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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Surviving In the Corporate Jungle

..So you had a bright academic career, were picked up on the campus (on day one or two) & joined the company of your dream? Right? Well, even if the answer is no, don’t lose heart.  Bright academics doesn’t necessarily translate into a great career!

Here are some tips (which I learned through trial and error, many a times at a big cost!) which I would like to share. You could be a young professional or a veteran; you would certainly find a thing or two useful.

Before you sign on the dotted line
When you look for a job or change in job (proverbial – greener pastures), more than just the salary package, you should be really looking for following things –
·         How is the company doing? (Market performance, financial stability etc.)
·         What will be your role?  Your responsibilities?
·         What is the potential for growth within the organization?
·         Does that role/skills have market outside? (else, you become trapped in the same organization)
·         Is the title commensurate with your role? (Many companies provide fancy titles. I have seen many employees, not able to change jobs, just because their current titles are too heavy for the minuscule role they are playing & they got so much used to lofty titles that they can’t accept another job with lesser one)

Find out your DNA
It is very important to find out what kind of organization suits you best.  e.g. a MNC of global repute may bring in lot of structure, lot of procedures in everything you do, right from what kind of training (internal/external)  you need to undergo to meticulous career planning to a refined performance appraisal (including 360 degree feedback). It will put you on some world-renowned projects, your international travel could be business class (well, take the last one with a pinch of salt!). Now look at the flip side. You could be working on a project like, say, Boeing, but could be a part of 170+ team, working in some corner in third shift for months (or even years, in some cases)! For any simple thing, there could be N approvals you may have to take, flexibility could be too much to ask for & the tall hierarchy (from entry level to CEO) could be of 15 layers ..!

Compare this to working in a start-up or a smaller organization (or as some say, tier-two, tier-three company).  Here you may like it or not, they will put bigger responsibilities on your shoulder (almost from month one, if not day one). You can’t hide in a corner here. Whatever good or bad you perform, you’re visible to the top-brass. And if you’re a performer, well, then I may sound clich├ęd but yes, sky is the limit! But note, there won’t be much of a structure (if you ask for one, they may ask you to make one!), training will be on-the-job (in plain words, forget training. You’re deployed for work! Learn it somehow & deliver). And they can’t afford the overheads of putting you in a Hilton on a business trip.

You can’t choose your boss –
People leave managers & not organizations! 
So no matter what kind of organization it is, there is one person, who will impact your career growth (in either direction) greatly & that happens to be your immediate manager!  And yes, you may do quite some research before joining a new Organization but you can’t do much when it comes to your boss.
So, once you start working with him, it is important to find out what kind of person/professional he is.  (I will just share some key-words, one or some of them could be applicable.  Micro-manager, hands-off manager, delegates too much, participative, authoritative, etc.) You need to align yourself with the personality/working-style of your manager.

Here is one more piece of advice. Refrain from using the word ‘politics’. No matter what kind of organization it is, some politics is bound to be there & you need to learn to live with it. In fact, a better name for politics is ‘group dynamics’ which is bound to be there when two or more human-beings are interacting on anything, may it be work or sports or any other activity.  If you think your boss favors someone else more than you, the fact is, that other person is in the trust-zone of your boss.  You call them soft-skills or call people-skills, but they matter most here than sheer technical skills.

Keen eye -
Besides working, keep your eyes (more than ears) wide open & observe people in your organization (from various teams, various roles and various countries). See how they work, how they communicate.
Instead of just getting awed by your CEO or COO, find out the qualities that made him the CXO-level material.  You will learn a lot more by observing. It will help not only in enhancing your career but also will provide invaluable inputs to your entrepreneurial aspirations, after few years.

Sixth sense –
Remember Intel’s Andy Grove’s famous quote? Only the paranoid survive!
Thanks to the globalization, digitization and brutal competition, no matter in which country you’re in and no matter which industry you’re in,  in course of time, your organization will acquire another company or your company will be gobbled by someone else. There could be some corporate re-structuring (due to M&A or as per management’s dictat) or plainly down-sizing.  Barring the last one, earlier mentioned events don’t impact much at a junior level.  Also, such events need not be construed as solely negative. I’ve seen many individuals’ career blossoming in spite of (or due to) such events.  But if you feel you cannot cope up with the change, then watch out for the signals & keep your parachute ready.

Running away from stress? –
As you rise up the career ladder, the stress factor is going to increase exponentially.  And all said and done, you can’t eliminate (or even minimize) stress. You need to manage stress, learn to live with it, with a smile! Remember, you need to be working for at least 20 years (assuming some of you want to retire at 50!). But think of 20 years as a marathon race (& not T-20 cricket match) You can’t burn out in first 5 years itself! If you realize that you can’t handle stress, then curb your ambitions. Period.

Last but not the least-
Just like you upgrade to a new model of mobile phone almost every couple of years , you need to upgrade yourself to a new skill / new role / new organization almost every couple of years else YOU become obsolete in the corporate world !

Now ..go & conquer the corporate world!!

Best Luck!!!

P.S - Having survived 25 years in the corporate jungle, thought to share some insights to the Gen-Next. I also candidly admit that I myself might not have practised many of the things I talked here J  


  1. Thanks for sharing your insights Prashant. Your experiences are valuable for folks like me!

  2. Thoughts are real and practical. I like word " Group dynamics" instead of "Politics".

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Deserves a book on this topic. Please consider wiring one.

    1. I'm flattered!
      On a serious note - I don't think I'mm there yet. What I will try is, writing part II of this article.