DESIGNING A BETTER FUTURE --THE STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGY CAN LEAD TO A WIDE RANGE OF CAREER CHOICES, FINDS --SPIN A WEB ON THE INTERNET --If you have a passion for writing as well as a vivid imagination, then go for this course in creative writing --
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TEN YEARS FROM NOW, WE MIGHT NOT BE TRAVELING TO WORK IN PRIVATE JETS OR HAVE ROBOTS ASSISTING US WITH OUR CLIENT PRESENTATIONS. BUT MANY EXPERTS FORESEE AN OFFICE WHICH IS CONVENIENTLY MOBILE, ARCHITECTURALLY MODERN, TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN AND HIGHLY TRANSPARENT. THE MODERN WORKSPACE PROMISES TO ENHANCE PRODUCTIVITY, SAYS DEEPESH DAS.
Does your office have a cafeteria which is brightly lit with vibrant coloured walls and funky chairs, equipped to support team brainstorming sessions and has LAN connections so that people can connect to the Internet and work from there? Does your organization provide you with mobile handsets that function within the radius of the building, enabling easy accessibility, at all times? Can the setting arrangement that arranges the workstation by workgroup clusters be changed overnight to meet the changing needs of workgroups? If your answer to the above questions is no, then you probably still work in typical office cubicles that encourage heads-down, isolated style of work. Last week, we discovered ways in which employees’ feedback/suggestions played an important role towards influencing the physical environment of the workplace. This week, we bring to you ways in which organizations are realizing the importance of the same and in an endeavour to encourage efficiency and productivity are making employees’ work lives easy, flexible and comfortable by executing innovative workspaces, way before employees start complaining.
Experts confirm that the workplace of the future must bring together and reconcile people, technology, spaces and processes. The office of the future should also take into account all the contexts that organizations find conducive to the productivity of the employees. Today, the physical environment of the workplace is one of the major parameters against which efficiency levels can be measured.
The future of the workplace, as experts put it must give people more choices. Employees want to coexist in environments, along with their colleagues and bosses where they can work collaboratively and creatively. All those skeptics who feel that technology is actually going to alienate people haven’t heard of ways in which technology can be utilized as an enabler rather than a disabler.
Sanjay Kamlani, Co-CEO, Pangea3 explains,“A company is no better than its people. The company’s success is dependent on the psyche of its people – their drive and focus. It is imperative to have such initiatives for employees since it goes a long way in infusing fresh thought into work, which is something that is absolutely essential for a knowledge-intensive industry”. Apart from adding zest to their work lives, it also helps the employee by cultivating other benefits, including tangible and intangible ones.“When you look at the broader picture, the tangible benefits of these initiatives include company growth, expansion as well as employee growth. The employee will also learn and enhance his/her knowledge resulting into skills development and a chance to shoulder more responsibilities. That’s the intangible benefit,” explains Abhay Valasangkar, Senior Director – Human Resource, Symantec Corporation that has cubicles, which are designed to make workspace more spacious. He adds,“We have reduced the height of the cube walls to encourage team work and have included accessories such as trolleys to create adequate storage space in the cubes”.
Experts say that the best way to make employees make use of their work time effectively is to provide them with ample resources that can help them to concentrate on work, away from distractions. So does this mean that these small initiatives really work? In a word, yes. Organizations have confirmed that they have observed a marked improvement in employee performance.
“An audio-video conferencing facility enhances quick decision-making by enabling employees to connect with clients on real-time basis and a campus-wide secure wireless network enables unrestricted employee mobility. This helps the employee to save time and work towards their required goals,” says Rajesh Padmanabhan – Executive Vice-President and Head – Global Human Resources, Patni. He says that they have seen tremendous rise in productivity because of these developments.“By providing wireless connectivity on campus, we ensure that employees are not restricted to their desks while working. They are mobile and can work from any part of the campus that is conducive to knowledge and workflow. This boosts productivity as they get the freedom to work from a place of their choice,” adds Padmanabhan.
In the near future, most Indian companies will abandon the one-size-fits-all concept of using either cubicles or cabins and adopt a hybrid approach in which open spaces will be available for team work and group discussions. The office of the future holds a lot of promise and let’s hopes that employers play an important role in fulfilling it.
