April 2, 2007

I think the number one thing you need when first starting out (in anything) is clarity. I’m raising this issue because I seem to be seeing more and more people who aren’t really clear about what they want.

I mean, they think they know what they want. They want a bite-sized snickers bar. But is that really what they want? No: they want something sugary, but not so big or high in sugar content. Once they realize this, they might be happy with fruit that’s sweet tasting, whether fresh, dried or canned. Or they might actually be craving chocolate, in which case they could opt for dark chocolate, which is higher in anti-oxidants and flavinoids, and more healthy than other chocolates. They might even just be hungry, in which case any healthy, filling snack would be good enough.

Too often we get wrapped up in the details. Is this happening to you lately? Are you frustrated because something seems out of reach? Do you find yourself becoming satisfied even when you receive a substitute of what you initially wanted?

Sometimes, we achieve the greatest clarity when we manage to step back and look at the big picture.


The Glamour of Business

March 21, 2007

business meetingAs a kid, I was suddenly fascinated by business and the world of superstar executives, not moviestars. I don’t remember when this happened, but I remember one particular image that seems to summarise my sudden fascination. It was a very simple shot of some CEO walking from one meeting to another, greeting someone from his office by name midway. This was for a segment in some business show on CNN. Suddenly, I started watching more business shows, and I decided that I wanted to be an executive, and even be a CEO one day.

The actual glamour of business is added on by people who are competent, confident, wealthy and charming. Executives are so rushed that their time is money, and actualy money can be frittered away to buy only the best and most expensive things in life. The people in this world are not only intelligent: they are respected, rich, and meet similar people all the time.

Of course, the actual corporate world is not nearly as glamorous.

For various reasons, I no longer want to be an executive, or even a CEO. I might need to “sell my soul for bread” a few days down the line and re-enter the corporate world, but it’s suddenly a world that no longer fascinates me in the way it used to.

I am still quite happy to look upon the world of business, and I do dream of having my own business, but the life of executives is far from glamarous: there’s too much undue stress and dirty politics involved.

But why am I still attracted to business ? I remember an interview for a State Dept exchange programme thing, where I was asked about why I thought business was important. I think the sincerity of my answer showed through: I answered that business was as important as politics these days. A large business can affect millions of people. A business can provide many with services that they really need, and with jobs and income.

The importance of business is very different from its glamour. The glamour is still there: the expense accounts, the charming, beautiful people, gorgeous computers and expensive cell-phones. But it’s also cubicles, ass-kissing, and dealing with insecure backbiters.

5 things you’ll need when you join a new job

September 18, 2006

After my posts about how to get a job, and what to do once you’ve gotten the job, I though I’d write another post about new job issues.

When I was first looking for a job, I got myself a set of interview clothes. I think we all do that. But what I really wanted was five new outfits to wear to office. I put off buying them because I was broke, and I was glad I waited: the work culture at my office is really laid back, and no-one bothers to dress up.

I’m not very materialistic, but we all want stuff. And when we join a new job, it’s easy to justify purchases in the name of “investments in our future” 😉

There are some things that you really need when you join a new job, and they are:

  1. Clothes: Wait till you join your new organization before you go out and get all the new outfits that you’re planning to buy. You should already own some decent clothes that you can wear to work. If you feel you absolutely must get something new, limit yourself to buying a maximum of one or two outfits before you join. During the interview process, you might have noted how the other people dressed (I didn’t) but that might still not be any indication. Even if attire guidelines are mentioned in a booklet, it might be the norm to not follow them strictly, or to dress even more conservatively than is implied. Wait till you’ve joined, and know the work culture, and the way people dress, before you buy new clothes. And when you do, a good rule is to try to dress a bit like someone in top management whose position you’d like to have, someday.
  2. Shoes: Shoes are part of your outfit, so I should’ve lumped them with clothes. But clothes are something you will really, really need. It may just be worth-while to purchase a pair, if you don’t have anything sufficiently formal and appropriate.
  3. Bag: If you’re a fresh graduate, it’s perfectly acceptable to carry a messenger or book bag to office for the first week. That’s the amount of time you should take to notice how much stuff you’ll need to take with you to office each day, what types of bags other people use, and what types of bags you like and can afford. Of course, needs and fashions change, so it might not be too wise to spend a lot on a bag. Perhaps, this is the time when you could try out those “rent a bag” type services that I’ve heard are available?

