Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Golden Rules for Career Success - Richard Moran

I don't usually borrow whole posts & put them up on this blog, but this one is is a classic & HAS to be here.

WORKING as a business consultant all over the world, I have discovered some basic career-related rules that everyone should know but many don’t.

- Business is made up of ambiguous victories and nebulous defeats. Claim them all as victories.
- Keep track of what you do; someone is sure to ask.
- Be comfortable around senior managers, or learn to fake it.
- Never bring your boss a problem without some solution.
- You are getting paid to think, not to whine.
- Long hours don’t mean anything; results count, not effort.
- Write down ideas; they get lost, like good pens.
- Always arrive at work 30 minutes before your boss.
- Help other people network for jobs. You never know when your turn will come.
- Don’t take days off sick unless you are.
- Assume no one can / will keep a secret.
- Know when you do your best morning, night, under pressure, relaxed; schedule and prioritize your work accordingly.
- Treat everyone who works in the organization with respect and dignity, whether it be the cleaner or the managing director. Don’t ever be patronizing.
- Never appear stressed in front of a client, a customer or your boss. Take a deep breath and ask yourself: In the course of human events, how important is this?
- If you get the entrepreneurial urge, visit someone who has his own business. It may cure you.
- Acknowledging someone else’s contribution will repay you doubly.
- Career planning is an oxymoron. The most exciting opportunities tend to be unplanned.
- Always choose to do what you’ll remember ten years from now.
- The size of your office is not as important as the size of your pay cheque.
- Understand what finished work looks like and deliver your work only when it is finished.
- The person who spends all of his or her time is not hard-working; he or she is boring.
- Know how to write business letters including thank-you notes as well as proposals.
- Never confuse a memo with reality. Most memos from the top are political fantasy.
- Eliminate guilt. Don’t fiddle expenses, taxes or benefits, and don’t cheat colleagues.
- Reorganizations mean that someone will lose his or her job. Get on the committee that will make the recommendations.
- Job security does not exist.
- Always have an answer to the question, What would I do if I lost my job tomorrow
- Go to the company Christmas party. Don’t get drunk at the company Christmas party.
- Avoid working at weekends. Work longer during the week if you have to.
- The most successful people in business are interesting.
- Sometimes you’ll be on a winning streak and everything will click; take maximum advantage. When the opposite is true, hold steady and wait it out.
- Never in your life say, Its not my job
- Be loyal to your career, your interests and yourself.
- Understand the skills and abilities that set you apart. Use them whenever you have an opportunity.
- People remember the end of the project. As they say in boxing, Always finish stronger than you start.

More on bad people managers

So, there's this friend of mine.
He's spent 22 months with his current company, a BPO that refuses to acknowledge that people join this industry because it offers faster growth & better salaries than other industries.

A BPO that's packed with top management bereft of "relevant work ex", and one that refuses to act on the advice of it's staff that possess that work ex! Totally oblivious to the proverb "Only the spoon knows what cooking in the pot"! Surely they know what happens to kings who don't listen to their advisors? Surely they can fathom what would've happened to the great Chandragupta Maurya had he not paid heed to Chanakya?

As things stand today, this friend of mine can't stand being in this company anymore. He's started looking out. One of 2 things will happen now:
  • He will find a job to his liking & leave.
  • The company will promote him, give what's overdue, in order to retain him.
What the company doesn't realize is that someone this dissatisfied will leave even after this promotion!!!

Either way, their mismanagement of his expectations & his perception of where his career is going is leading to another victory for Mr. A!

Monday, February 25, 2008


Excerpt from the web, reinforcing what Thomas Friedman says about the Indian Outsourcing Industry.

And proof to the naysayers that the Industry is growing in hitherto unimaginable ways!

And a warning to employers that industry growth potentially means more employment opportunities to their dissatisfied staff!

"Honey has completed her first project for me: research on the person Esquire has chosen as the Sexiest Woman Alive. I’ve been assigned to write a profile of this woman, and I really don’t want to have to slog through all the heavy-breathing fan websites about her. When I open Honey’s file, I have this reaction: America is f*cked. There are charts. There are section headers. There is a well-organized breakdown of her pets, measurements, and favorite foods (e.g., swordfish). If all Bangalorians are like Honey, I pity Americans about to graduate college. They’re up against a hungry, polite, Excel-proficient Indian army."

Read full article here.

The selfish kind of employer...

One of my ex-managers recently told an ex-employee of mine: "When will my managers grow up?" in response to his (pre-informed) leave clashing with a weekend training programme!

It really upsets me when managers only seem to expect employees to live to contribute to their company, with no focus on their personal needs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Employers & Employment...

