Worklife: Why staying relevant is important for your career growth

The art of staying relevant is neither age- or gender-specific nor circumstantial, it is incumbent on the skills quotient

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By Sanjeev Pradhan Roy

Published: Thu 14 Sep 2023, 8:14 PM

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.”

— Roman Payne

The art of staying relevant is neither age- or gender-specific nor circumstantial, it is incumbent on the skills quotient. The choice of going entrepreneurial, moving organisations, period of stay and retirement are indeed individual, but it has influence points across family, friends and mentors. Let us dissect these life-changing scenarios through a few contexts and perspectives.

Ever wondered why certain professionals stay on for decades in organisations and possibly stagnate while a few carve a niche working for themselves? The answer lies in the tenacity to take risks, not settling in and evolving with the changing requirements. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing and these cases spot opportunities fast, are decisive and have a deep conviction to deliver on their dreams.

Others find it hard to leave an organisation and become the victim of system inertia without much development. An employee’s development is dependent on the people leadership framework in the organisation and the evolution of the reporting heads. Some stay on due to relationships, comfort zone and financial compulsions; others don’t want to fall prey to the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ phenomenon and stability is a common thread that binds stickiness for a long time.

In any case, if someone stays on and becomes a victim of the hierarchy’s lack of vision and development of new skills relevant to the times, it only impacts the opportunities that one finds outside that ‘well’ when faced with the ocean of ‘desirables’ by the new employer.

Especially during Covid, innumerable examples came to the fore even at C suite level, when talents found themselves at the wrong side of life. It was shocking for them to realise that whilst being ‘at the helm’ elsewhere, they had become ‘dinosaurs’ to the outside world.

In fact, I vividly recall an interaction with a CXO suite over coffee and he broke down literally at the café, saying it is not about money, it is the thought that he is no longer ‘wanted’ by the outside world and importantly, he didn’t seem to know anyone worthwhile, nor anyone ‘knew’ him despite all his years at the top.

I recollect a wise man saying not to denigrate people on the way up, as you would find the same people on your way down, so stay humble, connected and known for the right reasons. Secondly, most go with the notion that the ‘organisation’ itself is their world and they spend all their waking hours devoted to it only to be flicked aside one day, for business reasons or perceived performance.

I have seen cases of such long-term ‘devoted’ employees who gave their life to the organisations only for their lives to be uprooted with a single stroke of business or HR decision. What happens next is more of a primal or existential need rather than doing something greater with their lives.

Side hustles (non-profit course) that help further your passions outside work and help mingle with the larger network is essential in today’s world. It is critical that you evolve beyond your scope of work and specialisation to build a sustainable network and give back to the society at large, unconditionally.

I am often asked about what is a good time to spend in an organisation or how do you arrive at the decision to leave, to pursue what is best for you in terms of opportunities, money and worth.

Whilst there is no thumb rule as to how long is generally enough to work for any organisation, it depends on your own growth quotient, self-discovery and prospects. Sometimes, it is not about money, it is more about the relationships you have curated at work that you value, how you have been treated as a professional and, importantly, how have you grown your skills and paid equity compared to your peers and industry.

I would believe to take a dipstick as to where you stand after three or five years and make a move that corresponds well to your desired journey and ambition if it is status quo or downhill where you are.

To conclude, don’t forget the ‘you’ in the process, whilst you juggle aspirations, financial need, family stability and organisational demands, you need to be ‘happy’ for it is your chunk of life invested that is invaluable.

“I thought I wanted a career, turns out just paying the bills became one!”

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