Thursday, 15 December 2011

Congratulations!! We are Pleased to Appoint You in a Start-up

You, like all of us began your academic journey by seeking admission in a school and ended it after acquiring a professional degree from an accredited institution. Even before you could heave a sigh of relief, another bigger and a more serious challenge awaited you. The challenge to find yourself not merely a job, but a proud career that could do justice to the years of endless hard work you had put in completing your formal education and grooming yourself. Given this fact, it is not surprising why most of you, when confronted with this next big phase of life would be applying to the most sought after Fortune 1000 corporations, and at times not refraining from literally begging them for that “one chance” to prove yourself. But how many of you are likely to succeed landing up with that dream job with an Apple, Google, Microsoft or Proctor &Gamble?
Not many I guess. If this is true, then the next big question: what would you do if lady luck continues to be partial in her benevolence towards others, trying your perseverance till eternity? Would you join any XYZ organization offering you a temporary economical relief without giving much thought to the final shape your career will take with it or would you take some time off, and try thinking cool-headedly about some of the rigidity you can shed in the expectations you have set from your employer of choice?
Man is no doubt God’s most unique and intelligent creation. Going by this logic I would choose the second option, showing some malleability with respect to my dream job in the following areas:
  1. Firstly, I would put my career priorities strictly clean and in place from day one i.e. even before I finally graduate, and become ready to step into the job market. It means that I would know what is it that I am looking for in my dream job? Is it money? Job security? Autonomy? Etc. and would be grooming myself accordingly over the years to develop into such a saleable resource that can confidently bargain for a deal that overall turns out to be beneficial for me.
  2. Secondly, I would rely on the Law of Averages. To put it lucidly, I would never stop dreaming and aiming high, while cognizant of the fact that not everyone around me with almost the same background and ambition level always gets what he/she wants. This means that like everyone writing a CAT exam knows that he/she might or might not get admission in an IIM, similarly, not everyone wanting a “life-transforming” break in a high brand equity MNC necessarily gets it always. In fact, while penning these thoughts, I am quickly reminded of one of my batch mates, who after having graduated from the same non-IIM college, got placed with HCL, and that too off-campus. But it did not deter us from putting in our best efforts to kick-start that high-flying career with a big corporate. So, dream big, but don’t forget to add a realistic touch to the hard work that goes into its accomplishment.
  3. Finally, I would see no harm in expanding the options list of my targeted prospective employers, by addingstart-up ventures to it at the lower end of the spectrum, with the higher end obviously being occupied by the likes of Google, Apple & Face book etc.
I know, by this time the very phrase “start-up” must have turned many heads and popped up many eyeballs in a disappointing surprise. And you must be thinking, why on earth would I spend lakhs of rupees on a professional degree only to get placed in a hand-to-mouth start-up firm which has still not outgrown its infancy stage.
I completely agree and empathize with you. Getting associated with a start-up initially provides you witheverything else other than a fat pay package. But even the financial issue gets resolved if you have the guts and patience to hang-on for a while.
Ok, let’s keep the ‘M Factor’ aside since it would take a while to get sorted out, shifting our attention towards some of the other unique benefits that only a start-up can offer:

  • Firstly, you get to see the birth of a new company with your own eyes. An experience so turbulently exciting, that an established brand can never give you, even if it wanted to, because of the obvious fact that it has moved beyond that phase as one of the initial teething troubles during its inception. This fascinating experience was only tasted by a fortunate few who took this daring decision to hang-on and are now eating the fruits borne by this giant tree which once was a newly born weak sapling. Not only this, but the biggest problem of talent crunch being faced by most organizations today, due to the job-hopping tendency among candidates stemming from lack of loyalty and identification with the company’s vision and mission also is taken care of by working for start-up. Because seeing the birth of a new company is akin to giving birth to a newborn, which you love, identify with and want to give your best in nurturance efforts. All these feelings ultimately translate at a professional level into loyalty and stability that employers have been longing to witness in their human resources. On the other hand, working for any other established brand would give you everything else other than this feeling of identification and commitment towards it. After all, a biological child and an adopted child can never be the same.

  • Secondly, what you learn in a start-up can’t be learnt anywhere else, for the simple reason that you get an opportunity to make your hands dirty, build and rebuild things, giving an unrestricted freedom to your creativity and innovation. Unlike an established brand with bogus bureaucratic procedures, policies and chains of command where you are only given a small space to operate in, a start-up ensures your unrestricted movement across an unlimited thought space to be able to contribute your best towards helping it graduate to the next level.

