Crossroads

Posted: July 24, 2010 by Anindya Dutta in Career
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The last few weeks have given me an opportunity to take a long hard look at myself , as I go through the excruciating mental grind of making some important decisions related to my future professional career choices. Not that I have not tackled difficult issues before, but this time the approach was different. On this occasion, true to WIMWI style, I decided to approach the problem the traditional WAC way. Lay out options which are available to you, outline criteria for evaluation and then judge your options on the basis of the outlined criteria. Although this piece is no excerpt from “How to make career-related decisions for Dummies”, I have outlined certain generic criteria which anyone, I believe, should apply to judge a career option.

So here is how it goes…

Assume you are evaluating a career option at company A.

Criteria 1: When you look around at what the senior people in company A are doing, does that excite you?

Typically, people talk a lot about enjoying what you do. But most of us enjoy what we do when we can unleash our creative or analytical abilities to help us take key decisions, and then back those decisions with compact strategic execution. And that typically does not happen when we start our careers as analysts/associates or whatever fancy designations different companies may give us. That usually happens when one has gone through the muck, the grind and earned greater business experience which gives people around us greater confidence to allow a person to take responsibility. So judge a profession/company based on what you think you will be doing 5-6 years down the line, and not what you are doing now.

Criteria 2: Does company A give sufficient regard to your need for work-life balance?

Now, all of us have heard a lot about work-life balance. The reality is that the more you earn, the less you tend to balance. In fact, most job descriptions which claim to provide you with a great work-life balance are typically bullshitting you. It’s a competitive world out there and if you want to be at the cutting edge, you need to slog, and that usually comes at the expense of other worldly benefits. The important point, however, is whether the company/sector recognizes the need for work-life balance. I stress on the word “recognize” purely because no company/sector can provide you a great work-life balance all the time. However, as long as the company/sector recognizes the need for work-life balance as a prerequisite for high work quality and sustainable efforts from its employees, it will ensure that you never typically burn out. As I said, its not just about talking the talk but also about walking the walk….

Criteria 3: If you were to want to try out something else after a relatively long stint at company A, where does the experience at A leave you?

Although this applies more to a sector or industry choice rather than a company-specific decision, I know of friends for whom this has been a deciding factor in making company level decisions as well. Well, this criteria can be likened to checking whether the insurance policy you are buying is good or not. Most of us, I presume, are looking to progress in our careers with a diverse range of experiences, and it is important to be able to take calls on industry and company of choice keeping an eye on exit options, if and when we want to bail out or move on to the next challenge

So, that’s just about it!!! Plain and simple as I had promised…

Now many people will argue that there are several other factors which need to be given due importance while assessing available career options. Well, that’s true. For some people factors such as monetary compensation or location might as well turn out to be dealmakers or dealbreakers. However, in my humble opinion (and I am no authority on this subject), for successful sustainable fulfiling professional careers, the above three criteria are necessary condititons on which a given career option should be evaluated. These criteria are no red flags in anyway whatsoever, but establish very good preliminary ground to begin evaluating options in more granular detail.Once you are satisfied with how a company performs on these criteria, it is highly recommended that one should look at other more personally relevant criteria as well.

Purely as a rule of thumb, in my opinion, a company which fails on any two out of the above three criteria should be immediately rejected. However, the actual rule one would apply would depend on the relevant context.

Well, I am off to continue my search for answers to questions which I am confronted with at present. If you radically disagree with any of my thoughts, please drop in your comments.