IIM A PGPX Diaries: Term I completed |1st Milestone reached

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June 6, 2017. 4.00 PM. I have couple of hours before I start my journey back home after end of Term 1 of PGPX – 1 Year MBA at IIM Ahmedabad. Program started on 13th April and it has been 8 weeks of roller-coaster ride. PGPX is a very intense and rigorous program. with an ongoing medley of classes, assignments, quizzes, cases and pre reads on any day. In term 1 we completed core courses in Accounting, Operations Design, Decision making, microeconomics, Marketing and Organization Behavior. Obvious learning is the direct knowledge and skills we gain from these courses taught by the best professors in the country but I am going to focus on the not so obvious learnings and experience of staying away from family.

New | Fresh | Different Perspectives

When you have worked in one function and one Industry, the perspective gets set in context of your function and Industry. The first step of learning here is to unfreeze the current perspective and then start looking at the problem, case and the world itself with new perspectives. Our batch is as diverse as you can get – doctors, lawyer, Ex Navy, CA, PSU and private sector professionals, with each one bringing a new perspective. Learning to look at the work and life with new perspectives and appreciating those different perspectives is one of top take away from this course.

Prioritization | Time management | Speed | Efficiency

Term 1 made us practice a very important tenet of productivity which is the ability to prioritize and manage our time more optimally. The fast pace and every day rigor of program teaches you an important lesson in prioritization of tasks and efficient time management, without which it wont be possible to complete the tasks at hand. Without prioritization of activities and proper time management, there is no way you can get through a day in PGPX.  Limited time and multiple heavy-duty cases in a day not only requires time management but also speed and efficiency in execution. I could see speed improving over the term. First few cases took much more time than the later ones.

Now how the mother in me got through the self-imposed exile and how did the kids manage.

Kids manage it better than adults. Kids are very resilient and out of sight, out of mind concept is pretty strong with kids as they live in present and haven’t learned to think and then miss what they do not see. It was very hard in the beginning for both sides but then we got used to the new normal. Also with grandparents at home and support system of helps, their school, routine and usual life at home was not interrupted. You must have good alternate support system set at home to continue life as usual in your absence. We settled into our new routines and weekdays passed by smoothly for me as well as kids.

Trouble was with weekends. Weekends are relatively challenging because that is when you spent maximum time at home with family. Everybody is at home on weekends and you are used to doing things together. Weekends were tough for me as invariably I would miss home and kids more. One more reason was that weekends was when we were talking more and video chatting more and when you see each other, you miss them more. Video chatting is a double-edged sword, you want to see your family but when you see them you miss being with them.

Get a routine for communication set. Figure out what works best for you and set a routine for talking and video chatting everyday. I would talk briefly to my children when they are leaving for school in the morning and when they are back from school and then at night before they went to sleep. Nothing could replace the physical presence but at-least  predictable times set for talking brought some stability and security that I am just a call away and they could share experiences at school and home with me on a real-time basis. I would also keep a tab on if everything at home was being run as it should.

How did you manage home, kids and work together? This was the questions asked by my husband after first few weeks of him taking up my role at home. There are few things in life which you are able to appreciate fully when you experience it yourself. It was one of them. For him, it was first time real-time experience of how challenging and stressful at times it is for working mothers to continuously juggle between responsibilities of home, children and work with all being equally important.

My biggest achievement of Term 1 would be that I managed to do something I couldn’t imagine doing ever – staying away from my children. I hadn’t stayed even a single day away from my kids since they were born and it has been 50 days since I last saw them. I really had doubts If I would be able to do this but I managed to do it and it has powered my determination and self belief so much that now I feel like I can take on any challenge. This was the toughest challenge I had ever taken in my life as I take my role as a mother very seriously. What possibly could be harder for a mother than to voluntarily stay away from her children.

I have been eagerly waiting for this day to come. In my mind, I have run multiple times the moment when I would see my children and hug them. Umpteen times I have felt the joy of anticipation of seeing innocent faces of my children and finally be able to hug them(something you can not do in video chat). As I sign off on this blog, my taxi is here to get me started on my long awaited trip to home and to my kids.  See you in Term 2.

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How to make successful career transitions ? PART II

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This is PART II of two blog series on career transition. You can read about why people want to change career tracks in PART I of this series. You have one life and if you are not happy in your current role or have clear preference or another career, it is worth to try for a career switch.

” In the end we only regret the chances we did not take” – Lewis Carroll

Here are some “dos” as when you are have decided to change your career and are preparing and planning to make the transition.

Research . Get to hear from people in your desired shoes.

Talk to people in your target profile. Learn about their experiences in their career. Ask specifically about challenges they have faced and what they don’t like in their job or what they would like to change. Research current profiles and their core competencies in your target roles on LinkedIn.

Try to gain a first hand experience of your target function

If it is consulting that your heart is after, try to do one project or at least be part of it if not in active role. There is nothing like experiencing it yourself and you must try for it if possible. Most likely the first brush with the job should have generated your interest towards it but if you are planning to switch job functions based on popular perceptions about it, please make sure to test the waters first.

Look for lateral transitions in your current company

This is the safest route. For example if somebody want to move from profit & Loss core function to a support function such as marketing or Human Resources, it would be good to try to do that within your existing organization, if possible.  The risk is low and you won’t be new to everything. Industry and company remains same. Your existing network and past performance can also help you in transitioning to new role.

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Make the transition multi step , one at a time

Any job would have at least 3 components.  Try to change one thing at a time. Carry forward some common skill sets and experience which would be relevant to new role.

  1. Your Job function – Revenue generating or Non revenue generating support function. Example Marketing department.
  2. Your core competency/capability or specialization. Example in Marketing , your specialization could be digital marketing.
  3. Your Industry – The industry your company belongs to. Example IT industry.