Of course, those are the things you’ll need if you’re a broke graduate. If you’re not, and you’re not the anti-materialistic type, you might like to have:

  1. Flashy accessories: Diamond jewelry and the latest cell phones might help if you’d like to create the impression that you’re not in it for the money 🙂
  2. Cool car: It’ll help you imagine that you’re giving your bosses an inferiority complex. And if you have a chauffeur, you’ll never even have to dislike a commute!

That’s all I could think of for now.

8 things that recruiters should let a candidate know

September 18, 2006

Over at they were nice enough to mention my post on 10 questions to ask before you join a new job!

The interesting thing is, they mentioned that the 10 questions that everyone should ask before they join a job, can easily be flipped to become the 10 things that a recruiter should let a candidate know. Or, they could be used to become the bare bones of a job description.

I think that’s an interesting concept. It would give recruiters a chance to assess the attractiveness of a job from a candidate’s perspective, and it would help in attracting the right candidates. After all, a job is so much more than just a source of salary (or at least, it should be). The fact that a really talented person is on the team might make the job more attractive for an ambitious person who’s looking for a mentor, maybe more so than a few dollars more in salary terms.

So, if I turn these questions around, here are… (drum roll…) 10 things that recruiters should let a candidate know:

  1. The type of work they will be doing. (Without great “exaggerations”, preferably.)
  2. If anyone special is on the team, or if the candidate would become the team’s “superstar”.
  3.  How will the candidate be able to contribute to the organization?
  4. What are the opportunities for the team that the candidate will be joining?
  5. What are the pay, benefits, etc?
  6. Will the candidate be expected to work long hours, travel, etc?  It’s better to establish this upfront, so that the candidate knows what he/she is entering into.
  7. What would be the future career path of someone entering into this position? (e.g. “Ms X joined this organization as a Media Executive 7 yrs ago, and now she is our current Head of Marketing.” And you’re sure that, with hard work, Candidate Y could do the same thing.)
  8. What type of experience will the candidate gain? Different from the kind of work he/she will be doing, in that you should stress on the skills that he/she will learn, e.g. “you will learn time management and organizational skills, and you’ll gain the ability to delegate effectively, since you will have to coordinate the various activities across the department”, etc.

You’ll notice that the original ten questions have been pared down to eight facts. That’s because I left out the unpleasant issues of whether the company will change ownership in the near future, or whether there are any issues facing the team.

I hope this is helpful for the recruiters out there 🙂

Advice on starting a new job

September 14, 2006

So, you’ve finally gotten the job you want. Now what?

A new job is a bit of a challenge. Here’s some advice to get you started…

The first day:

  • Don’t expect anyone to pay you too much attention. Unless you’ve joined an incredibly small organization, most people will be too busy to care that you’ve joined, much less welcome you. In fact, you might find many people who are too busy to even say hi to you, until a few days later.
  • No one will really expect you to do any work on the first day. Most likely, you will be running around for an ID card, internet and intranet access, a PABX, a PC, and filling out hundreds of forms.
  • Get your bearings. Find out where the washroom is, where the doors, various rooms, and emergency exits are.

