Pre-requisites for a Fast Track Career
Today, each one of us is required to be successful in one’s respective field. It has almost become a necessity in order to survive in this ruthless, extremely competitive world. Once a person understands that one needs to clearly define for oneself what those aspects are. It is imperative because then one can focus on cultivating, honing those skills in order be on top of one’s game. Let us examine what those skills are.
Anyone who even remotely feels ambitious would tell you that one is always on a lookout to improve oneself at all times. There is nothing, per se, wrong in that demeanor. It’s just that one has to be cognizant of the fact that one needs to have maniacal focus and determination to work on oneself and one’s own skills. Honing one’s skills is key to making progress in one’s career.
In my career of more than 25 years, I have noticed that many young ambitious career aspirants feel confused about what it takes to be successful in the shortest or let’s put it, least period of time. Many smart young career- minded people read books, undergo training and obtain advice from others in order to understand steps they need to take in order to grow in their career in the least period of time.
Some of them falter big time but eventually succeed. Some get the key messages right and make progress quicker but for some, the advice, the inputs just don’t come. They struggle. I meet quite a lot of them in my day-to-day work at my office. I meet them more often on engineering campuses as I visit the NITs and IITs between the months of June to December every year.
As I sat back in my balcony over the extended long weekend thinking about the new year, it dawned on me that I could possibly try and pen down my thoughts on what it takes for someone fairly young and inexperienced to make quick progress in one’s career. With this precise thought, let me move ahead and share with you some of my thoughts.
I am sure there could be many more aspects that one could include but I feel that some of these aspects are key to a faster growth in one’s career journey. Take a look…
Where does one’s interest lie?
As one begins one career, one would realize that it could be because of a plan one had or it could be just a sheer accident. The initial couple of years, one would experiment a little bit. One could try to find a niche for oneself and for some; it could be a path decided deliberately. Regardless, after the first couple of years, one needs to zero down on the field, area or a domain one would like to make a career in.
At this stage, it is important for one to identify a field of work one is drawn to. In the first couple of years, one would get enough experience to decide on that one. It is also the time of one’s career where one could experiment with work. It is the time to talk to some experts around oneself. Exchanging ideas and thoughts with seniors, peers is usually very helpful in having a clearer understanding of what one really enjoys, wants and aspires to do.
In the first few years of one’s career, one is bound to be impressionable in one’s thoughts when it comes to picking up an area to make a career in. Just like children, people tend to get drawn to others’ thoughts, passion and also by what is perceived to be of higher value in the job market. At this stage, it is crucial to remember that career is not a short-lived thing. It is usually long drawn (Average 35 years).
Therefore, taking one’s time and checking one’s thought is critical. It is easy for all of us to be emotional in all our decisions. However, please bear in mind that any decision taken in haste and that too emotionally is bound to go wrong. Suspend your judgment and check what one rally likes.
Do I have a dream?
Many young career aspirants don’t think about their dreams. They pick up a field of work that appeals to them at a given point in time. As one begins to grow in age, in experience, people develop a dream. They aspire to do that one thing that would give them the most joy.
People dream of not only different jobs but they dream of doing those jobs or a piece of work a particular way, in a particular place. At an early stage of one’s career, it is better to examine all of these aspects. Do I really have a dream? Ask oneself that question. If yes, does one know what that dream is? Does one know what would it take to achieve that dream?
As one begins to explore one’s dreams, it is imperative to have a reality check on those dreams. It is also important to check one’s courage of conviction about that dream. Does one know what would it entail to achieve this dream? Does one have intermittent goals as one works toward achieving this dream?
Ask one self all of these questions. The answers to most of these questions would guide one the right way. It is also important to know that as one examines one’s dreams, do not hesitate to take help from someone. Identify for one goals that the dream would translate into.
Do I have goals?
As we just discussed, goals are necessary. One can look at short term, mid term and long term goals as one begins to work towards one’s dream. A lot of young people who come to me for advice sulk about their goals being nebulous. I, for one, feel that the goals can very well be nebulous. They can change as one makes progress but it is important to have goals as one takes on a journey called career.
I also meet people who say that they have no goals in life because they do not know how to draw or chalk out their goals. I always say to people that it is important to learn the art of chalking out goals because if one does not, then it is almost like saying that if you don’t know where to go, any road will take you there.
What that essentially means is that if one begins to walk on a road without knowing one’s destination, one can choose to walk on any road and that too in any direction. It really does not matter. Goals are like that in nature. If one did not know what one’s goals were, it does not matter how one worked on them because one would never achieve them. Therefore, knowing the specificity of one’s goals is crucial to achieving them.
Do I have some timeline?
You know friends; several young aspirants who I meet have a faint idea bout the time span in which they would like to achieve their goals. In fact, most of them do not know a real, practical time line. One needs to know a time span in which one needed to achieve these goals.
For the sake of argument, let us say that one truly does not have a time frame in mind then on needs to do some home work and ask pertinent questions to people from the same field about time lines. It is also important to note that once a person gets a real sense of time, one’s efforts, stretch and hard work would determine if one would be able to achieve these goals in that time frame.
A sense of time to achieve goals would entirely depend on one’s motivation to achieve those goals. The level of self-drive would also contribute in achieving one’s goals. I also feel that a person needs to decide how fast one needed to achieve one’s goals. Self-discipline is crucial in working towards this goals.
The other aspect of goals is to check if one’s goals are SMART. This is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. If the goals one has set are not SMART, then it would be an uphill task for sure.
Specific Goals will facilitate focus and single-minded focus on achieving whatever one has set out to achieve.
Measurable goals will facilitate checking of those goals. Being able to measure the achievement of goals is helpful.
