Career Booster
Planning a Career : An Important Exercise

by DP Sabharwal
Building career is an on-going process. While to have a career, there are some basic and some essential requirements, the career enhancement on the other hand is a much more involved affair. Find out all those secrets here!
In life every one works. While a few like artists, work for pleasure. Many like housewives work as a matter of duty. But majority of us work for a livelihood. And in doing so, most of us tend to have a career and try to pursue it. Needless to say, everyone aspires to have a good career which basically means getting a job, preferably a decent one to start with and then smooth progression in the chosen career so as to rise to the top.
To achieve these two goals in the stated order, an individual has to put in concerted effort. This effort simply can't be a one time affair. With a single one time effort, you may be able to please an individual or a group of people for the time being, and might be able to gain some reward, but such an isolated effort can never take you all the way up the ladder. For that, you shall have to put in consistent effort. Thus career and its enhancement is an on-going process.
To have a good career, there are two basic requirements namely the essential and the desirable. The essential includes education, training and experience whereas the desirable requirement is personality. The career enhancement on the other hand is a more involved affair, spread over a long period of time. During this long period, one has to follow and display many traits that can be done in a better fashion in case one is aware of such aspects.
Career and important Factors
It is Competitive - You can not build your career in isolation, all by yourself. It always exists in a competitive environment. Whether you are in the field of computers, business administration, manufacturing, maintenance, marketing or any other area, you are all the time in competition with others in that area. And even if you get into a job ahead of others, or are ahead of others in meeting targets, you shall never be out of competition. In fact, it will be more intense. So you shall have to be on your toes all the time.
It is Yours - Always remember that it is ‘your career' you are working for. Therefore, it is you who have to plan it and you have to make any and all decisions about it. You just cannot afford to leave it to others to make decisions about your career. Yes, there may be times when you might feel weak, hesitant or even incompetent to do so. Well, in that case you may seek others' advice or view-point, but thereafter the decision should be yours, good or bad, right or wrong, for two basic reasons. Firstly you will learn to take decisions and it shall be useful when you reach higher positions in your career. Secondly if a decision goes wrong and you are at a wrong step in your career (rest assured, there will be many such occasions!) you would feel responsible about it and shall not be blaming others for it. That shall help you in getting out of the tight situations with relatively more ease and definitely with more confidence.
It is not Individualistic - The career is yours and competitive as mentioned above, but it does not exist in isolation. You are a part of the organization, where others are working too and they too are ambitious like you and would like to be promoted ahead of you or instead of you. All the same, you have to be a team member and work with them. At no time should you try to withhold information or withdraw the support to the core group. Such behaviour would put the success of the project, and consequently your own future in jeopardy. Thus be a team mate. In case you are not, learn to be so.
Time Bound - Every step in your career has a definite time element. Whether it is promotion examination or simple promotion, every event occurs at a pre-determined time, about which you have to be aware of. In case you are ignorant or complacent, you are bound to miss the bus! Time waits for no one, and least of all ‘the opportunities.' So be aware, knowledgeable and well prepared in advance. Be on the look out for the opportunity and grab it when it comes.
GIGO Principle - GIGO stands for ‘Garbage-In-Garbage-Out. This acronym came-in with the computers, but fits in beautifully in the context of career enhancement. To put it simply, it all depends on your actions and moves. If you sit back and relax, you obviously can not race ahead. If your steps are in the wrong direction, you shall definitely get at a wrong destination. So be always clear of the right and the wrong. Do right and you shall get right results, once and always.
Planning - A career needs planning, more so career enhancement. You just cannot get up one morning fully charged up, make a bold and loud announcement about a career, then go bang about it and expect it to yield positive results. It might have happened for someone some time, but it generally does not happen in normal life. Therefore you have to learn to plan. Of course you have to have an idea to start with. Thereafter it will require a detailed and elaborate planning which must include getting requisite education, training and the other necessary ingredients for career enhancement.
Effort - Good plans produce good results only if implemented. Even the best plans have gone awry for want of adequate effort, which is like a ‘mantra' that will take you to the desired destination and to your goal. This effort, however, has to be adequate and more importantly it must be timely. I am sure that you will agree that one can never achieve good results if one puts in additional effort after the exams are over! The importance of timely effort can best be summed up by this quote of General Patton: "More you sweat in peace, less you bleed in war"
Career Enhancement
It has often been asked; "Is the process of career enhancement a science or an art?" Well, before I answer, it is necessary to be absolutely clear as to what is meant by the terms science and art.
If you mix two ingredients, say 10 ml of nitric acid and 5 ml of Sulphuric acid, well there is going to be a reaction. Now the reaction is going to be the same irrespective of whether you mix it or anybody else. Moreover, wherever you mix it in India or in the US; or you mix it in the morning, afternoon or the late evening, the reaction would still be the same. Well, this is science, where the results are exact and pre-determined and do not vary with external factors.
An art on the other hand is totally different. You give painting canvasses, the same painting material and a picture to paint to different people. The result obviously would never be the same. Not only that, the same person can not possibly produce the same picture at different places say in the summer heat of Amritsar or the cool climate of Shimla, The same is true about the time as well because when he makes it in the morning or the evening, the output is bound to be different. Not only that, many other factors such as the noise, his mood and the state of mind say happiness or being sad is going to have a profound effect on his painting.
Now, I hope the answer to the question as to whether ‘career enhancement is a science or an art' would be quite clear. Well, it is both, a science and an art. The factors mentioned above are the established facts, like the laws of science. These have to be followed, once and always. Only then the proper reaction will take place, the reaction in response to the action you would have put in, to take you to the higher steps in your chosen career. The art element lies in the human angle, human touch and conditioning of the mind. How you behave with your superiors, peers and subordinates will affect your career. How you respond in a given situation, more so when provoked or working under stressful conditions will again have a bearing on your career enhancement.
A Final Word
Whatever career you choose, you would get a suitable job to begin with. But thereafter, your professional knowledge alone can not take you to the top.  You have to know what all other traits are required and then learn them to pierce through the roof of your organization!
Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.

A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at