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How to gain freedom from the boss
Anagh Pal, Outlook Money
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August 21, 2007

India's obsession with a planned and controlled economy continued well into the 80s. It was only in the beginning of the following decade that the government set about seriously unfettering the giant.

Till then, jobs were for keeps. Take the case of S M Dutta, the man spearheading the spate of takeovers by Hindustan Lever [Get Quote] (now Hindustan Unilever) in the 1990s. He is said to have joined the company as a fresher and retired as its chairman. Such career-in-one-company people were common in the pre-liberalisation era.

Ironically, Dutta's takeover moves meant job losses for some in acquired companies.

Today, mergers and takeovers, and resultant redundancies, have become part of life. Changing technology, too, is doing its bit to swell the ranks of the superfluous. There is no so-called job security any more. How, in such a scenario, does one continue to be relevant? How does he separate his fortunes from that of the organisation he works for? How, in other words, does he gain freedom from the boss?

An old man with a long, flowing beard is probably not your idea of a human resource expert. But, in The Origin of Species, published in 1859, Charles Darwin wrote: "In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment."

And, that, say HR experts, is the way to stay out of the Jurassic Park of the Indian job space.

How, then, do you adapt; hold a job and yet be free? HR consultants as well as HR heads of companies say there are a number of qualities that make a person difficult to dispense with.

Such people have more choice, better pay, and a long and happy work life. They go so far as to say that such people will remain relevant, irrespective of how the job scenario shapes up in future.

Develop a 'can-do' attitude. With rapid changes in the business scenario, economic conditions and consumer requirements, a company has to keep doing new things to stay in the business.

"We look for someone who is willing to take on new roles and has the analytical and decision-making skills (for the job)," says Veena Padmanabhan, general manager (talent engagement & development), Wipro [Get Quote] Technologies.

However, in new situations, when statistical data and case studies are less relevant, it is impossible to know what will work out. So, eagerness to take on added responsibility isn't enough.

"To learn to deal with ambiguity, you have to try out new things and not get bothered about the setback," says Sanjay Jog, HR head, Pantaloon [Get Quote] Retail.

Somebody has to go ahead and take decisions based on analysis of available data and take responsibility for it, says Veerendra P Mathur, director & chief executive, Focus Infotech, an IT services company.

Sunny Pokala, president, Amtex Systems, an IT consultancy, stresses on the need to "develop intellectual and emotional curiosity that pushes you into exploring unknown territory".

Anita Ramachandran, founder, Cerebrus Consultants, sums it up as the 'can-do attitude', which enables people to go after new challenges even in times of uncertainty.

Update, update, update. Changes are happening in every aspect - be it ideas, consumer aspirations or new and different ways of looking at and running a business. Either you keep up with them, or miss the bus.

Big FM vice-president Lancelot Cutinha says: "Spend 5-6 hours every week on the Internet. It is a big eqauliser. If you are not technology-wise, you cannot make a big contribution. Other exercises like seminars, workshops, and periodic sabbaticals will help you network and learn more. You have to rub shoulders with people outside your sector too - alumni and industry meets often do the trick."

Shabbir Merchant, executive vice-president (consulting services) at HR firm Grow Talent stresses the need to be versatile, "You should keep learning new things in and outside your field." Aditya Birla Group vice-president H R Shashikant says it is not just about the ability to learn, but also "unlearn and relearn new knowledge in domain areas and new skill sets" that will help you cope with changing times.

Forget form, build on function. New sectors are being created and suddenly there is a set of jobs, which didn't exist before. Think of insurance, retail and telecom. Since these industries do not have a ready talent pool to recruit from, there is a lot of hiring across the spectrum.

"Certain skills like management, leadership, and marketing are required across sectors," says E. Balaji, chief operating officer, Ma Foi Management Consultants. What is the best way you can leverage the situation?

"Do not get wedded to your industry; develop the skills and the temperament to create a multiple-industry option, so that you are employable across industries," says Dony Kuriakose, director, EDGE Executive Search. Also, be more flexible in the kind of employment you are looking at.

Says Pokala: "Today, companies strive to stay lean and flexible; they hire people for projects or assignments rather than for entire careers. Part-time work, contract employment, and consulting are becoming a necessity, and not only a choice for many people."

Be in touch with your soft side. Jobs and services are becoming more specific. At the same time, they are reaching out to people not only in all parts of India but also to different corners of the world. How do you connect with your clients?
How to Survive the Change

Show an eagerness to take on extra responsibility and learn to deal with ambiguity.

Constantly update yourself�use the Internet and leverage networking skills

Develop skills that can work across industries, be open to short-term projects

Apart from analytical skills, develop an understanding of the softer side of things

Stay in a job to see a process you have initiated reach a logical end to be sure that you have learnt something as you move on

Says Jog: "Understanding just numbers will not work, you have to connect with the softer side of things. The need of the hour is to use both the parts of your brain and think holistically, by complementing management with design skills."

Explains Mathur: "A successful software engineer needs more than programming skills. One who is designing a programme for an auto company in the US which wants to develop a car especially for elderly customers needs to align himself to the needs of an elderly couple for whom the car is being designed."

A high level of IQ has always been important, says Balaji, but to be competent in a cross-cultural, multi-national environment, you also need to have a high emotional quotient, the ability to understand the point of view of others. 

Tech impact
New  Jobs from 2000 to 2005

1 Post your resume at job portals and find jobs in your inbox

2 Social networking sites like LinkedIn and even Orkut are becoming a place where you can post your resume

3 BPO, KPO and IT jobs exist because of information technology

Roll smart, stone. As talent is short, attrition levels are high. Papiya Mitra, senior manager, Magma Design Automation, a software development firm, says, "It's easy for employees to focus on maximising their compensation when market conditions are good."

Money matters and is tempting, but how do know when to shift to a new job? "You need to stay long enough in a specialisation, or company to gain proficiency and contribute at the same time. The time has to be enough for you to gain functional skills or domain knowledge like, say, finance, technical or marketing. and be really good at something," says Shashikant. "If you stay on the wicket, runs will come," he adds.

Mathur, too, stresses on the need to stick to one job for a definite period. "When you are in a job, you should initiate a process of change and stay in the job long enough to see some logical end to the initiative."

You might or might not like Darwin's beard, but if you don't want to lose out in the race of 'evolution' in the career space, you would better listen to him.

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