Category Archives: Organization Strategy
One point which has emerged again and again and again in all recent discussions I’ve been a part of is this “The IMPORTANCE of FOCUS“
Be it at home or work, If you are FOCUSED about what you WANT, you will most LIKELY GET IT!
If I look at the world around me, I see the following impediments :
(1) Lack of clarity on what to focus on? – For many of us, we don’t know what to focus our time and energies on. We don’t have any personal goals in life, and hence every day is like the one before – & we get caught in the monotony and drudgery of the “mandatory chores”.
Take a moment to think – What are your goals and dreams in life? And focus on them
(2) Too many distractions on a daily basis - Ok. You’ve done some thinking and soul-searching and have figured out your goals and dreams for life? You also took the next step and created a “workable plan”. And you are determined to get there.. But there’s just one little problem – There are just too many distractions on a daily basis – TV, Twitter, FaceBook, News, Movies, etc etc etc – The list is endless. Just how to stay focused amidst all this.
Well there’s no easy way apart from making a few choices and letting-go of what’s not important. Just focus on what you really want. It’s OK if you don’t know / see everything there is to see. You will be just fine!
(3) Lack of focus in the long term – Most of the really good things take time to get there. And somewhere along the way, the focus gets diluted for many of us. For e.g.: Let’s say you want to author a Research Paper. You start the research work, and then something more important / exciting cries for your attention. So you de-focus from the paper, and focus efforts else-where. Before you know, a week / month / year has elapsed, and the research paper is still in “draft mode”
Be aware of your personal life patterns. When you find yourself getting off-the-road, gently push yourself to come back on track – In whatever way it works. Key to success is LONG TERM FOCUS!
Ending with a few quotes from the wise:
“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” BY Tony Robbins
“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” BY Steve Jobs
ABOUT RATAN JALAN
Driven by an urge to make a difference in healthcare, innovation in business models and patient empowerment has been at the core of what he does.
Ratan Jalan is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Medium Healthcare Consulting. Ratan Jalan is widely acknowledged as a thought leader and a rare innovator in the healthcare industry.
Earlier, Ratan was the CEO of Apollo Health and Lifestyle Limited (AHLL), part of the Apollo Hospitals Group for almost a decade. He created some of the most successful and innovative healthcare formats in the country (India) such as a nationwide network of The Apollo Clinic and The Cradle, South Asia’s first boutique birthing centers. He also led some of the strategic marketing initiatives and international projects for the group.
In 1996, as President, Ratan set up India’s first hospital architecture and consulting firm Asian Health Services, a JV with ServiceMaster, then a Fortune 500 company. In a short span of three years, the firm became the undisputed thought leader in healthcare and had served leading organizations like Wockhardt Hospitals, Escorts Hospital, Max Healthcare, Aditya Birla Foundation, IL&FS and Gleneagles Hospitals.
Ratan has over three decades of experience across diverse industries and functional responsibilities. He started his professional career in the information technology industry with HCL Technologies and then moved to advertising at Lintas (now Lowe). During his ten years there, he started and headed the integrated marketing division and worked on leading Indian and international brands.
Ratan was awarded the Marketing Impact of the Year Award by S P Jain Institute of Management, a leading business school in India. He has been nominated as one of the 50 most influential professionals in retailing by Retailers, a leading industry publication. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 2008 Franchise Awards for the success of The Apollo Clinic initiative. He is also a frequent speaker at leading management institutes such as Indian School of Business, IIMs and FMS and various industry forums such as, CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, AIIMA and World Economic Forum. He was one of few panelists invited from India to the Harvard Business School Global Centennial Summit.
He is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and Harvard Business School. He is an avid reader (mostly, and somewhat regrettably, non-fiction) and an occasional writer.
I was introduced to Ratan Jalan a few months ago; Thanks to the kind and thoughtful gesture of my IIMB Professor D V R Seshadri.[I must confess that I did not know much about Ratan Jalan till this introduction]. After that introduction, I read all I could find on Ratan Jalan and was truly impressed with his vision, thoughts, achievements and the transformation he has brought about in the Indian Healthcare Industry. (Personally, if I had to place my bets on 2 industries which will change the face of India for the next decade they would be (1) Education and (2) HealthCare).
