Your Career Is Your Greatest Asset – Here’s how to invest in your career for better job prospects, professional satisfaction and a more secure financial future
List your best accomplishments. What tops the list? Your comfy house, the swanky car or a daredevil holiday? What about the concrete foundation on which all these things are perched precariously? Our greatest asset—career—is the one that we ignore most often. A job is just another word for drudgery, and the only rapturous event in our work schedule is pay day. But, what have you done to ensure that you continue to get a pay cheque?
Even a tiny investment in terms of time and effort can help you reap rich rewards. The difference between the earning potential of a high performer and a poor one is a whopping 875%. Complacency at workplace will only earn you a standard increment of 5% a year, or worse, none at all. This is even lower than the prevailing inflation rate. So, effectively, you’re becoming poorer each year. On the other hand, a high performer has a good chance of getting a 15% increment a year, since his employer will be keen to reward and retain him. The difference in the earning potential of the two over 35 years can be a massive 19 crore. Even if both workers invest just 30% of their income every year in an investment that delivers 8% returns, the high performer will have a comfortable retirement corpus of 13.14 crore, six times more than his lackadaisical colleague’s 2.39 crore.
What’s the plan?
To start formulating a career plan, write down short-term and long-term goals as well as what you need to do to achieve them. “A good way to keep track is to update your resume every quarter. If, for two quarters, you have no achievement to list, you’re not adding value to the role or yourself,” says Naveen Narayanan, global head, talent acquisition, HCL Technologies.
In the current job market, where competition is high and lay-offs are just around the corner, you need to be proactive and more flexible at the workplace. So, be willing to take on extra responsibility, juggle your work hours a bit, face new challenges and learn niche skills. “The skills that you require are constantly evolving and if you don’t adapt, you’ll become obsolete,” says Bimal Rath, founder, Think Talent Services.
Vaishali Gupta understood the need to widen her knowledge base when she started her career as an interior designer in 1999. “A few clients began asking me about vaastu and I knew that interest in this would deepen,” says the 34-year-old. So, Gupta began studying vaastu science in 2005. Four years later, she set up her practice, and currently meets 2-3 clients every day as well as offers advice on Shraddha TV.
How do I reinvent my career?
Here’s a three-point agenda to help you chart your career path.
Ask yourself, what’s my weakest point? Are my colleagues beating me in the rat race? However, don’t jump jobs simply because you suffer from an itch. “Don’t resign just because ‘something’s missing’. If even 50% of the job profile meets your needs, it’s a good one,” says Sunil Goel, director, GlobalHunt. To regenerate interest in your work, figure out if you can tweak your current profile or shift to a different department/location. Evaluate Don’t just focus on your own achievements; compare it with your peers. You also need to take a hard look at where you are working. Does your organisation encourage learning? Will the industry continue to do well in the next 10 years? If the future seems dim, consider other options.
However, plan carefully before making a career switch. Vinay Unni started his career as a management trainee at a five-star hotel, but when the long working hours began taking a toll on his family life, he posted his resume on job portals. After researching for months about the challenges and growth prospects in the banking sector, the 36-year-old joined Standard Chartered Bank as a branch manager. Enhance Whether you take a sabbatical or pursue a part-time course, strive to learn something new every year. But choose your field of knowledge carefully. “If you’re a chartered accountant, will doing an MBA be helpful or will it be beneficial to learn new technology, say an ERP financial module, which can be integrated well with the knowledge that you already have?” asks Goel.
When Noida-based Feroz Zaidi decided to switch careers from the printing industry to the software sector, he was confident of his marketing skills. However, he needed to upgrade his technical knowledge. “So, I pursued a course in software development from NIIT for six months,” says Zaidi. If you believe you are a domain guru, widen the scope and learn a new hobby. “Try to develop a skill set that is different from your full-time job, so that if there’s need, you can use it as a back-up career option,” advises Sanjeev Parida, vice-president, HR, Tech Mahindra.
Should I opt for a sabbatical?
A good way to make an effective career transition is to either enrich your academic profile or try your hand at another industry. “Most people leave it to their employer to train them further, which is incorrect. Apportion a percentage of your salary to pursue a course or attend workshops and conferences,” says T Muralidharan, chairman, TMI Group.
Mumbai-based Prasun Bhowmik wanted to experiment after working as a consultant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers for three years. “I decided to study further, but couldn’t settle on which course to choose. So, I opted to work in a totally different sector and joined Teach for India, a non-profit organisation that provides education in low-income areas, in 2009,” says the 26-year-old engineering graduate. To fund his education dreams, Bhowmik cut down on most expenses and invested 80% of his salary in equity in 2008-9. His savviness helped him earn 130% returns when he sold his shares two years later. This year, he will be joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.
“However, if your investment tenure is so short, it’s better to stay away from such risky investments. To protect your capital, invest in bank FDs, fixed maturity plans or ultra short-term debt funds,” says Jayant Pai, VP, Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services. A big no-no is to take any type of loan.
However, if the aim of taking a sabbatical is to set up your own venture, you may have to make a few risky investments to earn high returns and build a substantial corpus. “You should have a fund that can cover at least three years’ expenses. It will ensure that you do not give up soon and even if you start making a profit, it will provide you the leeway to reinvest the money in the business rather than paying yourself a salary,” says Kartik Jhaveri, director of Transcend Consulting.
If you’re wary of taking such a big risk, take a leaf from Kirthana Ramarapu’s book. After working in the US for six years, when the 42-year-old mother of two returned to India in 2005, she wanted to be her own boss. But the risk of starting a business was daunting. So, she approached the Kinderdance programme in the US to start a franchise in Bangalore. Over the past three years, she has extended the programme to 40 schools and 25 centres.
The back-up plan – Always be prepared for a financial exigency.
It’s importance can’t be stressed enough. Always have a contingency fund equal to six months’ expenses.
Don’t just rely on your employer’s health policy. Nothing depletes your bank account faster than a medical crisis so ensure that your family are always covered.
What if you’re not there any more? Buy a term plan to take care of your children’s education and support your spouse throughout life.