Edit: Sandy's comment made me add this disclaimer:
This post shouldn't be interpreted in absolute terms. It is meant to highlight the pitfalls of corporate life and has therefore, deliberately ignored the good about organizations. If you're looking for good, scroll down to the beginning of this blog.

Having held 9 jobs in 10 years, in different industries, and different kinds of companies, one can safely say that I am now a semi-expert on "employers".
And with the absolute roller-coaster of a ride it has been, I believe I am qualified enough to comment on the pitfalls of corporate life.
So here goes:

Step 1: NEVER EVER work for a small firm if you can help it! By & large they are owned & run by people who have no training or education in man-management, HR, corporate law etc. etc.
This means you risk working in the corporate equivalent of a dictatorship. For example, if you have a problem with your manager, who do you go to? Your boss often owns the damn company! There is often no HR to intervene! And even if there is, they're not going to risk upsetting the boss!

No experience in corporate law sometimes translates into a total disregard for the law; meaning you work for a company that is potentially low on ethics and is therefore open to sales tax raids, other kinds of scrutiny etc.

Risky proposition either way.

AND... If you're a management graduate, who has studied what they have often not, it's very frustrating to work for people who don't understand where you're coming from.

Step 2: Stick by what you believe in. Don't let your bosses or managers influence you against something you hold dear. They have what you want, you look up to them for guidance, yes...; by all means be open to feedback, but if they say something that something inside you finds it difficult to digest, however often it is said, don't buy it. If you're not at the start of your career, always remember: You got here by doing what you do best. By all means pick up new skills; but don't for God's sake drop the old ones because someone higher in the Org structure tells you that you need to change! This is a twisted one, so I'll expand on this one in a separate post sometime.

Step 3: Despite their exhortations, always remember, companies are NOT family! They are not friends either! They are employers. And you're extremely lucky if you find a good one!
Family & friends will not stab you in the back. Organizations do & employers if they need a fall guy will! I have learnt from my experience as I have mentioned before.
But let me not ask you to just go by that. Let me give you another example.
A friend of mine was once in trouble over some overtime issues. Most BPO companies do not take pains to educate their managers on the legal limits of overtime. He wasn't educated about it either, so unbeknownst he slipped up. Now his company was worried about being audited & found lacking. They had to show that they'd taken some action against the person who broke the law. So they went after this friend of mine! Luckily, he had me! I told him to ask his company whether he'd been offered his position on the basis of a degree in labour law. Also why after his hiring had they not spent time training him in the important legal aspects of the job? His company of course had no answers. I also asked him to tell them that he would not only take the company to court if they took any action against him, but also that he'd go to the press with the story! That was it. He hasn't heard anything on the matter after that.
The other thing I've warned him about is that he needs to watch his back now that he's messed up their egos. But I think he's learnt how to handle them now.
Lesson: Remember to treat a job as just that. It's just a job. It's not the beginning or the end of the world! There are many more where those came from! (Thank God for these times & may he bless the likes of Manmohan Singh & Rajiv Gandhi!) It's not your family, it's not your life, it's only a job! And they're just your current employers, and they're not indispensable!

Step 4: Companies today are wondering why they're losing people so fast. It's really simple actually. It's not about more opportunities existing today, the money being better in another company, other companies poaching your talent. It's about the 3 points I mentioned above.
It's about living the values you boast of (in hiring ads & induction sessions) as a company! You can't issue broad statements like "We're a family" & then summarily terminate the employment of your family members!
These are pitfalls a company must learn to avoid. Among the others that I am going to mention.

Jobs earlier were more relaxed. You spent 8-9 hours in an office, you worked 5-6 out of those. You spent time chatting up colleagues at the water coolers, took a long luxurious lunch sometimes. Work was a walk in the park.
Then came the days of increased productivity. Technology could now keep tabs on what you did with your time in the office. You were being watched & punished. Work became more stressful. Not that companies didn't do business earlier. It's just that competition intensified & in order to survive the company wanted more productivity per employee. If you couldn't give more productivity, you had to settle for less pay/no promotions/no job. You had to sacrifice ambition if you wanted a less stressful life. Of course, the company couldn't sacrifice it's market share ambitions!

So here we are today: Highly stressful jobs, personal ambition, lack of work-life balance. To make matters worse, employers are insensitive & tell you to your face that:
Job security is a thing of the past!
And then they wonder why they have high rates of attrition!!!

So here's my modern management maxim to that:
Employee Loyalty is a thing of the past!

Much as that will hurt brick & mortar relics of the past, it is the truth. And the only way it will change if these relics managing companies wake up to this fact!