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.


Joining a new job, Part 1: 4 ways to work hard

December 10, 2006

What do you need to do, to succeed at a new job? There are many routes to job success, but the core activity must be something quite unglamorous: working hard.

By working hard, I mean working hard at everything, and staying longer at your job in order to complete all that.

There are four basic aspects of working hard.

1. Conduct detailed background research of your area of work

When you first join, spend as much time as possible going through as many work-related documents as possible. Go through things even if they don’t seem directly related to your particular designation: visit competitors’ websites, read articles and news related to your niche, and go through reports that are lying round on your network. Make sure you understand your industry thoroughly. Try to read as many important company documents that you have access to.

A lot of this background work might seem superfluous at first. But it has quite a few benefits. First, you’ll feel at home in your new industry, or you’ll gain a different perspective of it. You’ll understand your new company better. When your boss or colleague talks about something, you won’t feel like much of an outsider; you’ll be able to instantly place acronyms and events. When you start working on something, you’ll have a feel of what information lies where. You won’t wind up duplicating work, or reinventing the wheel. And you’ll get a feel of how data is presented within your company, and how external events have historically influenced your company/industry.

2. Get to know your new co-workers

Always network like crazy. Don’t deride it as being fake, phony, pretentious, or any other such synonym. A network is like an investment in the future.

In any job, you’ll need a whole village of people to help you get ahead. Your co-worker is busy, lazy and selfish, and he/she is more likely to help you if you’re someone who they like better than the other ten people asking for their help. If you’re concerned about being phony, remember that people are always desperate to be liked, and considered interesting. Having said that, avoid someone if you can’t stand them: spend your time more wisely with people who don’t make you feel sick.

Start with your co-workers, the people you’ll see regularly, and who often sit near you. Try to spend some time with them during lunch, or coffee breaks. In some offices, it’s acceptable practice to visit another cubicle to “chat”; just make sure you don’t overstay your welcome.

Try to thank the people who helped you to get your job, from the HR guy, to the lady who took your interview. It’s a nice gesture, if you can pull it off.

Try to meet people from other departments. Take advantage of inter-department or corporate activities.

3. Work hard at your own work

Initially, you’ll be given boring, menial work. Unfortunately, the only way to prove that you can handle more difficult tasks, is to do the menial work very well.

You might try to work on the process, as well as the work, e.g. create a better format, or system for doing the work.

Create something that you can show off to your boss, and ask for more work in terms of quantity, as well as more challenging work.

4. Help others

Ask a few people if they’d like any help with anything, no matter how menial (but don’t offer to get them lunch). Not only will people start seeing you as someone who tries to help, and remember your help when you ask for something, but you can always mention to your boss that you helped so-and-so with such-and-such.

If you consistently work hard, you’ll be given more work, and more important work. And that’s when you’ll seek different types of advice: how to not burn yourself out by working too hard, how to get a raise, and how to get a promotion 🙂

Good luck!