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       What does one need for a successful career? Degrees, diplomas and certificates or proper career planning? Just as a single ingredient cannot make a delicious dish, a single factor cannot script a glorious career. It is a myth that intelligence equals success. Not all intelligent people succeed; diligence is equally important. It is also believed that only good students (read: those who secure high marks) studying in reputed colleges can have a successful career. But is reality, high scores do not always translate into knowledge, a must for success. Students who graduate from not-so-renowned colleges sometimes have a greater zeal to make it big then those studying in institutions recognized for academic excellence. Moreover, it is not only an institution that makes good students but also students who make an institution great.

       It is difficult to lay down a formula for a successful career. Professional prosperity is the payoff for several criteria. Nowadays, emphasis is laid on certain personality traits that help a person become an asset to his or her organization. This X factor gives an employee an edge over others. Qualities like integrity, tenacity, drive and grit are what employers look for in a prospective candidate, apart from academic and nonacademic qualifications. Here is a list of 10 factors that may be considered the prerequisites for professional excellence.   

1. Talk the walk: Most of what goes on in an organization is communication. So it is very important to have excellent communication skills in order to excel. Says Harshavardhan Neotia, managing director of Bengal Ambuja Housing Development Ltd, “It is a well-researched fact that in any business or social organization, people with a good command of the English language are by default pushed to the position of leadership”. English is no longer a foreign language; it is the accepted global language of communication. Hence proficiency in both written and verbal English is of utmost importance.

       One should have the knack for understanding people around him or her in order to be successful in any sphere, be it personal or professional. Even if someone is wrong, one should never be rude but rather express his or her opinion in a calm and reasonable manner,” says Ravi Todi, joint managing director, Magma Shrachi Finance Limited.

2. Listen to others: The other side of the communication coin is being a good listener. The art of listening can help one score brownie points over his or her colleagues. “Always listen to what others have to say. This shows respect for them. You also gain a lot from active listening,’ which means you pay attention to what is being said and incorporate changes that may have a positive effect on your career,” says Todi.

       An open mind to learning goes a long way in building a successful career, feels Summit Mazumder, vice-chairman and managing director, TIL Ltd, one of India’s leading providers of technology-intensive equipment for infrastructure development. Listening to what others say is a key element in building collaborative professional relationships. Neotia advises, “Be a good listener. This is the only way to communicate love, respect and care to somebody. Moreover, you learn a lot in the process”.

3. Pleasant personality: It is very important to be sensitive to what others feel. And praise genuinely. Sharing a good rapport with ones colleagues as well as superiors benefits an individuals professional life immensely. Give credit where its due. And do it genuinely. Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie,” says Neotia.

       The art of impressing people may be a difficult one to master but does a world of good to ones career. Cultivate a pleasing personality. The smile factor will save you from trouble as well as ensure that people help you when you need a favour. You should not let your ego clash with your work. Be down to earth,” says Todi.

4. Be confident: Know yourself. Know your strengths, weaknesses and personality type, learning style, goals, needs, constraints and resources. Neotia says, “Make an I love me file and keep recording your achievements. Keep reviewing your progress”. You should know your limitations. If one is not aware of ones potential, he or she may set unrealistic targets and thus lose credibility by not being able to achieve them. Once you know what you want, you can go ahead and attain it. Confusion will take you nowhere,” feels Todi.

5. Team spirit: You have to be a team person if you want to make it big. No company can be a one-man show,” says Todi. The concept of teamwork is extremely important for the success of any individual. You can have a group of superstars but if they do not work well as one unit the chances are they are not going to be as successful as you would think.

6. Why of the matter: Ask the why question. Youngsters are generally focused only on learning how to”. But it is equally important to know for what reason”. An important tip: whenever in doubt, find out. The one who knows the how will be his boss. Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways does not know how to fly an aero-plane but he owns the company,” Neotia points out.

7. Persistence pays: Perseverance is the key to success. Always try to improve yourself. Commitment to and passion in what one choose to do, coupled with the determination to excel, is critical to success,” says Mazumder. “Whatever you do, always keep thinking how you can improve on it or how it can be done in a better way. Dont get bogged down by problems. Keep looking for solutions,” advises Neotia.

8. All-round attention: Be an expert in a particular thing and at the same time try to develop multi-functional knowledge,” advises Neotia. In other words, one should be a jack-of-all-trades and master of one. “You should know your subject and be aware of the nitty-grittys involved in the job,” says Todi.

9. Be your own leader: Self-control and discipline are critical. Eliminate the need for supervision. “You are what you are when nobody is watching you. Your ability to focus on your work even when there is no one to over-see will determine your fate,” says Neotia. If you always need supervision, you cannot be a leader. You should not habitually feel the need for external motivation in order to perform.

10. Do it the sight way: Above all, values and integrity should never be compromised,” stresses Mazumder. Success is important, but you should not jeopardize your integrity or your organizations reputation, for individual gain. Honesty always pays. Never compromise on the quality of work.

       Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than anything else.       



Sacking employees can damage both employees and organizations.

The Washington State Department has moved to a four-day workweek. There is a lot of justification for the measure – energy saving, better quality of life and more. But the real reason is that the department has to tighten its belt in the face of the financial crisis. There is pain. Instead of sacking some people, you can spread it by reducing the working hours (and benefits) of everybody.

      In Mumbai, Jet Airways (and Kingfisher before it) laid off nearly 2000 people. In a volte-face, an emotional Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal called back his family and said no one should be sacked. He also said that the layoffs were an operational decision and he was not involved. If thats true, he should be sacked. 