That’s how our journey started… Along the way, Ratan has been a reader of my blogs and has been encouraging about my blogging success. And one fine day, I asked Ratan if he would be willing to do a rendezvous on my blog. Luckily, he said YES!
In this Rendezvous, Ratan shares some insights from his professional journey; and some nuggets of wisdom for life.
Nischala: Firstly, Thank you so much for your time. It is indeed a pleasure to talk to you
Ratan Jalan: Thanks Nischala for talking to me. It is indeed a pleasure to connect with you
Nischala: So Ratan, if you can share your own personal journey with respect to your career and life, that would be a great start.
Ratan Jalan : I was from a middle-class family brought up in one of the over-crowded neighborhoods in old Calcutta. Though I studied in a Hindi-medium school, I guess I was good in studies and as expected, got into the science stream. Mr Ram Pravesh Singh, who was a tutor at home, proved to be the real inspiration and made me sit for the IIT entrance exam. Fortunately, I got a reasonably got rank and found myself in IIT, Kharagpur. Somewhere during my days at IIT, I also realized that I didn’t want to do the typical shop floor or the R&D kind of engineering jobs. I got into HCL Technologies in 1978. I was one of the initial few employees then. IT was just taking off, and those were the days when companies were trying to understand what IT is all about. I continued to be in IT for the next 8 – 10 years. HCL was the best training ground I could have imagined as a fresher. It literally teaches you how to do the impossible stuff!
A meeting with Alyque Padamsee led me to join Lintas (now Lowe, the largest and the most revered advertising agencies those days) to start their direct marketing division and also offer services in areas like marketing MIS and market modeling. I really enjoyed working on some of the best brands in the country and also got to appreciate the nuances of consumer behavior and communication.
I then entered the Healthcare industry as President of Asian Health Services, possibly the first hospital architecture and consulting company in India. In less than three years, we created a phenomenal brand equity and track record of successes. Then, I joined Apollo Hospitals Group as CEO of one of their Companies. It was again a phenomenal learning experience since the industry was “new” to me.
If I look back at my own personal journey, I think what has really kept me going in my career and life is the fact that I deliberately seek zones of discomfort and enjoy working in industries which are a little ahead of their times – Be it IT, direct marketing or healthcare consulting. Moreover, getting into newer industries has created periods of extreme anxiety for me, since I realize that I don’t know enough. And that’s what got me to crash learning expeditions about such different industry segments – something, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I honestly believe that you should want to wake up every morning and go to work; because there is something new, challenging, unknown waiting for you. There should be fun and learning – Both are integral to a meaningful professional career.
Nischala: That’s interesting. Can you elaborate a bit on “seek zones of discomfort”?
Ratan Jalan: Sure. It is something I strongly believe in. Let me elaborate with an example. My wife has been making parathas for the past 35 years, and there are days she makes excellent parathas and days when the parathas are not so great. But that’s the law of averages at work. However, doing something of that kind can never create a sense of achievement or joy for her. Now if I ask her to make an Italian dish – say a pizza or a pasta, she is going to be nervous as it is out of her comfort zone. But at the end of the day, if the dish turns out great – she has learned something new, she will feel on the top of the world and enjoy that sense of achievement.
The point is there is no way you can achieve something worthwhile unless there is an element of “discomfort and fear”. So I personally advocate deliberately seeking “zones of discomfort” – and that is the only way you will exceed your own boundaries; and reach the peak of heights.
Like as a part of my own organization, I intentionally assign tasks to employees which are simply out of their comfort zone. Initially they all resist doing it simply because they’ve never done it before. And I say to them loud and clear “I Don’t Care that you have not done it before.. This is not an exam, and neither will you get a character certificate at the end of it. It is not about ‘pass or fail.’ So give it your best shot.. Put your heart and soul into it.. and then let’s see” .Whatever is the outcome, you would have learned a lot. Most of the times they do a fantastic job; and are deeply thankful for the opportunity itself. So the most important point is that you should be inherently OK with discomfort, and then put your best foot forward to achieve what you signed up for.
