This month, I clocked in 10 years of working full time. Most of my classmates from undergrad have more experience whereas I took a couple of interim breaks to go back to the classroom (worthwhile ??? ). While this number is irrelevant in its most literal sense (like scores of 50 or 100 while batting in cricket; a 49 or 99 score is not vastly in contrast to a 51 or 101 when the batsman’s form and talent is being considered), it could have a little utility. The utility is derived from pausing to consider the innings so far and trying to map out the road ahead. This blog is just that, a reflection piece intertwined with a wish for the future.
My primary goals around my career, like that of most people I am aware of, involve some aspects which can be quantified through parameters of learning, money, responsibility, recognition and opportunity and a lot more which would be discovered along the way. Below, I talk about what I believe would be my most important lessons from the past 10 years of working.
- My biggest learning so far has been this; Every individual is completely responsible for his/her own career. Period. Along the way, we all need to interact with multiple factors like macro-economic conditions, firms, colleagues, families, friends and obligations. None of these can ever be an excuse for what we end up doing with our careers. There was probably once a time in history when the concept of “Company Man” had merit. I find this view of life and jobs rapidly diminishing everywhere, probably for the good.
- My second learning has been an aspect that I had read about in some book (just cant remember which one !) and have found out to be true even in my own experience. In our long careers of multiple decades, we will have stints and years which will bear good and bad fortunes (in terms of salaries, promotions, etc) but on an overall basis, we will all most probably end up getting exactly what we deserve. Hence, we shouldn’t be excessively mulling about these aspects and make them the only decision points when planning our careers.
- This one’s from one of my favorite bosses, Manjunatha Hebbar. From as early in our careers as possible, we should be working towards delinking our full time job as the only source of our income. This could be achieved by saving and investing aggressively when we are able to or having a secondary, parallel career non-intrusive to our primary job. The primary benefit of this state of being is the ability to shed away completely the fear of losing our job.
- Mentors are the biggest turbo boost to careers (no, I dont believe frequent job changes are :D). If you are fortunate to have your managers for mentors, you are truly privileged. If not, this should be no excuse to seek out mentors within your firm, industry or elsewhere. In this particular front, I have been blessed to have always worked with managers who were much more experienced (so that I could learn a lot from them) and also deeply invested in ensuring that I would become the best that I can be. In fact, I am guilty of leaning much on this blessing to the extent of not seeking mentors elsewhere, a situation I hope to change going forward.
- On major career decisions like accepting greater responsibility, taking a break, migrating to another country, signing up for a stressful job just for the money or trying out a role which you’ve never performed before, I believe its impossible to run the same algorithm for every single scenario. Though long term alignment is important, we also need to take situational needs into consideration. Even in these circumstances, its best to take a lot of opinions and decide for oneself.
- Get a life beyond your career. It gives you a welcome break from your work, makes you an interesting person and also prepares you for life after you are done with working full time for a career. Your family, friends and colleagues will also hold you in much higher regard for this.
What’s your mid-career story ?