V C Gopalratnam, Chief Innovation Officer, Cisco India says that they have initiated communication and collaboration suite of solution that include ‘TelePresence’ (it creates a live, face-to-face meeting over the network empowering employees to interact with their colleagues, across the globe), network enhanced workspace (suited with Wi-Fi and LAN connections, video conferencing etc). ‘Cisco Virtual Office’ (suite of collaborative tools that enable Steelworkers to work outside the traditional office space), mobility to enhance the productivity (allows the employee to be mobile and work from any place of their choice). At Impetus Technologies, Sanjeev Agrawal, VP-operations say that every employee’s workstations are spacious with ample legroom and comfortable orthopedic approved chairs to make them comfortable at their desk."We even provide footrest to our employees so that they can put their feet up and work comfortably," he explains.
Direct, to boost employee productivity, believes in customizing everything."Everyone, in our company, has multiple LCD monitors, ranging from 2-6, depending on the work they do. Research has proven that adding an extra monitor increases productivity by 15-30%," says Bhavin Turakhia, CEO and Chairman. Apart from this, they have also modified the work desks of the employees as per their needs. He says that since not all their employees can be comfortable with the given workspace, they have installed adjustable ones to foster comfort and ease."In our effort to design the perfect workstation, we realized that the standard workstation dimensions accepted by most companies are not conducive to taller individuals. On the reverse side, we found the same affliction for shorter folks. A new specification to our workstation vendors to provide us with desks whose height can be adjusted to suit the occupant, was given," he explains. Another initiative that they have is of installing swivel monitor arms."Having provided dual monitors to everyone, we realized that for certain tasks (such as software development / support, etc), one can achieve greater productivity by rotating the monitor 90 degrees and using them in a vertical / portrait orientation as opposed to the regular landscape orientation. As a result of this, we have now sourced swivel arms that enable tilting, moving extending and retracting the LCD screens at any angle and position. This has an added advantage of leaving the desk clear for placing laptops, cell phones, etc. since the monitors are now suspended above the desk by a swivel arm," he adds.
MATTERS OF MIND
It’s a subject that’s as old as the hills – but is now being seen as the new kid on the block. In recent times, it has become one of the most sought-after subjects, giving tough competition to disciplines such as economics and physics. This admission season, the cut-off marks for the subject in Delhi University (DU) was 90-93%, breaking all previous records.
The subject is psychology – the study of the human mind. There is a difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. A psychologist uses his or her skills of therapy and non-medical tools while counseling patients, while a psychiatrist is a doctor who prescribes medicines for people who face serious psychological or related problems.
The subject has been gaining ground because of the growing awareness in India about the need for psychologists. Several factors – including high-pressure jobs, stressful lives, adolescent issues and increasing crime rates – have led to the demand for trained professionals in this field.
Right now, experts say there is a huge gap between demand and supply.“The industry is facing a serious shortage of trained professionals in our country. For every 10 openings, there are just four trained candidates that fit the bill,” says Ashum Gupta, head of the department of psychology, Delhi University.
The ideal route of entry to the profession would be to pick psychology as one of the subjects in school. Follow it up with a graduation, post graduation and even a doctorate in psychology.“To be a trained psychologist one has to do specialized courses after graduation. Opting for an M Phil or a PhD helps in the long run,” says Gupta.
One can opt for several specializations through postgraduate degrees and diploma programmes. The popular subjects include clinical psychology, industrial/organizational behaviour psychology, applied cognitive psychology, social psychology and human development psychology.“The upcoming areas of specialization include sports psychology, neuropsychological and forensic psychology,” says Dr Santosh K. Chaturvedi, professor of psychiatry, National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans), Bangalore.
Clinical psychologists work with people facing disorders because of stress, anxiety or depression. They analyze a person’s behaviour and thought process to plan a mode of treatment that includes counseling and therapy. Industrial/organizational behavioural psychologists are employed by organizations to help employees cope with work-related problems.“Industrial psychologists are a part of the recruitment team. They also work to enhance productivity, employer-employee relationships and promote team-building exercises,” says Gupta.
A professional working in applied cognitive psychology can help improve a person’s attention span, memory, thinking, and decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Social psychologists work with social or research organizations and institutions and seek to understand the nature and causes of social issues such as gender problems, corruption in society and the role of culture in human behaviour. Human development psychologists specialize in human behaviour.