Nischala: Moving on, I’ve personally had several experiences in the recent past with hospitals / healthcare industry as an end-user. But never really heard of Healthcare Consulting. So I am curious to know what do you mean by Healthcare Consulting?
Ratan Jalan: By HealthCareConsulting, and specifically what we do is we provide consulting services to large hospitals, single specialty clinics and diagnostic centers or even primary care clinics on healthcare delivery. Other than business strategy, where we focus on creating new business models in healthcare, we are passionate about two other areas:
1) Marketing – And I mean this in a very broad sense. This would include Positioning (For e.g.: How would you position and differentiate yourself in the marketplace in comparison to other large hospitals or clinics), Pricing, Mass Media, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Public Relations, Social Media, Events, etc. We take a holistic and comprehensive view towards Marketing. The fact is that a lot of hospitals and healthcare clinics don’t do marketing. They mostly do only sales. And they don’t see a need or scope for marketing.
We approach marketing in a scientific manner, and also based on the wealth of experience I myself have in this space, we are able to make practical recommendations to different organizations.
2) Patient Experience – “Patient Experience” is one of the most important dimensions of the HealthCare industry, and sadly the most overlooked. The point I am making here is that the “clinical quality and outcome of your medical ailment” is very different from “patient experience”. So you can come back from after a successful surgery for one of your close relatives and still believe that it was a lousy hospital. On the contrary, at times, someone does lose a friend or a relative in a hospital, yet think that it was a good hospital.
So “patient experience” is really about softer, but hugely important aspects like trust, empathy, empowerment, fairness, honesty, caring, sensitivity, transparency, etc.
The truth is that if a hospital really focus on “patient experience” and are good at it, they can actually charge a higher premium for the same services. However, the sad fact is that most of the hospitals are “commoditized” and hence this is a HUGE “VANCANT OPPORTUNITY” which is crying for immediate attention and action – and we step in to help several institutions focus on “patient experience”. Unfortunately, most of the players tend to (and can afford to) ignore this and continue to do well despite this gap. And that’s purely because of the demand supply gap and the fact that you (as the patient) don’t even have options.
Nischala: That’s interesting. To be honest, it’s the first time I am hearing the word “patient experience”. I don’t know if too many hospitals focus on this. So any specific hospital / example which actually focuses on “patient experience”?
Ratan Jalan: Yes, There is this hospital, one of the best in the world called Cleaveland Clinic. They have even appointed a “Chief Experience Officer”, who champions the philosophy of ‘Patient First’ in everything they do. They consistently measure patient experience beyond clinical outcomes. In addition to the medical care, they focus on addressing some of the more softer aspects which most patients go through in a hospital-environment like anxiety, stress, poor decision making abilities during times of stress, etc, It is one of the best examples I can give for this.
Nischala: Thanks for sharing this. So moving on, how can hospitals and health institutes truly make a difference in healthcare?
Ratan Jalan: The fact of the matter is that the healthcare industry is far too “inward-looking”. And there is no competition really. But like I said before what can make a huge difference is focus on “patient experience”
We are at a very “crucial and vulnerable” phase in the healthcare industry. Historically, the fact is that the doctors has always held the status of a Demi-God, and are mentally and emotionally conditioned to having a “Godly” status simply because the information asymmetry was supreme. (For e.g.: In earlier times, you could never know much about diseases, causes, treatments, etc. – unless the doctor mentioned it.) Today, with technology and increasing awareness, information is freely available to masses, so “information asymmetry” has reduced. Of course, the doctors still know the best; and their advice and recommendations are valued and held in high regard, but the situation is different from how things were in the past. So I think it is also important for doctors and people in the HealthCare industry to recognize this fact, and re-align their own approaches to dealing with a “more informed customer”. The doctors and institutions which adapt to these changes will definitely be winners in the long run.
The other key point is that we are living in an era where lies, manipulation, negativity are commonplace. And these are also integral and systemic in the healthcare industry. Personally, I think a lot of how any organization functions depend on the mind-set / core values of the promoters / leaders at the top. So I think it is key to have the RIGHT leaders run healthcare organizations so that they propagate a strong culture of values, ethics and character. You can’t possibly start with an excel sheet, which computes ROI for different set of values and character and then select the one, which offers hightest ROI. It has to be something very intrinsic to the individuals or leaders at the helm of affairs.
