The shelf-life of an engineering degree is about three years. If you don’t replace everything you know by then, your career is going to turn sour fast.” This is what the late Louis Ross, executive vice-president, Ford, said. It’s something most successful people know—that it’s professional suicide to assume your degree will serve throughout your working life. Ask Ashwini Dhingra, vice-president, Euro RSCG, a leading ad agency. He started as a production engineer and later moved to Apple Computers as a marketing person. “As IT and production in-charge, my role was limited, and I couldn’t see a growth path,” he says. Five years later, in 2002, he got a chance to move to client servicing, a high-growth segment, within the same organisation. “I had lost five years of my career, but I had to learn new skills to get my stagnant career moving,” says Dhingra, who later joined advertising.
“The biggest mistake a person makes in his career is choosing the wrong industry,” says Sanjeev Bhikchandani, CEO, Naukri.com . “It is not just about learning new skills to help your career grow, but also using the existing ones to the best of your abilities,” he adds. Re-skilling is not about going back to school; it also involves adapting your existing skills to a new job opportunity. Savyasachi Jain, executive producer, InfiniTV, moved from the print medium to video journalism. This helped him create a strong base to start a documentary film-making unit.
The good news is that there’s plenty of opportunity for a qualified person. A study by McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of McKinsey & Co, shows that despite the growing base of graduates and engineers in India, less than 10% are considered ‘employable’ by foreign companies. The problem is that of quantity over quality. In this situation, a person who goes beyond academic knowledge is bound to stand out.
He was a production engineer, then got a management degree and specialised in marketing in an IT firm. Unhappy, he learnt new skills and joined advertising.
• Equip yourself with essential academic degrees or skills while on the job.
• Understand emerging trends and capture them to insulate yourself from downsizing phases.
• Learn to adapt your existing skills to a new opportunity.
HOW EMPLOYABLE ARE YOU?
Most of the skills you have acquired are transferable.
• You have developed all forms of communication, written and oral.
• You do not need supervision as you can evaluate your work load.
• You have good inter-personal skills to mentor and lead a team.
• You are able to adapt technology to your daily routine.
• You are responsible for the success of some projects.
• Outside the office, you have a network of professionals from your field.
• You set targets that are achievable and deliver what you promise.
• You have developed your core competency to match the firm’s needs.
• You genuinely enjoy the job assigned to you.
Give yourself 1 point for every statement you agree with. A score of less than 5 means you need to reinvent yourself.