  • Finally, since a start-up usually comprises of a handful of individuals who invest their money, heart and soul in making it independently stand on its feet, therefore, those like-minded people who genuinely wish to take this dream forward are not only welcomed with open arms, but also given due recognition for their efforts, which in any established XYZ company simply go unnoticed because of cut-throat competition for a bigger piece of the same pie. As a result, most of the truly hardworking peoples’ efforts go unnoticed, making them go missing in the huge dominating crowd surrounding them within their own companies.
 So my friends, the next time you get a call from a few months old start-up firm, do pat your back for having been successful in reaching out to someone who is eager to give you an opportunity to prove yourself in these chaotic times. So try smiling a bit and treat it as seriously as any other interview call.
 And Congratulations in advance for joining as…………….in a start-up!!!

Aptitude Vs. Attitude: Which is more important?

Whenever we talk about the two haunting realities of life: success and failure, a stormy discussion about two  related topics that ultimately decide the end-result of one’s life: aptitude and attitude, cannot go unstirred.  Ever since our childhood days, we have grown up hearing comments like “son, you seriously need an attitude check” or “don’t show me that attitude” from our elders. Even in school, almost every teacher tried to hammer this one single disciplined thought in our mind, it is not your aptitude, but your attitude, that determines your altitude. If we closely observe the above statements, we find an explicit thrust on correction of one’s “attitude” as an implied panacea for attainment of overall well-being and/or success. However, any mention of the term “aptitude” is simply missing from each of them. So, does that mean that only “attitude” is responsible for drawing the line demarcating success from failure in all spheres of life, thereby, nullifying the very existence of one’s “aptitude”, leave aside its role in designing one’s life roadmap. This sure is a debatable issue, and before delving further into it, let us first dissect the anatomy of the two buzzwords.
Attitude may be defined as the manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc. with regard to a person or thing: tendency or orientation, esp. of the mind. In other words (and for our purposes now), attitude is a way of looking at things. For example, a cheerful attitude.
Aptitude, on the other hand, is an innate, natural talent or ability, possessed from birth (which can be acquired as learned skills). For example, an aptitude for mathematics.
Though the above definitions clearly differentiate and define both the concepts, but to facilitate further understanding, let us analyze them further.
Logically speaking, from the above definition, we can easily assume that attitude is something, and in fact, the ONLY THING over which all of us have complete control. This is because as cited earlier, it is only our way of looking at or perceiving things. And because perception is nothing more than the games the mind plays, it is very much within our reach to decide which games do we want to or don’t want to allow to be played by the brain. If we have a tendency to only look at dark side of everything, it is only because we wish to think that way. It is very much possible (difficult, though) to train our mind to start looking at the brighter side of things and think positively.
On the other hand, in the case of aptitude the definition above makes us assume that unlike its former brother, aptitude is something that none of us have any control over, whatsoever, except in cases when we acquire it through training. However, even in that case, the acquired aptitude won’t be as strong as the innate one, because of the latter being naturally ingrained in one’s personality. For example, I clearly remember the case of one of my cousins, who started showing signs of having an aptitude for engineering or an engineering bent of mind, when he was just 5 years old. There was a live telecast of the funeral proceedings of a political bigwig who was assassinated.
In India, normally they perform the last rites by lighting up the pyre to cremate the dead body placed on it.  A similar shot was being shown on our television sets also. We were glued to the screen, oblivious of what was going under our nose. I turned my eyes, and was amazed to see that toddler (considering his age & IQ constraints) construct a closely resembling replica of the pyre being shown using the toy building blocks bought for him.   
Back to our original discussion of which one of the two ultimately determines man’s success and failure, I would begin by saying that both of them in their entirety cannot be held responsible for the final outcome of a person’s life. This is because, both have their own sets of inherent characteristics that make them occupy pivotal roles in different stages of our lives. For example, though it is very important to view things with a positive and open frame of mind, but even having an optimistic attitude won’t help you much unless you know yourself very well, fully cognizant of your SWOT. This assessment is important since it will guide your decision to join a particular trade or choose a career path.  The end-result being that you land up in a career that complements your personality or is in alignment with your aptitude or bent of mind. If this is not enough, then we need to shift our attention towards increasing number of career counseling cells being set up in schools and colleges in order to help students become aware of themselves and then choose a career accordingly, instead of them just following the herd, and landing up either in a frustrating job or ending their lives, as has been the case with many engineering students in Tier 1 colleges, who, unable to cope with tremendous academic pressure, taken as a result of wrongly assessing their aptitude for engineering, have resorted to suicide as the easiest face-saving option.    
This, in no way undermines the importance of having a good attitude, which serves as a lubricant that constantly keeps on oiling your behavior, which gets inflicted with some wear and tear on account of environmental pressures, thus, making you take things in your stride and “move-on”. This is also very important, because a good vehicle does require shock absorbers to be able to deal with ill-constructed roads.  In fact, elders say that when a calamity strikes, it is only the attitude that determines whether you succumb to it or fight back, emerging victorious.   
Thus, I would like to conclude this discussion by reiterating the fact, that a successful life is the end-result of both attitude and aptitude, and cannot be attributed to any one of them. However, the level of their importance in our lives is never the same, and keeps on varying according to the phase through which we are passing.