Nischala: OK. Another point lingering in my mind is about the scope of Marketing in HealthCare. What in your opinion is the role of marketing here? Because honestly, if I am in a hospital, I don’t really want to be prey to marketing. And outside of a hospital, I hardly see too much marketing – In fact, I may not even be interested in knowing about things.
Ratan Jalan: Very valid point, and that is the real challenge for marketers in HealthCare. See let’s understand that nobody wants people to fall sick. But let’s say you fall sick, the aim of “marketing in healthcare” is to let you decide on what is the preferred place to go. That would be the primary aim.
Nischala: So coming to innovation which you briefly touched upon at the start on this Rendezvous. What kind of innovation in business models can happen in the HealthCare Industry? Can you give a few examples?
Ratan Jalan: Today, a typically large multispecialty hospital has presidential suites on one hand and general wards on the other. They tend to do ‘everything for everyone’. And in the process, not many end-customers (or patients) are happy. The rich complain that it is the most crowded railway platform and the poor think they are being exploited because the place is for the rich. I strongly recommend that people should think in terms of ‘focused factories’. Focus on doing something- be it a particular discipline or a procedure and focus on a particular segment. That’s what I call doing ‘something for someone’. The two best examples we have in the country are Aaravind Eye Institute and Narayana Hrudalaya. Both have become global icons of healthcare innovation.
Nischala: OK. So looking back at your own journey, can you share a proud moment or initiative as a part of your professional career?
Ratan Jalan: A long time back when I was in the US and visiting hospital beds, I saw a woman going into labor. And I realized that a girl going to deliver a child is not a typical clinical / medical activity. It is a memorable event for the whole family to welcome a new life; and this happens in a hospital. There is no way to celebrate this moment because a hospital, which is designed and run to treat ‘life-and-death’ problems is governed by central policies and procedures which place restrictions on celebrations – like visiting hours, white color everywhere, smell of medicines and disinfectants, infections, stretchers, etc. – Which is not pleasant for a women to fully enjoy her first moments of motherhood
And that’s when I came with the concept of “Boutique Birthing Centers” – Which is really a place of 10 – 15 rooms well equipped to handle the safe delivery of babies. Designed and planned to welcome a new life into the world, for joy and celebrations. Also, you can eat what you want. You can have your family and friends around for as long as you want.
And thus was born my dream project – “The Cradle” from Apollo hospitals. We have 3 centers in India – Delhi, Bangalore and Kerala. They have been designed as the first Labour, Delivery and Recovery (LDR) room concept in India. I’ve seen enough mothers deliver at The Cradle, and the joy they experience here is a moment of great pride and satisfaction. Again looking back, it took me 3 years to make this a reality, but definitely has been one of the PROUDEST moments in my professional career. We are now working on a more evolved model of the same concept branded as The Birthplace. The first such facility is scheduled to come up in Hyderabad.
Nischala: OK.. Now for the benefit of all my blog readers, one important question – What can anyone do w.r.t securing a safe and secure medical future? I am asking this purely because of your extensive association in the HealthCare industry, and also your real-life experiences in this space.
Ratan Jalan: Each one of us individually takes charge of our own health. “Knowing is not DOING, DOING is DOING” – We all know what is good for our health and well-being, but we just don’t do it. And the fact is as far as your health is concerned, what you know makes little difference. What you DO makes all the difference.
The MOST IMPORTANT things for a good health and good life are ironically free – Sleep, Water, Air, Walking, Stress Free Life. So start DOING what you have to DO today. And usually it is very simple and something which everyone knows – Eat Right & Healthy and Get some Regular Exercise. Sleep well, Laugh and Do things you Love.
Nischala: OK Thanks for these nuggets of wisdom. Your dream for HealthCare in India?
Ratan Jalan: Very simple – Everyone in the healthcare industry should look at life from the patient’s point of view. That single-minded focus will be enough to transform the way we deliver healthcare.
