Career Management in India — Part Two

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Feb 14

This is the second guest post on career management in India from Mrityunjay Kumar, who writes about career management in India on his blog Perspectives on Career Management. Mrityunjay is a software engineer by training and a manager in an IT company by profession. I’m privileged to have Mrityunjay write two posts on career management in India and this one is his second. His first post covered a bit of history on career management in India; this one focuses on solid steps to support a career.

Mrityunjay:

In India, the service sectors have witnessed enormous growth in the last 10-15 years. Of these, IT and ITES (IT Enabled Services) have been most visible in terms of their growth and impact worldwide, hence I will take its example in this post, and also because I have the experience in that industry.

Career counseling is based on the premise that there are multiple choices available to you, all of them seem equally good, and hence you need guidance and selection criteria. This is indeed the case in US education system (see another of my post here). As I described in my post, this is not the case in India, there are very few choices at any given point of time in one’s education and choice of first job.

When it is time for changing jobs, you would think career counseling would help by providing guidance and information to take a better decision. However, at least in the IT sector, another phenomenon kicks in and largely invalidates this process.

Most of the growth in the IT industry in India has been in the IT services sector. These companies have modeled their working and growth on manufacturing companies (The Economist), where scalability means adding more people, and productivity means doing the same thing more efficiently. Therefore, companies place more emphasis on quantity of people and managers who can manage this quantity, rather than quality, creativity and other skills of an individual for the work produced.

Like an assembly line, creativity can be dangerous to IT companies which thrive on conformity and repeatability of processes. This means a one-dimensional definition of career growth — growth mostly means becoming a manager. Such a definition means that career choices for growth narrow down to a very selected set of skills and job offers. A career path of an individual contributor is not an acceptable option for career growth.

This model doesn’t work for software product companies which strive for excellence, deep experience and quality. Even though software product companies are coming up in India, they are a minority.

My definition of career management is a rich integration of three services: career counseling, short and long term training, and placement with a focus on long term return on talent investment. We are nowhere close to this in India; even career counseling is a very immature industry, given the reasons above. There are many reasons why this is the case:

  1. Job market is young itself, hasn’t gone through economic downturns which creates issues about retooling, more cognizant of effectiveness of your own career, more awareness.
  2. Education system is still not reformed and much less focused on vocational courses; very little integration with the changes in market needs.
  3. Job portals and consultant market hasn’t yet saturated as there is much more demand of good resumes, less availability of talent, and no incentive to be more innovative.
  4. Career counseling is not yet a profitable business, with no tangible market

However, the need for this industry to be strong hasn’t been more visible. With acute of scarcity of talent for IT and other companies in India (which can be traced back to all of the above problems), it is imperative that every talent is used most optimally. This brings up the obvious question: what can an individual do to be successful even in the absence of such supporting industry (other than thinking of starting companies in these areas!).

Here are some tips that I have given to people entering the work force and seen them succeed:

  1. Avoid the trap of ‘parents and relatives are always right’, think for yourself. Create your own career growth map and keep tracking your progress against it.
  2. Pick a job which you love and can have fun in, not the one your parents like.
  3. Don’t rely on classroom education alone, identify a mentor who can keep you in touch with industry reality. Summer internship is a great way to achieve both, social networking is another good way.
  4. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and improve your strong points so that you can be unique and best (there is huge competition out there).
  5. Know how to sell your abilities (resume building, interviewing skills..). This is important because there are very few ways to create distinction based on education.
  6. Invest in picking deep skills in early stages of career, don’t try to be manager as soon as you can, it can kill your career.
  7. Create your personal brand. This is another great way of making yourself different from others.

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I’d like to thank Mrityunjay for his efforts here on giving all of us a perspective on career management. And, while there are differences in managing a career across different countries, it is useful to note how many similarities there are as well.

Scot

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.