Welcome to the wonderland that is the corporate world.  Be aware!! The corporate sector is altogether a different world where one must take abundant precaution to nurture a successful career brick by brick. A few early mistakes or oversights may derail your career making a comeback feel like dredging through quick send. This article would enable new comers and experienced alike to make the right impact in their career. I have distilled my reflections in four interlinked cornerstones, so let’s go to learn from them…..

  1. Personal Mastery: This is about deepening your vision and taking disciplined action to realise it. One of the key actions which need to be considered is improving one’s executive presence by way of taking a series of actions like –
  2. Elevator Pitch: Develop an elevator pitch on a few recent trends, topics or your core subject.
  3. Grooming for success: Adhere to workplace attire and be well-groomed in line with the organisation’s culture (do they wear a necktie or use jacket/blazer). Always pay attention to your appearance and If in confusion use formals or at least use blazer and formal shoes. 
  4. Financial Planning: Don’t overspend either during company paid trips or in your personal life. Start saving and investing from day one as poor money habits and reckless spending has a strong correlation with fiddling expenses and/or borrowing money from peers. You may use your savings to reinvest in your self-development in the future.
  5. Invest in yourself: Organisations generally invest in building skills that are relevant for their business. Investing in skills or abilities aligned to your vision is your responsibility.
  6. Career Mastery:  Managing perception is the key to career growth and the best way to achieve it, is to be authentic and taking up new challenges. Keep yourself away from petty politics by being optimistic and maintaining professionalism. You can further navigate your career by paying attention to the following:
    1. Effective Listening & Communication Skills – Listen to understand and not to respond.
    1. Social Media Presence: Use social media like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn responsibly to

      further your brand and not sharing your skills of holding a beer mug.

  • Understand organisation’s culture: Learn about common behaviour patterns e.g. do seniors are called by first name? How recognition and reward are given or how mistakes and failures are addressed? Read more about the organisation’s vision and values especially how the founder dreamt about the organisation.
    • Work Ethics: Be mindful of work ethics and ethos by taking action like being punctual, meeting deadlines, observe code of ethics (Don’t overstate travel and food expenses or forge signatures), respect women at work and last but not least give due respect to support staff, office boys etc.
  • Learning Attitude: Your classes have ended but your education has just started. Inculcate a learning attitude by exploring relevant certifications to advance technical skills or soft skills like leadership, personal effectiveness, negotiations, conflict management etc. It would be prudent to plan for advanced management course from a world-class institution after a few years.
  • Professional Mastery: Having understood how to master self and career now it’s the time to acquire deep insight into the business and profession. Consider taking following steps and shrink the learning cycle and learn from other’s experience:
    • Know your business: Business is all about creating economic value. Learn about how the business makes money and bring the differential ability to its clients. Use informal gatherings and events to learn from veterans or seniors about their career journey and how they succeeded. 
  • Understanding business processes: Read company and competition’s reports and financial

      statements. Enquire by being curious and not challenging someone. If you find some gaps

      give your suggestions to process owner informally and politely –refrain from forming or

      giving an opinion at an early stage as your acceptability comes before your expertise.

  • Know your function: Learn about the workflow of your function, explore possibilities of improvisation and efficiency building without compromising quality. Take your role as a profession and not employment. Use the initial phase to lay a strong foundation e.g. make frequent field visits & interact with frontline staff.
  • Always remember you have been hired to solve business problems using tools like data collection, analytics and bringing a fresh perspective. Be a part of new projects which will not only allow you to test your capability but also collaborate with others and forge a strong bond. By being part of a project or a working group you improve your learning agility, become part of organisation’s network and strengthen your position.
  • Managing bosses and seniors: Every meeting with the boss is an interview you are either making or breaking an impression, go well prepared for every meeting by way of anticipating what are the current issues likely to be discussed, what data, information or clarification could be sought? Do remember it takes time for one to develop goodwill in the organisation till that time you are as good as your last deed.
  • Decision Making: Consider alternatives and take independent views of others before making a final choice. It would be prudent to learn to say “NO”. Time management and prioritising would be handy skills to possess.
  • Performance Appraisal: Every organisation has its performance management system. I interpret the rating scale as Rating 1: Absolute non-performance or major goof-up (Maybe you should read this article immediately). Rating 2/3 – You meet most of the target or achieve 100% in copybook style but don’t exceed expectations in major areas. Rating 4- You deliver your KRA’s and partly relived your boss from his work. Rating 5- Your performance set industry standards and create organisation vide impact.
  • Mastering tricks of the trade: There are some other factors which if mastered will  help build a successful career :
    • Communication: Your maturity in dealing with clients, stakeholders, consultants, ability to hold proper telephonic conversations, knowing letter writing and email Etiquettes (do some research on the respective protocols) are the foundation to success.
    • Network well and learn from other’s experiences. Observe successful people in your field for going to the next level.
    • Get the grip over technology and insight into some key areas of your profession where you can be called SME (subject matter expert).
    • Speak only if you can make the difference – Assume no one can / will keep a secret.
    • Write down ideas, they get lost, like good pens.
    • Integrity: Don’t take sick leave unless you are unwell. Don’t cheat colleagues in fact to no one.
    • Acknowledging someone else’s contribution will repay you doubly.
    • Know how to write business letters, thank you notes, business proposals, reports etc.
    • Business is made of ambiguous victories & nebulous defeats. Claim them all as victories.
    • Keep track of what you do; someone is sure to ask.
    • Job security does not exist, always know the answer to “What would I do if I lost my job tomorrow”.
    • Know when you do your best – morning, evening, under pressure, relaxed.
    • Go to the company Christmas party but don’t drink too much and lose control.

In my three-decade-long experience, I have observed careers succeeding or failing. I realise that career planning is an oxymoron and the most exciting and fruitful opportunities tend to be unplanned. I recommend that consider doing things that you will remember ten years from now. No one knows how the future is going to be but one thing is certain that “it is always better to prepare and fail than fail to prepare”.

ALOK SHEOPURKAR
ALOK SHEOPURKAR

Author, Keynote speaker
Executive Vice President & Head -HR (India) HDFC Asset Management Co. Ltd.