Despite the apparant uselessness of the first day (and yes, it will seem useless compared to grand expectations of meeting the CEO and starting work on a top-level project), there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Try to arrive a bit early, or at least be on time. Don’t be too early, since that would raise a few eyebrows, but make sure you’ve factored in your commute and any likely problems.
  • Lay out your clothes the night before, right down to shoes and accessories. Pack your bag, make sure nothing is missing. Choose an outfit that you look great in.
  • Start being nice to everyone, everywhere. You never know if your future boss will see you being rude to a salesperson or bad driver. Be friendly and polite to everyone in the office. Introduce yourself if you need to; most people will not ask you who are.
  • A day or two into your new job, you may be taken out to lunch or coffee by the CEO or someone from top management. Don’t think that this common practice. Take this rare opportunity to bond (at least try to). Be respectful and interested in him/her, don’t grovel, and try to act intelligent and funny. Impossible advice to follow when you’re nervous, but try your best anyway 🙂
  • If your company offers an orientation or introductory training program, try to pay attention and to not sleep through the entirety. (True confession: during my orientation programme, I spent my entire time reading a novel, playing games on my cell phone, and stealing all the chocolates displayed in the pretty bowl in front of me. All was not wasted. My friends got a lot of chocolates that day ;))

A few days into your new job:

  • Try to get a hang of the rules. Not just the ones written in the manual (though you should definitely know those ones too.) Observe what people wear, especially on casual Fridays, and to important meetings (in the hope that one day you, too, will attend such important meetings). How do people work? Is it common practice to take work home? During your first week, come to office a bit early, and leave late: how many people do the same thing? Is it acceptable practice to take long tea or lunch breaks? Where do most people have their lunch? How do people treat each other? Is there a lot of joking around, or is everyone very serious?
  • Get to know the people you’ll work with. Go to lunch with them, or to drinks after work (and don’t get drunk). Be careful in your interactions: be friendly and interested, but don’t offer any gossip or negative opinions. You won’t know immediately what the political undercurrents are.
  • Try to find out what the political undercurrents are. Who hates who? Which department is trying to outdo which other department? You get the idea…
  • Become friendly with strategically important people. This includes secretaries, especially, who have access to otherwise secret information.
  • Find out who the high-flyers in your company are. They are not necessarily people already in the top. There may be someone rising very fast. Try to pick these people’s brains. Hang out with them as often as you can.
  • Just so that people don’t think you’re cold-hearted, manipulative and ambitious, be friendly with everyone. An excellent way is to bring food to share. I found this out quite by accident: I’m always eating, and I don’t enjoy eating alone, so I used to bring snacks that could be shared by many. This won’t work with all food. But just try bringing freshly baked brownies or cookies one day 😉
  • Get to know your bosses. You should have been introduced to your immediate supervisor by know. Find out who you will be reporting to.
  • If you don’t have much work during the first few days, use your spare time to go through old company documents that you have access to. Marketing plans, business plans, competitor analysis, and such things may be very helpful information. Decide what things you’d like to find out, and search for them on your PC and intranet.
  • Find out your work priorities from your supervisor. Get some work to do. Do it. Get feedback. Initially, you should try to get feedback ASAP, so that you can make changes as needed.
  • If you’re not being given much work, ask for something to do. If you still don’t have much to do, ask your new colleagues if you can help them in any way. But don’t get sucked into the “I’d really appreciate it if you’d get me some coffee” trap. Unless it’s your boss that’s asking you to do that. (Which he shouldn’t, but still. Play along.)
  • Never refuse offers of  help.
  • During the first few days, try to never turn down an invite to an office party, or just an invite to “hang out with the guys”.
  • Never negatively compare your new job with your old job. If you do, people might think that you want your old job back, and that you don’t like your new one.

And finally:

  • Never interrupt someone who’s giving you advice. Nod along, and decide by yourself if you’ll take it or not 😉

10 questions to ask before you join a new job

September 9, 2006

 This post has been uploaded on my new blog, Happiness Creator. Please visit it 🙂

 When hunting for a job, most candidates are so busy trying to sell themselves, that they don’t research the company thoroughly enough to see if they’re a good fit or not.