Sport psychologists work with sportspersons to help them, among other things, prepare for competitions, deal with anxiety and develop a team spirit. Neuropsychologists deal with ageing, cognitive impairments and disorders related to the brain. Forensic psychologists apply their skills in the field of criminal investigation and the law.
A career in mental health demands patience, communication skills and the ability to understand people. “You need to empathize with people and situations,” says Chaturvedi. The most important attribute of the job, the experts say, is the ability to listen to others without being judgmental. Logical understanding and emotional maturity are the other key attributes of a successful psychologist.“Also, be prepared to put in hard work, sit through long hours of counseling and deal with other people’s anxieties,” says Gupta.
Most universities in India offer psychology at the graduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels. Nimhans offers specialized postgraduate diploma courses as well as M Phil and PhD courses under the aegis of Bangalore University. The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, offers research facilities in industrial psychology.
Other places of study include Pune University, University of Mumbai, Calcutta University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, Kurukshetra University, Haryana, and Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh, to name a few. Distance education courses are available through the Indira Gandhi National Open University and the National Council of Education Research and Training.
Besides hospitals and private practice, many new avenues are opening up for trained professionals. There is a great demand for counselors in schools to provide academic counseling as well as deal with student’s personal problems. Corporations, too, employ counselors to distress employees working in high-pressure zones.
Psychologists also work with professional institutes, market research groups, rehabilitation centers, prison and remand homes, social welfare departments, selection boards, forensic teams, armed forces, police and research organizations.
Salaries for psychologists vary widely depending on the degree, area of specialization, position and organization.“While sports or neuropsychologists may command very high salaries, a school counselor will earn relatively less,” says Gupta.
A trained psychologist at the entry level can earn anywhere between Rs.10000 and Rs.30000, depending on the organization and the nature of work.“An educational counselor may earn between Rs.25000 and Rs.30000 while a clinical psychologist may command Rs.500 to Rs.2000 per visit for counseling and assessment tests,” says Gupta.
Those working as industrial/organizational psychologists earn anywhere between Rs.5lakh and Rs.7lakh per annum at the entry level.“Psychologists who conduct workshops may earn lose to Rs.1lakh for a three-day programme,” says Chaturvedi.
With stressful lives and the need for professional help to keep our anxieties at bay, psychology is a lucrative career option. The field is open to youngsters who are ready to lend an ear to troubled souls and eager to earn a living dealing with the quirks, eccentrics and the enigmas of the human mind.
Here are tips to navigate the new world of online networking.
JUST WHEN YOU’VE mastered the art of handing out your business card, along comes another way to make connections – social networking online.
Online communities help you make connections for business, dating or personal interests. Specifics vary, but they generally work as follows: a friend or contact invites you to join the service. You may also join by visiting the site and signing up on your own. By joining via an invitation from someone you know you could easily be connected to a network of hundreds of people within seconds. An easy way to find job leads, right? Well, not so fast.
Right choice:Don’t jump at every offer to join a social networking service. Some focus on dating, while others are devoted to professional interests. Many mix business and pleasure: one moment you may marvel at a new-found friend’s taste in tunes, the next you realize she works at the company of your dreams.
But you probably don’t want to devote your time making contacts with 20-something music fans when you’re a 50-something sales executive with no interest in post-ABBA bands.
Rule play:Social networking sites can be like high school, with arcane social customs and rules. Before contacting the colleagues of the friend who invited you to the site, get to know the site’s culture. A casual email introduction may suffice at one site but could peg you as gauche or worse at another.
Perfect profile:Even social networking spots devoted to fun at work can lead to career connections. Make sure your profile doesn’t include anything you wouldn’t want your would-be boss to see.“Potential employers may check out your profile and make a judgment call based on what they see and read,” says a career counselor.
Not too hard:Many members of social networking groups have had bad experiences with the pushy types.“Be sensitive to individual needs,” says Jenna Gausman, a career counselor with Kerwin and Associate.“Someone who is too persistent can be annoying and damage his own reputation if he tries too hard”.
Word of mouth:Keep your promises when offering to facilitate a personal introduction or find a phone number.“You must follow through,” says Gausman. And if you express interest in another individual’s help, be sure to follow up on the person’s assistance.“They are giving up a piece of their network, and their reputation is now on the line, so to speak,” Gausman says.“At least reach out to that person”.