Nischala: As we end, any specific thoughts you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Ratan Jalan: Sure. I’ll share what I usually share in all my speeches and key-note sessions, which I think is very important message.
In life, there are two broad choices for anyone to make.
Choice 1 is to MAINTAIN – And by and large, most of us spend most of our lives in the “Maintenance” mode – Maintenance is safe, secure and comfortable. For example: We prefer to work with really large institutions, for example, where nothing much can go wrong!
Choice 2 is to CREATE – To create requires a very different “mind-set” – one in which you need a lot of self-confidence; and more importantly you should be able to work in an environment in which there is no security, no guarantee and no predictability.
So when I address young people in colleges, B-schools, Medical schools, etc. I strongly urge them to answer one question
Do you want to join a large company; and be one in 1 lakh employees – and really “Continue to MAINTAIN” what was already created OR
Do you want to join a new company; and be one in 10 employees – and really “CREATE” something for a larger cause OR
Do you want to start a new venture of your own – and again really “CREATE” something that you are passionate about and believe in
Interestingly, a lot of youngsters today don’t want to join large companies. They dream and aspire to “CREATE”.. To “CHANGE the WORLD” and “TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE”
So there is HOPE, there is SCOPE to CHANGE and there are DREAMS to make a BETTER TOMORROW!
Nischala: Wow! That’s a very unique and thought-provoking perspective. Something for me to think about! Thank you so much for your time. Truly appreciate it
Ratan Jalan: Thank you for your Rendezvous. And Best Wishes for your blogging endeavors.
How did you like this Rendezvous? Leave a comment to let me know
Wondering what ROTI is? It is a term we coined during our MBA days, and one that I find increasingly useful and relevant to ask myself – especially to get answers from myself and to make decisions…
ROTI simply means Return on Time Invested
Time is the most precious asset which anyone has today. And time is “limited” in the physical sense (of course not in the metaphysical sense). And yet most of us are guilty of not making the best of the time that we’ve got..
However, it is important to use your time wisely and invest it wisely – at least for the things which matter to you.
And returns can be really anything which makes a difference in your life – happiness, peace of mind, health, wealth, relationships, balance, power, success, prosperity…
Given that it is almost the end of the year, it is especially useful to ask yourself the following questions:
What is your ROTI at work? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI at school? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI with exercise? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in relationships? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in how your spend your free time? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in watching endless hours of TV? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in spending time on FaceBook? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in spending time on Twitter? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in spending time in reading? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in spending hours on the phone? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in spending time on a hobby? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in giving free advice to everyone? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in all the communication you do? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in all the judgments your make? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI on the many plans you make so frequently? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
What is your ROTI in truly being “AWARE in the NOW”? Are you happy with this? Do you need to make any changes?
Performance at the workplace is one of the key dimensions for professional success and growth. Usually these expectations revolve around quality of the output, consistency in quality & improved productivity over a period of time and last but not least, to bring additional value to the table – for customers, partners, colleagues and the organization itself.
In this blog, I am listing 5 LITTLE SECRETS which I have applied successfully to improve my own work performance and I have observed these in several high performing individuals as well.
Sharing them with the intent that they may help you in more than one way
SECRET 1 – BEFORE YOU START YOUR WORK FOR THE DAY, LIST DOWN THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT TASKS FOR THE DAY
We all have a zillion things which need to be done at work. But they are all not important enough to be done today. Listing down the 5 most important tasks for the day will give you phenomenal clarity and enable you to focus on what needs to be done first and what can wait. Most of us are guilty of spending the most productive hours of the day (usually as soon as we start work) in doing tasks which can wait until tomorrow. And then we rush to do the important things (when we are not the productive best) and never seem to get them done! From experience, I can vouch for the fact that adopting this one practice will make an ocean of difference in your work performance
SECRET 2 – BEFORE YOU START ANY WORK, THINK ABOUT THE MOST EFFECTIVE AND OPTIMAL WAY TO DO IT
Again, sounds like common sense. But most of us tend to start working on tasks as soon as they are assigned to us. While this may be purely due to our enthusiasm and eagerness to finish the work assigned to us, it may not necessarily be the best approach. Personally, I am able to complete work effectively if I spend time mulling over the best, most effective and optimal way to finish it. Usually, most tasks which have been assigned to you have already been done by someone somewhere before (either in your own organization or the world at large). So it helps to understand “How did others do it?“,”What were the mistakes they made? And hence how can I avoid them?“, “Can I replicate some of their best practices?” and then define a personalized workable approach for the task. Not only does this help you think through possible challenges, but it also helps you define a practical approach to complete your work. Generally if you think through at the outset, you will also be able to unearth possible gray areas and get them clarified at the start (Trust me! This minimizes re-work significantly). And if you are unsure about the overall approach itself, you can easily get someone to review your approach or ask them for guidance on how to go about the task at hand.