Here if you try to change all 3 parts in one go, transition could be difficult. Plan for a multi layered transition where you can carry forward your past work experiences.

Higher education – Post graduate Programs , MBA, MS or Doctoral programs

Professional Education is one way of bridging knowledge gaps, acquiring new networks and credentials which are helpful in opening the doors. Now there are 1 Year MBA programs designed for experienced professionals. In India , PGPX from IIM A is known for helping experienced professional in switching careers. If you want to switch to teaching a doctoral program equips you for that. Professional certifications are also helpful in bridging the knowledge gaps.

Some tips on how to make career transition successful once you are in  your desired role:

” We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castenada

  1. Don’t give up too soon. All changes are tough in the beginning. 

mm_dontgiveupInitial months in new role are going to be hard. You would need to work harder to learn ropes of your new role and establish yourself in the organization. First 6 months, be prepared to toil and give your 200 %. The first project or assignment would teach you more than any of many more your would do.  Treat the first opportunity as a test to prove and establish yourself in the new role. Aim to not only meet expectations but exceed them. Trick is to do more than expected and pleasantly surprise your stakeholders. Believe me, the extra hard work put in during initial crucial period would give you rewards in long-term. Perseverance is the key.

2. Adapt to new role, culture and people.

Don’t just focus on getting the work done. Every Industry or company has unique characteristics and a unique culture. You need to not only adapt yourself to the new role  & its responsibilities but also to the new organization and its way of life. You need to assimilate into the new company/Industry’s culture and become one with its people, processes and the way things work. Work relationships, networking and managing stakeholders expectations are critical to success in any role and you should start working on these from day 1. You get only one chance to make the right first impression. Don’t lose that chance.

3. Reflect. Realize . Reverse the decision

Not all changes are successful. If possible, keep the lines open in your last company, Industry and networks. However things might appear from outside, there is nothing like first hand experience. Give yourself at least 6 months in the new role. Keep reflecting on your experiences and evaluating if your expectations are met. If you realize, this is not what you wanted and want to go back to what you were doing, do not waste further time and try to reverse the switch as soon as possible. Be careful to realistically evaluate if the problem is not in job profile but in your ability to settle down in any role and looking for change all the time. If it is latter, you need to work on it and fix it before attempting any more switch.

Successful career transitions are all about first seeking the change and then embracing it with all your heart and might. With lot of introspection, effort and bit luck, if you are able to successfully transition to a new career, the decision to change could transform your life. Afterall, nothing is worth it, if you are not happy.

How to make successful career transitions ? PART I

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” The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” J.P Morgan

About one-third or 30% of human life is spent working to earn livelihood. It is important to spend one third of our lives doing something which makes us happy and content other besides providing the livelihood. Many a time, we do not choose our career, we happen to get there by chance or without design. It takes some years of understanding of our job, life  and ourselves to realize that we might need to change our career track as what we are doing does not meet our life and career goals.In 2 blog post of this series, I would be discussing the process before you actually make the career change in Blog I and how to go about making the career transition in Blog II of the series.

First things first  “there are no perfect choices, only other choices”.

If you are contemplating a career change to run away from a temporary bad situation in your current job or Industry – tough project, a tough boss, tough policies. Please remember that there are no perfect choices, only other choices and if issue lies with you settling in any job, any change would not solve the problem and you would find yourself in similar situation very soon. Make sure that the intent to change career track is for right reasons and not an escape route.

Get a one line answer to ” Why you want to change your career” ?

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There might be many valid reasons for you going for a career change. Example – being laid off, Role being phased out, Changing life stages such as motherhood. It could be simply you wanting a new, better, more satisfying and more fulfilling life. Whatever may be reasons behind seeking the change, know at high level what you expect to gain from the change. Your measurement of how successful your career transition was would be based on what you expected to gain from it.Your goal or objective from change could be for example:

  • Finding more purpose and meaning in your life
  • Setting out in a different direction in your life
  • Getting out of corporate rat race
  • Finding your mission in life, at last
  • Aligning your skill sets and interests with your job
  • Deciding to try something new
  • Get more work life balance

Know thyself well. The road to your dream career is a road that first passes through you.

Most career change seekers who fail, do not fail because they do not know about job market or how to make the transition, they fail because they did not know themselves in and out. Who can know you better than you? You need to reflect upon your life and job experiences and do a thorough inventory of your skill sets, emotions, interests and preferences. This is the most important part of your career transition plan.

Inventory of your favorite skills and fields.

Time for introspection, reflection on experiences and getting inside your heart and mind to know what ticks you, upsets you or motivates you in work and life. Put the following inventory on paper if you prefer to work in systematic way:

  • What are the skills you most enjoy using?

List down your favorite transferable(functional) skills. Prioritize them in order of importance and enjoyment for you. Key functional skills categories are people skills, data skills & operation skills. Physical skills, Mental skills, Interpersonal skills.

  • Where do you want to use your favorite skills?

List down your favorite interests, subjects, fields, Industries or fields that fascinate you. Fields that use your favorite skills. Skills inventory and fields chosen have to go hand in hand  for compatibility and future success.

It is ok to keep work and passion separate

It is said that find a work you love to do and you don’t have to work for a day. Undeniably it would be a perfect life but at the same time it is also okay if your work is not necessarily your passion.There is a reason why work is called work and hobbies are called hobbies. It is alright if two are separate. When a painter starts selling his art, he is no longer an artist but becomes a salesman. Please remember that most of the time primary objective of career or work is to take care of your basic needs and give you a quality of life and opportunities to enjoy  life beyond work.

Read about how to make the career transition in my next post PART II of this blog series.