A couple of weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of speaking at the verdant
IIM B campus at Anusmaran, the IIM – Bangalore alumni meet. Despite it
being a rainy night in Bangalore it was wonderful to see the huge turnout of
students from across batches, as early as the 80’s!
As I sat in the front row hearing the ever articulate Ravi Venkatesan deliver the key note address, I kept wondering “what is it that I can tell these folks about Corporate Leadership, (they've seen it all, done it all!) but much to my surprise the well heeled batches from India’s best B school (Apologies to IIM A – but this is just my opinion) were seeking advice, looking for direction and for some good ideas on how to climb the corporate ladder, how to make a difference, how to make the mid career change?
And here’s what I have to say:
If you are contemplating a mid career change, especially an industry or a function shift or a plunge into entrepreneurship, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Its important to build a financial safety net before you jump. YOU must pack your own parachute! It’s foolish to take career risks without the financial security of seeing you through for a couple of months. Financial security (a working spouse, savings, long term investments, a second source of income) allows you to explore career options with confidence. Otherwise the underlying stress of a new role, the uncertain economic environment etc will set you back rather than fuel your fire.
2.It’s important to take baby steps, try out a few different activities/professional roles on a smaller scale before making a full term commitment to changing track. For eg: If you are an HR professional aspiring to run a business, request to be on a cross functional team setting up a new project/ business. Or volunteer to take up a (non people related) business challenge in an existing business and take it to closure. It’s important to experience the function/role and create the mental confidence to deliver successfully. That sets you up for more sustained success if you were to make the switch.
3.Looking at new opportunities and options also requires a shift in the connections /networks you operate within.
Develop contacts that can open doors in a new world. Relying on people you know, will get you predictable results. Reaching out to a set of people you don’t know but want to know, people who are removed from your day to day circle, can make a huge difference. Not only does it provide you with a different prism through which to look at the path you have chosen to pursue, It will also help you find role models, mentors, guides that will partner with you on this new path and give you a completely different perspective.
As Hermina Ibaara says in her book “Working Identity” (the most authoritative
piece of writing on career change in the last decade) - “Find or Create Catalysts and triggers for change, and
then use them as occasions to rework your life story.”
With this we closed our discussion at IIM (B). I think the advice was helpful, given the number of mails/requests I have had since, inspired to change tracks!!!
By Shailja Dutt