It’s very important for a candidate to ask questions about the company. If you’re looking for a job, you should definitely try to find out if working at the company will drive you crazy or not 😉

Here are some questions that you should try to get answered. Many of these are not things that you can ask during your interview. The most valuable sources of information are usually friends who are currently working in the company, who know the company somehow, or who are working in the industry. 

Well, here are the questions:  

  1. What type of work will I be doing?
    Establish this one early on. Ask for examples. We recently hired two people to conduct phone surveys. Anyone expecting to create policy reports would have been disappointed. So often, the job description is just a vague generalization of something the HR manager thought should be mentioned. And, in the real world, you will never get exactly what you expect. But it’s always better to ask: for a while, our Brand Management department was looking for people in different areas, although the designation for each was the same. 
  2. Who will be on my team, and what is their background?
    You might be able to find this information online and the answer to this might not really change too much for you. But good people are good to be around. If very talented and smart people are on your team, work is more likely to be fun, you are more likely to meet people you’ll enjoy being around, and at the very least, you’ll pick up something. Good team members indicate that the team is capable, but the lack of them might also indicate that you will have the opportunity to build the team’s capabilities. (Ahem: assuming that you’re that good, of course!) 
  3. Why do you want to hire someone? How will that person contribute?
    Sell yourself, describe how you’ll be able to contribute, and hope that it’s a good match. But wait, why should you just sit and hope? Go ahead and ask, what is it that they would like from their new employee? You’ll gain a much better understanding of what your future at the firm would be like. 
  4. What are the issues facing this team, at the moment?
    This one shows your interest. Ideally, you will not ask this during the interview, but to some nice young people who work in that team. Someone might just mention the rivalry with the other department, and the chance that the division will be eliminated. 
  5. What are the opportunities for this team in the future?
    Don’t ask this if the answer is very obvious. But if the division or project is new, this is the chance for your potential supervisor to paint a rosy future for you. You’ll get to judge if the best-case scenario is really something that you want. 
  6. Will the company ownership change in the near future?
    Ok, so you probably won’t get an answer to this one. But try to find out. If there’s a chance, the rumors will be floating around. Someone working in the industry, or in the banking sector, might be able to answer this.   
  7. What are the pay, benefits, etc?
    You will probably have to negotiate this one after you get the offer. But make sure to negotiate. Don’t just settle by not knowing the details. For instance, these days many companies have rules that state that an employee must return the signing bonus if he/she leaves before a certain period of time. 
  8. Will I need to travel or work late hours?
    Whichever company you decide to join will appreciate it if you forget the clock and finish your work, meet deadlines, and go beyond the call of duty. But ask if late hours are normal (i.e. 4 out of 5 days), if you’ll need to work on weekends regularly, or if you’ll be required to travel a lot. Be honest with yourself as to how much of this you can handle sanely.  
  9. What would be the future career path of someone entering this company in this position?
    Yet another chance for your future supervisor to wax on, hopefully. Just make sure that what he/she makes sense, and seems reasonable.  
  10. What type of experience will I gain?
    This is slightly different from number 1. In essence, you are trying to find out how this position will improve your resume, what kind of value addition you will receive. Will you learn how to work with different types of people, make key contacts in the industry, gain skills that can be transferred to other industries…. What? 

Well, these are the questions that I came up with, I wonder if anyone has more suggestions?

Polarizing Brands

August 30, 2006

There’s been a lot of talk about polarizing your brand, and creating brand evangelists. Guy Kawasaki has some really great posts about brand evangelism.

A really cool post about polarizing cupcakes caught my eye this morning. 

bushcupcake.jpgI think this illustrates the point about brand evangelism perfectly: it’s different, and people talk about it. Even if they say they hate it, word spreads and reaches the ears of those who wouldn’t hate it.

Most people would never have the guts to do something like this. That’s why most brands are unobtrusive and politically correct. But the ones who take a stand on an issue are the ones which generate interest. And ultimately, revenue.