Career as a carrier

Monday, 7 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

These days I am sitting as an interviewer for the MBA admissions at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. We ask the candidates to produce a brief write-up of how an MBA would benefit them. At times we have a candidate having a “carrier objective”. That prompted me to reflect on the relationship between career and carrier. Today’s column is all about career as a carrier. Overview Let’s start with the literal meanings. The Oxford Dictionary describes a career as an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress. The word career thus refers to all types of employment ranging from semi-skilled through skilled, and semi- professional to professional. It can be used in two ways. One, to suggest an employment commitment to a single trade skill, profession or business firm for the entire working life of a person. Two, it may refer to changes or modifications in employment during the foreseeable future. In contrast, the dictionary definition of carrier is a person or thing that carries, holds, or conveys something. It also refers to a person or company that undertakes the professional conveyance of goods or people. Hence, if one has a “carrier” objective, it obviously should refer to his/her organisation that is into logistics and transportation. I doubt very much that we have such Richard Bransons or Jan Carlsons who own airline carriers applying to do an MBA. Career in focus Job is a collection of tasks. Career is much more than that. It gives a long term occupation and involvement to someone. Some organisations take it as a matter of pride to claim that they do not offer mere jobs but meaningful careers. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,” said Michael Jordan of basketball fame. It highlights the richness of converting failures to fertilisers for success. A career has to be carefully chosen to suit one’s strengths. Then only the lasting relationship between an individual and an institution would solidify. One may say careers in hospitality are high in demand with the tourism boom in Sri Lanka. Also, careers in banking may be perceived for a stable lifelong employment. In contrast, careers in ICT may be perceived as volatile and challenging. All what they say is the diverse nature of multiple careers. Career and carrier How can a career be a carrier? The answer is simple. A career will pave way to live one’s life meaningfully. It in fact will be a carrier that will take us forward on our journey of life. In brief, there is concrete connection where career functions as a carrier. “Climbing to the top demands strength, whether it is to the top of Mount Everest or to the top of your career.” Those are the very words of former Indian President, Dr. Abdul Kalam. For a career to be a carrier for one’s life, he/she may require such courage and strength. After all, the responsibility to build a career lies with the individual and not with the institution. Taking care of the career The career management process begins with setting goals and objectives. This task may be quite difficult when the individual lacks knowledge of career opportunities and/or is not fully aware of their talents and abilities. However, according to the gurus, the entire career management process is based on the establishment of defined goals/objectives whether specific or general in nature. Utilising career assessments may be a critical step in identifying opportunities and career paths that most resonate with someone. Career assessments can range from quick and informal to more in-depth. Regardless of the ones you use, you will need to evaluate them. Most assessments found today for free (although good) do not offer an in-depth evaluation. The time horizon for the achievement of the selected goals or objectives - short term, medium term or long term – will have a major influence on their formulation. Short term goals (one or two years) are usually specific and limited in scope. Intermediate goals (three to 20 years) tend to be less specific and more open ended than short term goals. Both intermediate and long term goals are more difficult to formulate than short term goals because there are so many unknowns about the future. Long term goals (Over 20 years), of course, are the most fluid of all. Lack of life experience and knowledge about potential opportunities and pitfalls make the formulation of long term goals/objectives very difficult. Long range goals/objectives, however, may be easily modified as additional information is received without a great loss of career efforts because of experience/knowledge transfer from one career to another. The carrier aspect of career Today, and more than ever, most people are responsible for building their own careers. Whether you are just starting, or you have several years of experience, being career-conscious is one sure way to keep on tract with regard to set goals and priorities. There can be key tips in making your career the carrier of your life. It can be a case of seven Cs. Let’s discuss them in detail. 1. Continuous learning Life-long learning is your keyword. The world is constantly changing, and everybody is looking for new ways of doing business. If one has have decided that one’s current skills are good enough, one has also decided that one’s current job is good enough. But if you want a career in the future, you should add regular updates to your skills and knowledge. Sri Lankan managers can do more in this respect in sharpening themselves regularly. The number of letters behind one’s surname as multiple qualifications will alone not do the needful. What is essentially required is the learning mindset. 2. Clear listening An attentive listener can learn a lot. Listen to your co-workers and superiors. You can learn a lot from their experience. Ask about issues that interest you, and listen to what they say. Let them tell you about how things work, and what you could have done better. 3. Conducting current job functions Your current job might be best place to start your career. It is often very little that separates successful people from the average. But nothing comes free. If you do your job well and fulfil your responsibilities, this is often the best way to start a new career. 4. Constructing your network Your next career step might arise from your contact network. Did you know that more than 50% of all jobs are obtained from contact networks? If you have a good contact network, it is also a good place to discover future careers, to explore new trends, and to learn about new opportunities. Spend some time building new contacts, and don’t forget to maintain the ones you already have. One of the best ways to get serious information from your network is to regularly ask your contacts how they are, what they do, and what is new about their careers. 5. Clarifying the current job expectations “You have your bad moments in your career and your good moments. And it’s been a good ride so far, but it’s not over yet,” said Maria Sharapova, aptly highlighting the need to manage expectations. One’s current job should be identified, not assumed. Make sure you don’t work with tasks you assume are important. This is waste of time and talent. When you start in a new job, talk to your superior about your priorities. If you’re not sure about what is most important, then ask him. And ask him again. Often you will be surprised about the differences between what you assume, and what is really important. 6.Comprehending the future responsibilities This is essentially about beginning with an end in mind. The starting point is the identification of one’s dream job. Your dream might show up tomorrow. Be prepared. Don’t wait a second. Update your CV now, and continue to update it regularly. 7. Consolidating the success As the achievers have shown us, success breeds success. A career is built on continuous improvement. It is a step-by-step journey. One needs patience, perseverance and of course performance. The above seven Cs in making a career as a carrier would converge into one big “C”. That is commitment. Commitment for career success According to Colarelli and Bishop (1990, “Job commitment suggests commitment to a relatively short-term set of objective task requirements,” while organisation commitment suggests “commitment to an institution and organisational goals. Career commitment involves longer-term perspective and more internal, subjective and individual set-mind”. In essence, one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual involvement is required to make a meaningful and enriching career. Way forward The whole point is to have a long term orientation with a holistic perspective. Sri Lankan managers have to improve a lot in this respect, in moving beyond overly involving in operational tasks. Clarity on cone’s career and commitment to make it one’s carrier for success is what is required. (Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri works at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He can be reached on or