Career Management in India

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Feb 12

One of my guiding principles here at Cube Rules is focusing on career management for the 40-million knowledge workers across the planet, not just here in the United States where I live. I’ve consistently tried to convey these career principles using a global perspective because the career field is now a sphere.

But, there’s nothing like working with someone who is closer to what is happening on the ground in different parts of the planet to give all of us a perspective. To that end, I’m starting some guest posts that will provide some different viewpoints about career management from different parts of the globe.

Today starts that effort with 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 the first!


In this post, I want to explore what career management means to people in India and the reasons behind why it has evolved this way. Understanding a bit of history can help us understand future trends. In a subsequent post, I will explore how this has proved detrimental to career management/counseling as an industry. I will also provide some ideas on how to do well in spite of such advice not being readily available.

Most of the job growth in Indian industries has happened in the last 10-15 years (post-liberalization era). This has largely been driven by services and export expansion and growth, which has fueled a knowledge-driven economy. Most of this growth has benefited the Indian middle class families who have long invested in their child’s education. Growth in ‘knowledge-based jobs’ created great opportunities of these educated youths, creating a ‘new middle class’.

Given that this economic phase is so new, there are very few success stories and role models for these new careerists, and hence they resort to their parents’ experiences, including the fact that Indian culture places lots of emphasis on respect for elders and their experience. Friends and family have acted as career counselors for most of the youngsters in this era and continue to do so (more on this here). However, this means careers and choices of the current economy get compared to those of the old economy. Also, the previous generation has seen poverty much more closely, creating a survival instinct and craving for economic stability that kicks into every advice they give to these new economy careerists.

Here are some characteristics of Indian career model as shaped by these realities:

  1. A large number of young job seekers come from middle class which has valued steady stream of money over any kind of risk-taking. Hence stability of jobs and brand name of the company play a big role in how they choose their first job and when they change jobs.
  2. Career roles for parents have been derived from the government and a few manufacturing companies, where laborers work and managers direct work. Therefore, being a people manager is a bigger achievement and growth indicator than being an expert programmer for most parents (this mind set creates a strange problem in IT sector which I will talk in my next post).
  3. There is very little job diversity and a large number of aspiring candidates, all of whose resumes look alike because of cookie-cutter nature of Indian education (very little flexibility). This means intense pressure for getting a job quickly, there is no time to manage career.

Of course, there are some ‘new careerists’ who avoid this career model:

  1. Some are very intelligent, getting into India’s world-class educational institutes, which mean they leapfrog the competition entirely and never have to worry about the job again because they have a brand they can reuse. Remember, brand counts a lot because of stability it provides. (I’m reminded of graduating from Harvard here in the States — Scot)
  2. Some are very ‘informed’ in that they know about the latest job trends (either because they live in tier-A cities or know others who do) and join the queue which others don’t even consider joining, and hence get the jobs quickly and easily.

In an ideal world, such distinctions between ‘new careerists’ and other workers wouldn’t be as acute as is seen in India. Career management/counseling services can also help bridge such gaps by aligning strengths to jobs and enabling information access. How these services have fared in India, and how one can succeed in spite of them, will be the topic of next post. Stay tuned.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Thanks, Cindy — that’s one of the reasons why I want to start doing some guest posts about career management and personal branding from other places on the planet. While the overall principles are the same or very similar, the specifics get tweaked by what is happening in the specific country.

    I’m really grateful that Mrityunjay was able to write about this on Cube Rules.

  • Great summarization of key elements in the way Indians think about their careers and why (though these are broad generalizations, not always true of individuals). These factors also play out in the workforce, where you see a big emphasis on titles and moving up the hierarchy, and less emphasis on intrinsic job satisfaction. American managers working with teams in India should read these articles – understanding these differences could really help managers to motivate and retain their teams in India.

  • […] 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 […]

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