Are You Gambling with Your Career or Investing Smartly?

Part I

Dr. Nandkishore Rathi*

*The author is a founder of the Loratis Career School based in Bangalore. He has worked as the Director (Campus Relations, Asia Pacific) for Oracle Corporation for five years. Prior to that he served IIT Bombay as Placement in Charge for nine years. His Ph.D. thesis has bagged the Mercer Asia 2003 Award for being the most innovative and practical HR Research in Asia. (To read more Google search: rathi mercer award).

The Stock-Market Approach to Career Management

Some people ‘trade’ stocks with a very short term outlook. They buy today and sell tomorrow with a slight or drastic increase or decrease in stock prices. They either earn or loose. They take the risk. Some people invest in stocks, based on market rumors that are not ‘fundamentally strong’. They believe in speculation. They earn or loose heavily in a short period. They do not have long term approach. The probability of loosing or gaining may be 75:25, in this case. A long term investor, however, fundamentally evaluates the stocks invest and hold long term positions. The earnings here, in most of the cases, are very high. The probability of loosing and gaining in this case may be 5:95. This is a very familiar example to all of us. The only thing that is at stake here is ‘money’. Depending on one’s appetite for loss, people take risk. But many of them do not know their appetite and still risk their money. They get into major trouble.

I thought of using this analogy to explain the process of Career Management’ for a very practical reason. Many young engineers and MBAs these days are found to have very short term and speculative approach to their career. They want a quick buck. It sometimes is the result of heavy course fee that they have to pay for which they borrow bank loan. A student studying in the final year of MBA (Finance) asked me a question, “sir I got a job in Bangalore @Rs.14k per month. I like the role because that is what would like to do in a long run. I have another job option in Dubai that my uncle’s friend offered me at five times more salary. The role is not in sync with what I would like to achieve in the long run. Which one do I choose”. My answer was very clear – ‘the job in Bangalore’. But then he added ‘conditions apply’. He said “sir, I have to pay an EMI towards my educational loan.” I took a big pause and asked him ‘what is the objective behind pursuing an MBA’ . . . and the argument continued.

Is Your Career a Speculative or Blue Chip Stock?

The stock market analogy can very well be used to understand and plan your career. Just like the stock market there are two types of people with regard to career.

1. Blue Chip Career – True Success: Those who want to only ‘gain’ and make their career a success. They do not measure their career success in terms of monthly salary; rather doing something they enjoy the most and adding value to others. The success might late to them, but it is assured. The degree of success depends on the extent of persistent efforts. This is comparable to an investor who looks at fundamentals of the company/stock before investing, and holds long term position. Whether it is M F Hussain, Amir Khan, Anil Ambani, Rahul Dravid, Gulzar or Dr Manmohan Singh. All are successful, though not comparable in terms of their assets or earnings. But these are the people that are known to all on account of their media coverage. There are many, who too are successful but not known to many. A teacher who is regarded by the students, parents and colleagues, a theatre artist who stuns people with his performance each time, a recruiter who finds a right person for the right job at minimum cost and least time, a manager who manages 300 people in the team with 5% attrition and 95% on time delivery of project, a cook whose delicious dishes gets repeat customers year on year . . . and so on.

2. Short-lived Career – Big Money: These are the people who want to make it big quickly with a speculative approach and high risk. Take a case of a person who basically does not like the job of a cop, but looks at it as an opportunity to make big money through unfair means. He is sure to land in trouble. Similarly, assume that you are pursuing an MBA in Marketing. You have three job options: a pure sales job with a very high salary and performance-based incentives, a job to manage market and consumer research at a lower salary with no incentives, and a role as a product manager at a middle level salary. The obvious choice for this kind of person is the first one. But he may lose his job at the end of a quarter if ‘sales’ is not his cup of tea.

What is a Good Investment Decision?

Continuing with the above analogy, let’s scrutinize how diverse people take different investment decisions. ‘Good investment’ means different things to different people. For some, it is ‘maximum return in the shortest possible time’, whereas for others it may be ‘consistent and steady returns year-on-year’. Some take risk with their investment whereas others want their investment to be safe and secured although the returns might be low. This difference in investment approach is for various reasons like influence of one’s past experience, impact of one’s environment and upbringing etc. Now, let’s look at our careers. A few questions to ponder on in this regard are:

1. Is career an investment decision?

2. Who decides or influences the expected ‘return on investment (ROI)’ – parents, peers or relatives?

3. What are the short-term and long-term career goals one wants to achieve?

Once there is clarity on these issues, things become unambiguous and dreams look achievable. But this clarity is the most blurred part in most of the cases. So, how to get clarity on these issues? The first and foremost action needed in this regard is ‘self exploration’ and ‘situational diagnoses.’ How much do we know about ourselves? How objective is our observation about ourselves? How do others see us? Do we know what exactly we want and whether the means are in tune with our resources, efforts, personality and temperament?



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