Article (September-2018)


Driving your car-eer

Neetubala Raina

Designation : -   Head of Talent Management and L&D

Organization : -  Works at a Fortune 500 American MNC, Pune


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Driving your car is very similar to driving your career!
When driving a car, how often do you allow the person sitting next to you or in the back seat of your car to control your car steering? And the response is, "I don't, it could lead to an accident". So, why would you expect the people around you to control the steering of your career when you are the driver?
Well! The steering of your career like your car is in your hands so you gain varied experiences, visit beautiful places, overcome roadblocks, cross speed bumps and sometimes a dead end but life moves on and so should your career. Key is to be able to create a U-turn to re-navigate your way out as the steering of your career is in your control.
You will agree that organizational dynamics are not very different than dynamics on the roads, while driving.
Beginning a drive - You start to drive your car/career with an excitement to visit places, gather experiences and suddenly you start to face traffic. If you decide to drive on easy routes, your drive would be smooth but a lot of exposure which could prepare you to face all possible challenges on a busy/competitive road would be missing out. So, lack of varied exposure may put the longevity of your career at risk. As a new driver of your car/career, be open to learning and stay flexible, patient, optimistic and determined; Just as traffic signals and laws are to ensure your safety, obey the legalities of your career.
You will witness inebriated drivers on the road like unengaged employees who trigger accidents as they do not know the direction they want to head to or lack proper skills. Beware of such drivers/colleagues as they could be unpredictable and dangerous.
Develop capability to build your confidence for a clear vision. Keep learning to build your convictions to be able to lead yourself. Identify role models to learn from but do not fall into the trap of sycophancy". It is like following a striking Vehicle on the road blindly till you realize you have not only lost the way but are stuck between that vehicle and an alarming bulldozer, with no outlet to escape. So, learn to drive your own path.
During the drive -You will come across speed bumps in your career but those help you avoid accidents, increase control over your unwanted speed and make you reflect on your actions; this helps you to plan a better drive for a better learning curve with a better pick-up ability. Also, you would realize that changing gears is about your prioritization skills, which is important to stay balanced and safe.
Be careful of your company while you drive; a mentor with knowledge of that route will guide you whereas sometimes you will have a manager/colleague hitchhiking with you for a few miles to meet their own goals. If you meet people not aligned with your principles and value system, ignore and drive on! Sometimes you would also have to pick up and drop off people on your way and in doing so you would build relationships. These friends may help you to find new directions and short-cuts too, cherish their presence in your life. Identify, keep and nurture true relationships. Your emotional health is your magic potion to all your challenges and only true relationships will enrich this potion. Practice introspection, sometimes driving your car all alone has a soothing effect as you tend to reflect in your own company without any external influence.

Both you and your organization must enrich each other's "emotional-ecosystem". Though one may choose to be in the comfort zone and accept the monotony of career drive but do not become a cribbing spot to people in an organization. Keep track of the petrol stations to fill in the gas before you run out of it else your drive/career health would suffer for lack of energy. Get your car serviced regularly to eradicate the deterrents "in your control" because obstacles "not in your control" would exist too and you have to deal with those. Learn and unlearn to stay agile. Meet the right mentors/coaches and build the right network for a strong EQ/longer mileage that would help you deal effectively with the trying times of your drive.
Honking on the road for every little reason is pointless. Pick your battles by honking or speaking up on subjects that are worth your time. Time is precious, there are no time-banks. Also on a chaotic road, reverse gear is a foolish move. Choose brighter paths to build memories and pursue a passion to stay positive.
Toward an accomplished drive, your road to success - Like different seasons, you will hit many different milestones on your career journey and each milestone will have a lesson to learn. You may run into slow drivers, bad drivers and drivers who rub against your car, oblivious that they attracted scratches too. Move ahead to hit your next destination, your values will shape your integrity and infuse rigor to succeed. If you are distracted by annoying drivers, you lose your opportunities to navigate on the road. Stay determined and celebrate small successes but define stretch goals till you are set to embark on an accomplished route to be accepted as a coach or mentor.
Developing proper driving behaviors would require you to have enough patience and the ability to endure, but in the end, it is all worth it. On your journey, you are shaping and influencing personalities of those around you as well. At the end of your career, you may have people looking to you for driving tips and advice from your career journey. While it is natural for you to attract attention while driving a classy car/having a fancy title but remember that it's the person behind the wheel that is important. Respect cannot be demanded and a fancy title will not command it but the class/content within. Hence, in due course, you will realize the only journey that matters is the one within! Who you become at the end of your journey determines the true success of the drive.