Take charge of your life: Ishtiaq Ahmed on self-transformation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 25, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:42 PM, March 29, 2016

Take charge of your life: Ishtiaq Ahmed on self-transformation

Words of advice from the CEO of Omera Petroleum Limited and Omera Cylinders Limited

Why are only five percent of graduates truly successful in their careers? Why does the majority live out an average life? Have you ever asked your seniors these questions? Instead of delving into details, I'm going to lay down the path to 'self-transformation', to show you how to lead a better career.

Graduation is your ticket to the job market, but it doesn't guarantee a robust career. Just as each product or organisation has a life cycle, your career also has a life cycle. Therefore, each stage of this life cycle needs a strategy relevant to it. The moment you graduate, you are at the "introduction" stage of your life and career cycle. A promising future depends on how well you start this first stage.

After 19 years of professional experience, mostly in MNCs in the FMCG, telco and energy industries, I've gone through the 'red ocean' of corporate life. I strongly recommend the following steps before you apply for a job:

a. Ask yourself what you want from life. In other words, what are your goals?

b. Define your action plan and take action.

c. Observe what's working and what's not working. Form a contingency plan.

d. Modify your approach until you achieve what you want. Remain flexible and act fast.

In each stage of your life and career cycle, these four steps will remain the same, but your thought and approach will change. Let me very briefly explain some of the steps you'll need to take.

The first step is extremely important as it will determine your quality of living to a great extent. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How am I going to live today in order to make the tomorrow of my dreams?

2. How am I going spend the next five years of my life?

3. Is working in MNCs a must? Why not work in a good local company? (The ratio of MNCS to local companies is around 1:20. Isn't it foolish to believe that you'll have no future if you work in a local company?)

4. Do you want a life where you can strike a balance between personal achievements and constructive contribution to social development?

5. Do you want a career in sales? Or marketing or HR or supply chain? Why?

You know the answers to these questions, but you should also obtain quality information from your seniors.

Life isn't a science and doesn't follow a set formula. Therefore, I cannot stress how important it is to have at least three contingency plans for each action you take. For example, I have seen many graduates apply only to MNCs and after 6 to 8 months, hastily apply to an average local company out of fear of unemployment. Many are determined to work only in marketing and end up compromising on the quality of the company. You must be open-minded and keep your options open to two other functions.

If you don't get your dream job or the right job, will you start to think your life is unsuccessful? This is the biggest mistake you can. You will need to start planning how to turn your below average or average job into a platform for success. You simply need to find out high potential opportunities in your task to deliver beyond what's expected and draw the attention of management to give you more challenging assignments. Delivering results on challenging assignments puts you on the fast track for success.

But what if you do get your dream job? What's next? Academic results are no longer a criterion to decide your potential to grow in the organisation. Age or seniority is not taken into consideration. It's fairly common to report to a younger person. After all, the Managing Director of British American Tobacco Bangladesh is only in his early 40s!

You need to take complete control of your professional development and face the fact that no one is going to spoon-feed you. The organisation can give you a platform to learn, but you have to exploit that platform and always be ahead of the learning curve.

We make the mistake of not reading professional books once we're on the job, but there's lots of writing by CEOs, consultants and academics that are backed up by years of research. And such reading is actually fun because you are not doing it for grades.

The next most important variables that determine a successful career are:

1. Being proactive and getting involved with more projects or high priority agendas of the management.

2. Being ready to explore uncomfortable areas as such assignments ensure high 'returns on investment'. Most employees reject or lobby to avoid challenging tasks.

3. Building your network because it helps you get new ideas and promote your personal brand.

4. Exploring cross-functional projects. It'll help you understand other departments as well as the big picture.

5. Having exposure in both line and staff functions. It helps strengthen your skills and strategic thinking abilities.

6. Perfecting your time management abilities because they make you look credible and dependable. It's extremely important to meet submission deadlines and attending meetings at the scheduled time.

7. Learning how to multi-task. There is simply no alternative in today's competitive environment.

As the saying goes, “Nothing happens unless first a dream”. You must have “passionate curiosity” to explore and learn and grow in your career.

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