      National Aviation – the new avatar after the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines – has announced that it will introduce voluntary leave without pay for 15000 employees. They can do what they want for three to five years and return at the same level of seniority. Of course, the world and the airline would have changed significantly in that time (leaving these employees clueless, though not jobless). Not everybody can be a Yogi Deveshwar who did things the other way around: he left ITC to head Air India and then returned to become chairman of ITC. 

      This is the season of layoffs, what with the recession in the West and a clear slowdown in India. Its not just aviation. In sectors such as information technology (IT), retail, finance and outsourcing, fears of the pink slip are spreading. This may well be the first time that India has to face the wide–spread layoff phenomenon.   

      We must know how to handle it properly,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shashi Rao. “It is a very delicate situation, particularly when you are not prepared. It can be damaging both to the individual and the organization”.   

      Nobody does things the way Jet did. But many see that as a calculated ploy. Now when employees are asked to accept an across-the-board pay-cut, they will do so quite happily. They have already been given a glimpse of the alternative. The even more cynical say that the whole drama has been enacted to extract some sops from the government. 

      One shouldnt hold a brief for the laid off (and later laid on?) workers, however. They joined the profession on new age salaries and benefits. If they wanted safety, they could have taken up a public sector job. The downside of a job that gives you twice the emoluments of a PSU bank employee is that you can be given the pink slip when the going gets tough. You earn more than others so that you can save for a rainy day.                 

      Neither should you hold a brief for the management of Jet. Goyal has come on a white charger and rescued his abandoned employees. They are possibly grateful to him now. But doubt has crept in; loyalty has exited.         

      Louis Uchitelle, author of The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences, says that the damage to individuals is serious. “With very few exceptions, people see their layoffs as statements by their employers that they are valueless as employees,” he explains. “It is a torturing thought. Self–esteem is damage. Lives are warped or set back”. 

      Rao adds that the damage to organizations is worse. “I dont see Jet ever winning an award as a company to work for or a best employer. Look, on the other hand, at finance companies in the US. They are letting go of their employees discreetly”. The New York Times has dubbed it the Stealth Layoff, an expression that has now crept into the HR lexicon.     

      Goyal should have done things more quietly. His pink slip is showing.   


Organizational strategies for avoiding a layoff

Layoff actions can be very undesirable for both managers and employees and disruptive to the organization business. Strategies for avoiding layoffs should be considered whenever applicable. It is critical to remember that a layoff is a dramatic step that will have lasting implications. The experience and knowledge that your employees have developed over time and their relation-ships with clients are not things that can be easily replaced. Some alternatives to layoffs:

1.        Part-time and job sharing

2.        Re-assignment to vacancies

3.        Voluntary demotion

4.        Voluntary leave without pay

5.        Voluntary layoff

6.        Moratorium on hiring


Feel you are caught in the wrong job? Well, you are not the only one.

LAST NIGHT I had a long conversation with an old friend. Shes planning to move back to her hometown in Ontario from out west. Her career as a TV journalist just isnt going anywhere. She had always thought that being on TV, having millions of people see her and listen to her was her dream career. But a year into having reached a certain level of success, somehow it still doesnt feel right.

       How can a career youve dreamt about and worked towards for the better part of your life not feel right? My friend said that for a while she was in denial, thinking to her – whats wrong with me? This is my dream. This is supposed to feel right. Ive always wanted to be on TV. But then, she started accepting that her dream career wasnt her dream after all. The conversation got me thinking about my friends and their careers. Ive always thought of them as belonging to one of these career groups.


Group one: the friends who are good at just about anything. One joined the insurance industry, where he doesnt belong, but isnt sure what job he could do for the rest of his life without getting bored. Another stumbled into communication and translation work because shes bilingual, but thinks may be she should get into a skilled trade or event planning or travel and tourism or dentistry. Quizzes like 20 questions to find your dream career dont work on these people because there are never many repetitions in them.

Flights of fancy:

Group two: the friends with creative and lofty ambitions. They want to be writers, actors, TV anchors or musicians. Their paths are never completely clear – theyre full of ups and downs, and often they start sounding like group one – ridden with unknowns and creeping thoughts of safety nets and back-up jobs. Most, if not all of them, have day jobs that dont represent who they are or what they want to be. While they have a vision of who they want to be at the end of the tunnel, their journeys feel very similar to that of group one.

Clear vision:

Group three: the friends, whove always known what they want, have clear paths to their goal, reach their goal, and are loving it. One always dreamt of being a teacher. She worked hard, got her BA, went to teachers college, and walked into her dream job. She goes to work very happy every day. Her path was always clear and she never faltered.

Sour grapes:

But as twenty-somethings become thirty-something, a new breed has emerged – group four: the dream-achievers whove changed their minds. They have had the vision, worked ridiculously hard to get to the goal – and then, they finally arrive, only to realize its not what they want. 

       I cant help but wonder how we all embark on these unique career paths, pursuing different professional passions, and then a good number of us wake up, feeling helpless. One of them cant figure out what she should do with her life. Another one chooses a career that has no set path and is so difficult to attain, and ends up questioning whether or not all this hardship is really worth it. And another reaches his goal but feels emptiness within him. What is happening with us? Are we thinking too much about our careers? 

       Perhaps its not thinking too much about our careers but trying to find the work-life balance. What can be done to ease the uncertainty? Not much. Its is our nature to question everything. Maybe time and experience will help us shake off the uncertainty, but its bound to stay until we can separate who we want to be from what we want to do. 


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