It’s the last day of 2021, a year that was supposed to be better than 2020. 2021, for me, is a milestone. As a 21 year old, I started my professional career in 2011. So it’s been exactly 10 years since!
Although, I have had the luxury of taking a 2 year break in between to pursue my MBA, it feels like I have constantly been on the move.
This December, I decided to take that psychological break and went on a solo trip far in the North-East of India, to gather my thoughts. Amongst other things, I came upon 10 key career observations, which I wanted to share with someone who is just starting out, in the hope that it helps.
10 key career observations
1. Excel is the top skill that schools don’t teach (after Personal Finance)
The most underrated skill in the corporate world or in any other field, is your ability in MS Excel. Even if you have a different software that you use, what it essentially does is mimic excel. In fact it is so important that often it is a differentiator, especially at the beginning of your career. There is no need to be a guru in excel but one should know the basics, if your work entails heavy use, you can and you will learn on the go.
2. Hardwork alone is not important , networking is
Don’t get me wrong, hardwork is really important but networking is what helps get you to your goals faster. In real life, it takes time to build and it will not be fruitful if you don’t connect with the person on a deeper level, it is meaningless in that case. But what exactly is it?
Ever played the game of Snake and Ladder?
In it, a ladder is a Network, metaphorically of course. No, a ladder, is not luck. Luck is when the dice you roll brings you to the ladder, but imagine having a ladder at every other 2nd / 3rd square, doesn’t it improve your chances of getting to the top? Networking improves your chances of success exponentially. If you have no network to rely on in your journey, you are just rolling the dice hoping for a snake to not eat you up. Who the snake is? Story for another time.
3. Your work is a means to a personal goal, identify what that is
Majority of the day goes in doing “work”, subconsciously everyone is married to their work. You start to think of it even when you are away, think of that raise, that promotion but what does it translate to on a personal level? Your professional goal needs to connect with your personal goal, the other way round is never an ideal outcome.
4. More you immerse yourself in work, faster friends and family age
My grandfather does not remember what he ate 10 minutes ago, I do not know when this change exactly happened. Feels like only recently he was able to crack sarcastic jokes and buy all his grand-kids their personal favourite chocolates/sweets. But that was 10 years ago. Its not like I did not meet him in the last 10 years, I did, in fact often. But did I really pay attention, not sure. That’s probably how “kids grow up quickly”, “time flies”, “feels like yesterday” become common.
5. Designation is often (not always) reflective of abilities in a role but not life in general
When I first heard the word Mont Blanc (as a non-French speaker) it sounded very exquisite, and that’s how it was marketed, a brand of pens that retails for 10k now. It is only when I started learning French, did I learn that these are just common words in French, Mont Blanc literally means White Mountain. When I visited Mont Blanc, Chamonix-France, I was amused. It was exactly that, a Mountain covered in Snow(hence White Mountain), same goes for Tableau (Chalkboard), Déjà vu (Already Seen).
Designations do not matter much, it does give a fair idea of the level of experience one has within the organization/role but that’s it. Instead it would be better to look for opportunities/roles that get you what you really want. In 2018, I moved from a role where I was Deputy Chief Manager – Strategic Initiatives, to a role where I was Asst. Manager(now Manager) – FP&A and it made perfect sense to me, still does.
6. Unsaid rules are a plenty and not all may seem morally right
Nothing is by the book once you pass out of college. There is no LHS = RHS, Hence proved. Doesn’t matter, period. Unsaid rules often drive the outcome. Some are obvious (wear clean clothes to work), most are obviously not (who not to engage with at work).
Sticking to your moral compass can be a challenge when you live in a setup in which unsaid rules play a big role. Being flexible is important, but if something crosses your threshold, stand up for/against it. It may not help you professionally, but it will help you sleep better.
7. Anyone can do anyone’s job, if they are willing
Often it is courage and willingness to learn that defines whether you are able to do well in role. If you are in HR, but really want to give a shot at doing Product sales. The top things you need, to do well in Product Sales, are; Opportunity, Courage and Willingness to learn/bounce back from failure. If you have the latter you will do well when the opportunity comes(it does come if we keep trying).
As a Mechanical Engineer, having done my MBA majors in Marketing and currently working in Finance, I can confirm that at each step the learning curve was steep, but it gave me the confidence that limits can be pushed.
8. Cost of Inaction > Cost of Risk Avoidance
Basic rule of Personal Finance, while deciding investment portfolio is the Rule of 100(or 120). Where 100 minus your age is the percentage of investment you should have in Equity (high risk). When young (read lesser responsibilities) taking more calculated risks will be far more rewarding than waiting on the sidelines maintaining status quo, unless, in the unlikeliest of scenarios, your major Life goals have been met in your 20s-30s.
9. Concepts like Imposter Syndrome, Burnout and Depression are real
Imposter Syndrome is good, in a way that it keeps you on your toes and often self-motivates to learn faster, do better (been there). But don’t let it consume you, consistently feeling the need to do more to prove your worth, will only get you to burnout, sooner(been there as well). What works is, giving your best always. Sometimes that will not be enough, but that’s ok. Consistency at a doable pace is better than playing Catch-up at an unmanageable pace.
10. Work friends can be Real friends too
Professional world is often a strange place, if you are ambitious you will often find yourself in complex situations. When your entire day revolves around such a setup, a person who you can trust, at work, will feel like an oasis. Don’t get too comfortable too soon, but be open to the possibility of making genuine friends at work. Sometimes a simple chat with someone who understands you at work is enough to recharge your batteries and get you through a bad day.
That’s all, thanks for reading. To read more random thoughts, visit https://fernwehrunway.com/
These were my top 10 key career observations. Please feel free to add yours in the comments.
Wish you a Safe and a Happy New Year 2022!!!