon wrote down some unpublished rules way back in 1944. Most are still relevant, but I’ve culled a few because they go with the theme.
They should form the unsaid part of your contribution statement. As the Knowledge Era develops, anticipate that the youngster of today is two years younger than the callow youth of your day and age. This is because he starts earlier than you and at a faster pace than you. His database is much wider and storage more automated and recallable, so he is at a comparative advantage vis-a-vis you. You have the advantage when it comes to experience and know-how.
In their book written in 2006: COACHING, MENTORING AND ORGANIZATIONAL CONSULTANCY: SUPERVISION AND DEVELOPMENT, Peter Hawkins and Nick Smith make a valid observation that your great career starts when you stop asking nerd questions like, “Hey, how does one get promoted out here?” and start asking “What do I have to do to make a difference hereabouts? How do I want to be remembered? What legacy do I want to leave?” Peter Drucker endorses this view. He says, “Knowledge Age workers must now ask, ‘What should my contribution be?" not, "What do I do next?" Hawkins and Smith add very pertinent remarks, “Robust dialogue that balances challenge and support is essential for relationships to develop and individual to learn. Learning is for life, not just for courses. The moment we stop learning for life, our effectiveness in our work starts to decrease.” Viewed in the context of your contribution statement, your knowledge is the joystick you have in your hands, trimmed by the daily learning process. Stop learning and you either relinquish or lose control.
In your SWOT analysis, what did you list as your strengths? Just three are fine, passion, talents and conscience. We have studied the first two in detail; all that remains is the moral aspect, your conscience, which has been glossed over earlier. We've agreed that you’ll only ever build a great career if you’re doing something you’re proud of because it aligns with your own personal belief system. To probe your conscience, if you can answer these three questions: What is my real responsibility to a) My organization b) My co-workers and c) My customers
you're through on your moral mandates.
Jim Collins, a management specialist and writer, in his article of October 2001, 'Good to Great', also examines the great career with a practiced eye. He says the following are Myths.
“Companies that go from good to great have no name for their transformation—and absolutely no program. They neither rant nor rave about a crisis—and they don't manufacture one where none exists. They don't “motivate” people—their people are self-motivated. There’s no evidence of a connection between money and change mastery. And fear doesn't drive change—but it does perpetuate mediocrity. Nor can acquisitions provide a stimulus for greatness: Two mediocrities never make one great company. Technology is certainly important—but it comes into play only after change has already begun. And as for the final myth, dramatic results do not come from dramatic process—not if you want them to last, anyway. A serious revolution, one that feels like a revolution to those going through it, is highly unlikely to bring about a sustainable leap from being good to being great,” he adds.
In a survey of 1,435 good companies’ performance over 40 years, only 11 companies went from good to great. In each of these dramatic, remarkable, good-to-great corporate transformations, the same thing was found: There was no miracle moment. Instead, a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process—a framework—kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul. In each case, it was the triumph of steadfast discipline over the quick fix. And the real knock out punch: The comparison companies in the study, 1,424 of them—firms with virtually identical opportunities during the pivotal years—did buy into the change myths described above—and failed to make the leap from good to great.
Those companies had their own company policies. Almost all failed. Of those that succeeded, the CEOs were humble men who knew what a great career entailed. All had Contribution Statements. In today’s stabilizing economy, it’s easy to apply a paucity paradigm: Sorry, folks. Nobody’s hiring. Companies are retrenching by the thousands. A better way is to adopt the opposite paradigm, that of surplus – the new economy is generating new ways to earn a living for the first time ever in the history of the world. Companies face big new challenges, and need problem solvers. Aren’t you one? Of course you are. Rethink your job and make it evolve it into a cause. Look at it as a great problem of a personal kind and become a solution. Become a volunteer, not an employee. This is a new perspective you are forcing upon yourself. You know how to deliver. Now, enjoy the challenge!
When you become a volunteer, not an employee, I mean you should make best use of the smoldering motivational flames within you and apply them to the task at hand. Your greatest asset is your freedom from the upper echelon. Set the pace, decide on your path and
the rest will hopefully follow-of course, there is always the shirker. Nobody fires volunteers
because they have display so much energy and passion! They are precious diamonds.
By become a solution, not a problem, I mean you are perspicacious enough to visualize
the entire problem and use your expertise to solve it. More importantly, display your stated resolve of being willing to give-the problem may lie with a linked company or another in the supply chain or your neighbor! In your database, file the intensity, frequency and complexity of the problem and what else you could have opted for. Build a network and use it, complimenting colleagues where required. Impart knowledge. As an Instructor Pilot, I would see new images of myself in my pupils, from whom I learnt my bad habits. Enseignez à Apprendre! Teach to Learn!