SECRET 3 – TIME-BOX NON PRODUCTIVE HOURS DURING A BUSINESS DAY
One of the key deterrents to work performance is the “intended and unintended” breaks that are an integral part of our working life. Intended breaks (For e.g.:Coffee, Walking, Chatting, Reading, Lunch, FaceBook, Twitter, Meditation, Power-Naps,etc.) are good because they re-energize you. But in several instances the intended breaks extend way beyond your intentions [For e.g.: So you start with promising yourself that you'll log in to Twitter for 10 mins and before you know 30 mins has elapsed ]. Unintended breaks are those you don’t plan or intend, but they just happen (For e.g.: You get a call from a good friend when you are in the middle of an important task and you pick up the call. You feel happy about this break, but the conversation goes on for a good 15 mins and once you disconnect – You need to switch context to re-focus on your work. Usually this takes a few minutes; and overall you could have lost about 30 mins of precious working time. So the key take-away is to Time-Box non-productive activities. Within limit, they do enhance work performance. But when they cross the limit, they become serious inhibitors to work performance. To start with, be cognizant of these of try to limit them during your working hours.
SECRET 4 – IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ASK
Another important aspect to improve work performance is to Ask if you don’t know or understand something. While it is great to discover answers to questions by yourself, it is also OK to re-use the lessons from the experienced. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel always. Be judicious here lest you be branded as someone who never asks for help or someone who always asks for help! But if do ask when you need to – Your work performance is significantly improved!
SECRET 5 – EAT HEALTHY, SLEEP WELL, LAUGH AND DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE EVERYDAY
Firstly, Eat healthy and right, i.e.,Well balanced meals at regular intervals. From my own experience I can say that if you eat right you are more efficient, productive and creative at work – All of which are positive indicators of work performance. High fat and calorie rich food teases and pleases you, but makes you sluggish at work. It’s OK once in a way to indulge, but if you make it a habit it will definitely impact your work performance.
Secondly, sleep well and ensure you get adequate rest regularly. And this may not be feasible everyday (depends on your personal and professional context), but if you don’t catch up on sleep over a period of time it is bound to impact your work in more ways than one (For e.g.: Slow performance, More errors, Unable to collaborate, etc.)
Thirdly, Take the time to laugh everyday. In fact, I recommend a laughing break everyday when you read a joke, listen to something funny, watch a hilarious video or talk to someone who makes you laugh. Laughing everyday is a golden mantra for feeling good and positive
Last but not the least, do something you love for a few minutes everyday – Reading, Writing, Listening to Music, FaceBook, Twitter, Walking, Running, Cooking or spending time with those you love.
These are my SECRETS! Would love to listen to yours. Leave a comment to let me know…
I was in a quest for answers to the question “What is the most IMPORTANT CAREER CHOICE a woman makes?”…
In an attempt to find the answer I did some research – both primary and secondary. So I read several publications on the subject and even several blogs which directly / indirectly covered this subject. More importantly, I put forth this question to the women in my network – irrespective of their age, background (education and otherwise), profession, ethnicity or where they currently resided.
And along the way, I found several “RIGHT ANSWERS” and discovered that there was no “ONE RIGHT ANSWER”
Here are the words of wisdom from the wise, experienced and successful woman….
