Nine to Five
To be fair, I don’t think it would be an accurate statement to make if I said work gets easier to understand once you go along the proverbial ladder. If anything, it gets tougher and the quagmire of lines to be made, crossed, and not crossed — only gets more & more interwoven. Somewhere in the middle of trying to find your footing, liking two subject matters out of fourteen and supposedly enhancing your skill, you’re supposed to decide on a ‘specialization’ of your choice. In 8 months. No, dear education system of India, please ask US if that is the correct stipulated amount of time to figure out what you will head into for the rest of your life. And we’ll tell you it isn’t. We’ll tell you it isn’t the time that matters at all. Give us experiences, not options. So picking up where I left off, all MBA applicants have to enlist and officially intern for the Summer in every MBA providing institute within India — and globally as well. Essentially in India — we no longer know what a summer break means by definition. Right after 10th grade. But centering in, back to the point.
Along with 203 peers of mine, I am now interning with an organization for about 8–10 weeks in the hope that I’m better skilled, employable than I was before I began and eventually realize whether this is where I want to start the foundation of a career, so to say. To clear any airs right at the beginning, I mean in all earnestness when I say that I am in complete awe of how well this organization works and the opportunities it is laying right in front of me to grab, what it stands for, the exposure that I’ve been given a chance to get a hold of and the efforts of the people who got me here. Having worked before, it’s probably easier for me to put this in writing and maybe even comes from a slight sense of entitlement.
My third day in and I can’t help but observe that no matter the department, the organization or business, the geography, the stature and reputation of your firm — literally everything is essentially the same across the entire corporate sphere. This organization, akin to the one I worked with earlier on, also has employees running that race to get just that little bit of recognition. They also have functional teams, impossible deadlines, families to go back to, badges that identify us, work that makes us accountable, bosses who are driven, leaders who are inspiring, hours that might be merciless and food that surprises us on days.
So I’m asking myself, why do this again? Why go through the same route? Now please do NOT make the rookie mistake of misunderstanding this for some false sense of entitlement or complacency that you may think I have. I try harder every day not to be that person and it’s tough. It’s tough wanting to be better or kinder or nicer every day. But we try, right? So coming to when I asked myself the ‘Why’ bit of it. This is what I thought of. And you might relate to it. Why again, because even though 360 degrees of the environment around you might remain the same — you’re absolutely not the same person before isn’t it? It’s a simple thing once you’ve figured it out — but then again, it’s the simple things we tend to miss out on. The first instinct is that every solution MUST be complex. I realized how much has changed with the way I go about things professionally. I am no longer the kid who started working and thought the world and sundry’s just dying to make my acquaintance and see what I have to offer. I no longer think it’s a good idea to work the fastest I can, but to work the smartest I can (and contrary to popular belief, that usually takes a wee bit longer than working hard). I have more respect and value for the top order or leaders who are accessible. I’m a bit more confident and sensitized now on how to approach a top honcho with an idea you think may work or make something better — instead of just being mum about it or being worried that no one will listen to your voice because you’re right at the bottom of the food chain. The managers or people I am accountable to also probably definitely see more value in investing time to listen to my opinions at this stage compared to the information/knowledge/patience/understanding that I was armed with a couple of years ago. What’s also changed is that I probably show up to work with a clearer sense of purpose and where I can be of most value, which I believe is what most employers look at these days. Of course I’m still probably doing a million things wrong. But I figure I’m at least getting the right things wrong. And not hovering all over the place. Or at least I hope so
This is as opposed to me entering a work place earlier on and wanting to take on the whole world before lunch. And then the universe post that. What I mean to say is that it’s important to see which battles to avoid to be able to go on and win your war. The sort of earnestness and courage that makes you want to take up a hundred tasks without you knowing what they entail in a hope to not let anyone down that are covered in your enthusiasm — is admirable but maybe not always the best of choices. This is not to say that I’m less enthusiastic about taking up tasks or that the young blood in me has dried up. I just now know that people value the 5 things you did with depth and insight rather than the 100 you TRIED to do as perfectly as possible but couldn’t quite manage to. And also, I’ve learned that subtle art of saying no in the most acceptably politically correct manner possible. (Cue for laughter please).
I’m a big fan of the ‘always do what you love’ parade. I really am. But I’m a bigger fan of the ‘first find out what you really DON’T want to do’ parade. What better time to fumble around, keep hustling and trying and searching for what makes your heart REALLY tick than now? Ego to the side. Head set straight on your shoulders. Sleeves rolled all the way up, not afraid of doing the dirty work. This holds a lot more value than we probably give it now. In essence I think it gives you power, respect and most importantly — happiness when you create something. Whether that is by way of your work or otherwise has come to be immaterial. What I think we, or maybe just me, tend to forget is how interconnected our world is today. It’s an obvious fact, but an easy one to forget when our eyes are glued to the screen of at least 2 to 3 smart gadgets in a day. You do NOT want your boss’s friend’s uncle’s nephew to be your new boss or business partner later on in life and have him know that you shirked some work off back in your internship days or that you were basically sort of a prick. These things have a way of coming back to us, don’t we all know. In my inexperienced, fragile, erroneous but honest and heartfelt opinion — this is what our To-do should look like:
- Experience everything
- Reject nothing
- Hold your self-respect steady
- Hold the fort
- Get another cup of coffee.