My friend Noel Moitra said:
In my case, I saw an ad in the newspaper that read, “Require Deputy Editor. Must be good in English, specially grammer.” I e-mailed them back, saying, “I can see you need an editor. Grammar has been spelt wrongly.” An interview was fixed for 1030 am next day. 1015 saw me there with nobody but the receptionists. While waiting for the boss to arrive, I casually picked up one of their magazines, and out of force of habit, started to correct the errors. By the time I was asked to come upstairs, I had located 1,526 errors! This company was sick! During the interview, I showed them the errors and the revenue lost by poor handling of articles while placing them poorly and losing ad space. I was employed with a request to join a fortnight later. The salary offered was low. I told them I would consider their request, but volunteered to work gratis, starting as of then. I planned to do a time & motion study as well as a PERT chart while also helping the staff in editorial issues. They had started a monthly technical magazine four years ago, but had printed only ten in the first two years, eleven the previous year and were on target for eleven that year. Cease work was always 9-10 pm. Something was desperately wrong.
The company hierarchy was aghast when I told them, twelve days later, that I had yet to
come across a more inefficient and incompetent set up. I said I would join and bring them up to
speed in three months subject to many requirements including implicit faith, zero resistance to
change and my salary. They were accepted and I was taken on the roster for the fortnight I had
had voluntarily worked with them. The technical magazine went from 48 pages to 64 and was rated the Best Asian Technical Magazine at IMB, Cologne, Germany in 2006. My contribution statement was made. I’ve left them now, but they have a 5-day week and shut shop at 6 pm.
What's Next? Lets look at Figure 5, The Great Career Continuum. You have made a name for yourself as a troubleshooter par excellence. What do you expect public response to be? An ounce of gratitude, a stone of problems! The Snowball Effect is likely to come your way.
What needs to be noted is that all problems are not always great problems. So you won’t
always be asked for great solutions. The good thing about the Snowball Effect is that your name, fame and recognition grow. This is how your great ladder of success (Figure 3), part of which was information, split off from the standard highway of poor blokes who were stuck in the corporate elevator. Sadly for them, Milton’s famous sonnet was of no help. So what if they stood and waited? They were not going to be served. But, like TS Eliot wrote eons back:
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
I had a contributor, not a job seeker mindset. In one fell swoop, I had become a powerful contributor. So can you. You are already a known great problem solver. Build on it and rise to yet another level in another organization dealing with more people, more money and running advanced programs like Six Sigma, Kaizen and Just In Time, etc. The problems here are much more complex and will require all your ingenuity and IQ. But you relish challenges and welcome the opportunity. Alternatively, stay in your niche till you are an acknowledged pro. Become a Consultant. The perils are that you may stagnate, as you owe your clients their due, which will take its toll of your scarce time, and you cannot graduate further.
If you’ve read Reader’s Digest in the past, they used to have a story on THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTER I'VE MET, written by eminent people. In true life, everyone comes across someone who he cannot forget and who left an indelible impression on his mind.
Rework your contribution statement to make it more current. Think of your mentor and that one person who affected you in your outlook. Do you need to follow in their footsteps? No. Not in their footsteps exactly, but parallel to them. You stand to gain in two ways:
and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another sailing o'er life's solemn main;
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, seeing, shall take heart again.
What would you want to be remembered as by your contemporaries? What praise and compliments would you want from your boss? Does it match your SWOT? Don’t feel shy to ask your compatriots and your boss for advice. Pearls of wisdom may flow your way. And your contribution statement takes on another hue. It projects your problem solving capability very aptly. An individual reading about you will form a certain external vision about you. Hit him with something out of the way. If you are a professional pilot working for an organization, then something like, “I fly the 14-seat shared-owners aircraft. Our configuration is two VIP seats and three rows of four seats. I have seen Mr. Mathew go down to the field on Tuesday with his team of four. He uses one VIP seat and the other four generally sit facing him. Mr. Jarrow goes to his unit, forty miles ahead of Mr. Mathew’s on Wednesday and his team is more or less the same. I have never seen all 14 seats occupied. I propose a small re-fitment exercise. Row 3 of 4 seats can be changed to 2 VIP seats, while row 4 remains the same. Both Mr. Jarrow and Mr. Mathew can fly down on the same day and save $5,000. The new seating arrangement will cost about $20,000, so we recover our investment in four weeks.”
Build Your Network/Village: Prior to the Internet era, networking was highly personalized. The phone was the medium of interaction during office hours and you got together over a drink the odd evening, or even had a barbeque over the weekend. You wrote down what was discussed and agreed upon. But that was before the Internet era. The World Wide Web has expanded your contact list exponentially. The network of old is too small a term. It must change to a term which will reflect how many individuals you are interacting with. So we come back to the term we used earlier, ‘village’. In the Knowledge Era, it’s important that you build a village of people you value. In a village, people know each other well simply because of constant interaction, social internet sites like Facebook, Linked In, etc. There is much more effort injected into building and maintaining long-term relationships. Village connections are more genuine because they are no longer faceless voices in the ears. You can speak tete-a-tete from thousands of miles away. Remember that a face is worth a thousand words. That’s pretty cheap, considering Helen could launch a thousand ships.