Face to face:Social networking sites often connect people offline through individual meetings or group events. Just remember: a face-to-face meeting requires you to respond without the time afforded by email to craft your message. Know what you want from a meeting. Career coach Lynn Berger recommends a brief, prepared introduction for group events.
“This way, the individual does not fumble around and miss the opportunity to make a good impression,” she says.
Help others:Networking is reciprocal.“What goes around inevitable comes around,” says a career counselor.“When you help people get a job, they’re going to remember you when they hear of a great opportunity that has your name written all over it”.
Soon after completing her degree in English literature, Shailaja Purohit, unlike many of her friends, decided to choose the path less traveled.“Some chose to post-graduate in literature, a few decided to do MBA, and others took up jobs, but I had only one goal and that was to become a writer,” says the 25-year-old aspiring novelist from Delhi.
Now working in a Delhi-based publishing house as a writer of short stories and poems for children, Purohit hopes that one day she will be a well-known writer. And she has been pursuing that dream with determination. One of the first things she did to bolster her chances as an author was to enroll her-self in a creative writing course.
“The power to transport a reader into the imaginary world of a book is not a gift that everybody possesses, but I know that with practice, time and perseverance I can achieve it,” says a confident Purohit. A diploma in creative writing from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has only helped increase her confidence.“After the course, I have a better understanding of the nuances of writing. I feel that my thoughts are a lot more disciplined now,” she adds.
“This one of the most popular courses offered by IGNOU since 1988 and has sharpened the writing skills of thousands of students. The alumni of this course are doing well not only as creative writers but also in related fields that have cropped up in recent years,” says Renu Bhardwaj, director, faculty of humanities, IGNOU.“You will find our students as copywriters, content writers, journalists and even as frontline writers in various magazines and books,” she says.
Students of the course can attend the creative writing classes, which are held at various IGNOU study centers across the country. Students are taught to write features, short stories, poetry as well as for radio and television. To successfully complete the diploma, students have to submit an original piece of writing which can either be a novella, a collection of short stories or a collection of feature articles. Once a student completes the creative writing course, many doors open for him or her.
Deependra Mishra, a student of the IGNOU creative writing course, says it was only after his diploma that he was able to expand his horizon. He now writes for radio.“The course was helpful in many ways. In fact, the only reason why I am able to write for radio is because of the capsule on radio writing that is part of the course,” says Mishra.
Content development is one field where a lot of opportunities have opened up in the last few years, and people with a creative writing background are in great demand in this area.“Apart from the ability to write well, a content developer needs creativity and analytical capability. A qualification in linguistics or some experience in journalism, especially in the print media, is an added advantage in this field,” says Nilesh Vani, executive vice-president, Aptech Ltd.
According to Vani, a large amount of content writing work is being outsourced to India in recent times and it is providing work to a record number of people.
Students of creative writing can also forge successful careers as copywriters, technical writers, research writers and ghostwriters. In the content development sector alone, corporate houses, advertising agencies, production and media houses, pay quite an attractive remuneration. A person can begin with anywhere between Rs.12000-Rs.15000 initially. With some experience, a professional can easily earn above Rs.30000.
Because of growing opportunities, more and more students are applying for creative writing courses. And because of the increase in demand, IGNOU is planning to revise the course and integrate a multimedia element for value addition, says Bhardwaj.
“We will also increase the intake of students, which is around 1000 per year at present,” she says. Since almost all the creative writing courses are offered through distance learning, students from any part of the country can take up this course.
While the diploma course offered by IGNOU can be completed in minimum one and maximum four years, Karnataka Open State University offers a one-year diploma course on the subject. Fees for both the programmes is around Rs.2000, which includes the course material, classes at study centers and other facilities.
The Pune-based Symbiosis Distance Learning also offers two courses, an advance diploma in creative writing in English for post-graduates, and a one-year diploma course. Mumbai-based Xavier’s Institute of Communication also offers a one-year course.
British Council in Delhi also offers a short eight-week creative writing course, where students are taught about various writing genres as well as different aspects of writing. This course is slightly expensive – about Rs.10000. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan also offers a six-month course in advance English and creative writing, the fees for which is around Rs.9000.
Mishra has a word of caution.“Only those who are really interested in creative writing should take up the course. It is something you do out of passion. It becomes difficult if you lose interest midway,” he says, citing the example of a few of his friends who dropped out.
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