Future proof career
Job uncertainty is a reality, instead of worrying over it, proactively react and act to stay on top of the job
Some days ago, on a trip to Tiruchirappalli in Tamilnadu, I was addressing management students at a college on the city outskirts. The campus was well spread out and the 60 management students whom I was to address were all impeccably dressed in uniforms. This was a completely different experience for me – seeing post graduate students in uniform. To get the students to open up, I started conversing in Tamil, which actually worked – not because I spoke well, but because my broken language made the conversation funny.
As soon as we started discussing career options in the BFSI sector, the questions started to pour, and I could sense their fear over the uncertain future. Luckily, the students are to pass out in 2018, which gives them time to work on skills that can help them be less worried about the uncertain future. I feel that anyone in the workforce today needs to proactively respond to changes around them and work towards future-proof their career to stay in control, in these times when lifetime employment is history.
I also was lucky to encounter the staff of the college, which made my talk easy, as many of the staff members were actually playing the second career innings. They were the right examples for me to talk of in terms of how these gentlemen had used the opportunity by making themselves employable for a lifetime. They were able to do so because they had constantly upgraded their skills and built specialisation. They had also developed a network of well-wishers and supporters, who were able to use their talents and skills to their advantage. So, no matter the state of the economy or industry, they had made their jobs insulated to swings and were employable, even well past 65.
The faculty I am talking of were not career academics. They had worked in the corporate world and were using their acquired skills on the job and in life in their present roles. They were able to do so because they had treated themselves as products, with a brand value around themselves. This example cut across with the students, because many of these senior citizens were their role models—someone they looked up to for guidance and inspiration.
Over the past two decades that I have been working, the first building block to future-proof your career is to have a specialisation. It helps to specialise because it means that you have certain desired skills. But, to benefit from this, get on with a sub function within the specialisation in the early years of your career. For instance, if banking is your specialisation, then making retail or wholesale banking your sub function specialisation is a must. I have friends in the advertising field who were in the creative side, but specialised in a medium, which over the years has helped them become an authority on.
When you start a career, you should build and nurture a reputation as an expert. It could be in any field, but the single-minded focus must be to become an expert in that field. Such a focused specialisation helps, because when the times are good, there is a natural possibility of you moving upwards in the organisation and when the chips are down, you have that extra support to see that the axe does not fall on your neck in the first round.
For students this is a vital lesson at a time when there are many distractions when they start their careers. Many of them get distracted by what their peers are up to. Some of them believe that they should move jobs every two years. What is important is to build a reputation of being the go-getter who will deliver and demonstrate that frequently—the chances of you losing your job will be bleak.
Yes, corporate turbulence is going to be a way of life, which, in turn, will impact careers. Don’t be the loser who blames it on karma and destiny. Become the smarter and more pragmatic one who is prepared for change and is always on the top of things no matter how choppy the waves are.