One’s goals also have to be achievable. They should not be so hard that one struggles to achieve them. Impractical goals will leave the person with only frustration and boredom.
They have to be realistic as well. Sometimes people set goals that are not realistic in nature. For example, if one were to say that my goal is to learn independently flying an aircraft in 3 months. It may not be a realistic goals. One needs to learn the skills of flying an aircraft.
Needless to say, the goal also has to be timely. There has to be specific time frame to achieve the set goals. If a goal would take an inordinate period of time, the goal would lose its meaning. Not knowing the period of time it would take to achieve the set goal is also in vain.
SMART goals are critical in order to work on them. These SMART goals provide a sense of direction to an individual working on those goals.
Where do I stand with respect to my skills?
In order to fast track one’s career, one of the important aspects is to make self-assessment. Does one know where one stands with respect to one’s skill set? In order to be a water walker in one’s career, one must know the level of skills one possesses.
One must know and then assess the skills one needs. Just making an assessment of those skills is not good enough. One also needs to know the gap that exists between one’s current level of expertise and the level of expertise that is expected at the level at which one wants to be.
Skills assessment is an integral step in working to fast track one’s career. The process has to begin with self-assessment and must go on to take inputs from experts in the area. Then next step involves skill gap assessment. Once that is done, one would be able to make an assessment of next steps one has to take.
Do I invite feedback?
One of the skills to possess as one chooses to work on a fast track career is to ensure that one obtains feedback from others. The concept of 360-degree feedback is quite valid in this case. It is important to seek feedback from seniors, peers, juniors and also from internal/external customers. Feedback can reveal many aspects of one’s working which one might be blinded to. There can be behavioral or style related things that one may be unaware of. Talking to people who work with one can open the doors of such aspects.
Feedback always helps in course correcting several aspects of one’s personality as a professional. It is important to listen to people. After listening to them and after evaluating what they have to say, one may choose to not agree with that feedback. That would be perfectly alright but not accepting that feedback is a grave mistake.
A person must deliberate every feedback input. One has to look at it from that angle and in a particular context. It requires some fact finding. It also requires some work actively pursuing the remedial actions. It must be set in context. It requires mulling over.
Once the process of mulling over has happened, one must decide if one wanted to work on those feedback inputs by making modifications. Those modifications could be behavioral, style related, way of working related and for that matter knowledge related.
What is one doing to gain knowledge?
In order to be successful one needs knowledge. A constant hunger for knowledge is a must. One has to look into ways in which one tries to gain knowledge. Are you reading enough? In today’s Internet frenzy, people have forgotten to read, think about what they could have read. It’s the time of instant gratification. All one needs to do is to get on Internet and read something. However, one ought to understand that there are several ways in which one can gain knowledge.
Experiential learning is one such potent way. Experience is a great teacher and one can look at one’s life experiences to learn a thing or two. Some skills are never taught in a college or for that matter in any management school. Those skills ought to be learned from one’s experiences in life.
Similarly, listening to other people’s experiences is a great form of educating one self. Conducting experiments, reading books are potent but conventional ways of learning. Knowledge gained is never wasted in any way, one must remember that!
Am I introspecting?
One of the other ways of gaining knowledge as one works on a fast track career progression is the art of introspection. I believe that one can lie to the rest of the world but one cannot lie to one self. Therefore, as one makes progress through life’s treacherous path, one ought to look within at sporadic intervals.
Examining how one feels, what one thinks about one’s own decisions is a great learning experience. At the end of the day, one’s own conviction matters the most. I come across several young career centric individuals who are heavily dependent on what others in their eco system feel and think. They very seldom give themselves and their own thinking any credit for what and how they feel.
I feel exactly the other way round. I am of the opinion that what you think is more valid than what others think. It is better to listen to oneself and then take decisions. Primarily because if any of those decisions turn out to be wrong, one can take the responsibility for those wrong outcomes or results. One cannot blame anyone else. Similarly, if those decisions turn out to be good, positive then it is only one self who can take credit for that.
Introspection also teaches one to weigh one’s options. It gives an opportunity to one to look at both sides of the coin. Well, one must learn the art of not flowing with one’s emotions when it comes to introspection.
I also believe that introspection helps one become independent in the way one thinks. This is quite crucial because no one knows one’s own career better. If one chooses to succeed in one’s career at one’s own pace and that pace is faster than that of others then it is best one learns the skill and art of taking decisions on one’s own merit. That way the journey on this fast track career path would become that much more rewarding.
We started our discussion by articulating why, in today’s day and age; youngsters wish to fast track their career progression. We aligned with all the reasons that we felt they attributed it to. They indeed are valid. However, it was imperative for us to think about things that one needed to work on in order to fast track one’s career.
Needless to say, the list and aspects we have talked about here are not exhaustive. I am sure this list is partial in nature but having said that based on my industry experience, I recommend one thinks about these aspects to begin with.
I would like to conclude now by saying that while all of these aspects are supremely important; one aspect that needs a special mention is the “Attitude.” Now, attitude is a funny thing. How does one describe attitude? I would say that simply put, one ought to know that one must learn things, one must soil hands and one must hone skills and knowledge. Nothing should come in the way of these things.
It also means that one’s ego; sense of self-perception can ruin one’s constructive attitude. One’s hunger for constantly improving oneself is key. Those have to be in the right place. The temperament has to be that of someone who is constantly willing to absorb every single life experience. Does it mean that one ought not to ever get angry or feel egoistic for that matter? Of course, not! Being a human, it is perfectly normal to have those feelings and emotions. However, one must know how to keep them in check.
To me, that is to have a constructive attitude in one’s life. Therefore, in a very simplistic way, the prerequisites for a fast track career growth are quite easy to work on provided one has the right attitude and the demeanor on a sustained basis. What do you say?