One known face leads to another and, like in a pyramid scheme or scam, the theoretical number of people you could get to know is limitless. But things are different in real life. A scam research unveiled that one friend could lead to no more than five contacting you; going ahead, only eight more would include you in the list at the next level, dwindling rapidly to zero as the certainty of interaction dropped below 50%. You are happy with just four certain contacts who will ultimately become your friends, through a single source. You have quite a few in your village, so the going’s good.
Build your Internet presence by blogging. Put your Contribution Statement on your blog. Post new ideas, personal discoveries and accomplishments to your blog. Keep your resume up-to-date. Put up your photos and invite people from your village to share ideas and comments. (This blog can be a great resource for people looking for a job because prospective employers can get to know you quickly and concisely.) You can also write and publish an e-book which encapsulates what you know about a specialist topic that deals with your great career. That will also impress any prospective employer, who might just be another rung you did not know well enough to persist with in the early stages. Better late than never. Once a bonding takes place, it will rarely break. There is an inbuilt synergy in bonding with alikes and unalikes.
Teach to Learn: One basic fact of life cannot be escaped in grappling with pedagogical reform- our love affair with the lecture. The lecture, after all, is a highly efficient medium to convey information, despite common misgivings about its effectiveness. There is also some degree of professorial satisfaction associated with holding forth in the classroom- perhaps rooted in the vicarious parental satisfaction of telling the next generation “how it is” and actually being able to get away with it.
But there is an interesting anomaly associated with lectures. For those taking notes, lectures may be poorly suited to the task of learning, but not for the person giving the lecture. A tremendous amount of learning takes place in preparing for and giving a lecture. Most of us can affirm without reservation the truth that “you really don’t know something until you have had the chance to teach it.” Unfortunately, we know close to 95% of what we teach, compared with 33% of what we read and 50% of what we see and hear. But if good data was available, it would likely confirm the immense learning payoff associated with teaching others.
To dub teach to learn as the “next big thing” may well be a case of irrational exuberance on my part, but I do believe that this is the next generation of e-learning. Both the blog and the instant message represent more powerful and profound tools for interactivity, emphasizing the values of immediacy.
The teach-to-learn model is built around four core propositions:
As you work towards creating a great career, you are in effect expanding your own
Circle of Influence. Inside this Circle of Influence are the people you’ve drawn into your village, the know-how, tools and capital you’ve acquired and the various assets available to work with. Your Circle of Influence is surrounded by a much larger Circle of Concern. The second Circle will contain all of the barriers to your personal career success. It is a potential threat and most people fall victim to their fear of the unknown. In the words of my Drawing Teacher, "Don't nervous, be succeed." At your skill and maturity level, there is nothing beyond that dip in the horizon. Nothing you cannot handle, considering that your Circle of Influence will back you.
Your Curriculum Vitae: In the Knowledge Era, you need to target your resume at each job. You should be able to rework your skill sets into different formats depending on the requirement of a job. Don't forget that each job is a great job or is a step to your great career. Research the job, check out company performance, market reputation and who’s in charge. Quote figures that can be substantiated. Be specific and stick to professional requirements. List your skills and your on-field achievements. The story telling can be put into an appendix or addendum.
If you know someone inside the organization, you can be even more specific. Allude to the problem you know the organization is trying to solve and in your Contribution Statement, propose the solution to the problem. Justify your proposal with your credentials and parallel experience. Talk about your past great solutions. Go into an appropriate level of detail about the solution you are proposing. Put everything you have into demonstrating how much value you can and will deliver. If you can, specify a timeframe. DO NOT USE CLASSIFIED DATA.
Your Cover Letter: In your cover letter, introduce yourself, say why you’re applying for a job, provide your resume, and ask for an interview. Start your dialogue on a good note. As for resumes, be unique. Employers are looking for cover letters that break the monotony of their lives. Think of your cover letter as a one-page proposal showing what you have on offer. Follow a similar approach to that used in your CV. Summing up the problem/opportunity your likely employer to be faces and explain how you can help solve the problem or exploit that opportunity. Number crunching lends solidity. Show proof that you’ve either solved a similar problem in the past or have the experience and knowledge to do so now. Stress specific examples of your expertise. From the outset, we have said your ultimate aim is to come across as a problem solver; structure your one-page letter with your proposed solution that way. You want the people doing the hiring to read your letter and decide they want to see who you are. Your cover letter should be focused on securing that in-person interview, nothing more.
When invited to the interview, go with the mindset of a great problem solver, not a job seeker. Read your aide-memoire and bone up on who's what. Think up a cogent mini-presentation. Recall details about specific situations where you've used your skills to benefit your previous employers. Keep it short.
Sample Case Study:
Situation (S): Advertising revenue was falling off for my newspaper, The Batman Reporter, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
Task (T): To analyze the drop in figures and come up with a solution.
Action (A): I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of Reporter circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set up a special training session for the account executives with a School of Business Administration professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
Result (R): We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20 % [quantities are always good] over the same period last year.
Note: When you’re answering questions, do not ramble on. Be concise and point-specific.
Justus Daniel Eapen is a policy level Organizational Transformation Consultant with over 25 years experience in Banking & Government.