“Be driven by passion and purpose rather than paycheck and pension. Security is important but satisfaction and significance secures us far beyond the 9 to 5.” BY Angela Maiers, Founder and President of Maiers Education Services
“I feel that the best career choice is the one which allows you to make peace with yourself. I am in my third career avatar for a reason. It is the eternal quest for doing work that is meaningful to me..” BY Dr Tanvi Gautam , Managing Partner of Global People Tree.
“’The Most Important Career Choice You’ll Make Is Who You Marry‘” BY Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
As anticipated, the answers were diverse. However as I analyzed the responses I observed that the answers varied significantly based on “THE PHASE OF LIFE A WOMAN WAS IN” and there were 4 distinct groups here:
Group 1 – Single
Group 2 – Married
Group 3 – Married with young kids (Less than 5 years old – i.e., Prior to formal school)
Group 4 – Married with older kids (More than 5 years old – i.e., Once they start formal school)
In this blog, I have listed the key responses based on absolute majority or something which was very unique that it was worth writing about.
The idea of this blog is to share a woman’s view on what she thinks / feels / believes is the most IMPORTANT CAREER CHOICE that will determine the course of her career and life
Group 1 – Single
* The choice of the profession itself especially in answer to “Why am I in this profession?” – Is it her choice OR rather the lack of choice that brought her here.
* The education she pursued and her performance in education because this has a huge bearing on the start she receives in her career in terms of the organization she is employed with, the role and the starting salary – These have a huge bearing on the way her career turns out!
* The organization she is employed with especially in terms of the salary, the kind of colleagues / people she interacted with and the policies with respect to gender equality and diversity
* The kind of work exposure she has early in her career and the opportunities she pursued
* The kind of boss she worked with – More importantly, in terms of his / her own personal ambition, leadership style and the power / authority he / she and the nature of influence on her own career path and growth
NOTE: In fact many women in this category did not appreciate the emphasis to the word “WOMAN”.
Group 2 – Married
* Whom she married because this determines if she will have a career at all and also how far she can go in her career
* Organizational policies which enable a woman to make career changes / transitions to settle into life after matrimony. For e.g.: Transfer to a new location, etc.
* The kind of boss she worked with – More importantly if he was willing to guide and mentor her at a phase of transition in her life (This was not something which a woman can choose, but in hindsight many women felt it makes a huge difference in the learning, thinking and how your career spans out)
* To define success independent of external influences. And the simple choice is to listen to that little voice within ourselves – it knows BEST what you want the most.
Group 3 – Married with young kids (Less than 5 years old – i.e., Prior to formal school)
* The choice to have a career despite all odds on both the personal and professional front
* The choice of the profession itself and if it permitted some form of work life balance to be able to juggle between professional responsibilities and personal commitments
* The choice of the organization especially in terms of some flexibility in policies to help strike a balance between personal priorities and professional responsibilities. For e.g: Work from Home, Extended Maternity Leave to take care of your children
* The choice of the organization especially in terms of the openness to make career transitions based on personal priorities and needs, and yet has a meaningful professional career
* The tenure in the current organization, that is, really the effect of past career choices to stick to an organization – This has a huge bearing on the kind of flexibility you can exercise because you have proved yourself and your work is valued by the team!
* Whom she marries because this determines if she will have a career at all (especially after children are born) and also how far she can go in her career. Many women stated that they had to stop / change gears in their careers / change their careers itself simply because they did not have the required support system at home to help them through the initial parenting years. And then the sheer inertia or social pressures kept them away from work!
* To choose a career that gives her self-esteem, satisfaction and some financial independence
* To pursue an entrepreneurial journey and be on her own as this gives her the freedom and flexibility on her time, ambition, passion and growth
* To follow her instinct and do what she feels is right at that moment
* To invest in her own health and well-being as this determines which careers she can take and how long her career will eventually pan out simply because initial parenting years are demanding physically and emotionally. Add to that the mental pressure of professional work is sure to be a recipe for health issues, if she does not take adequate care of herself
NOTE: Most women in this phase of their life felt that the “choice of career” was actually a “life choice”. All women in this phase responded that the choice should be one which makes her happy, peaceful and content as only then she would be able to do justice to her role as a mother and a career-oriented woman.
Group 4 – Married with older kids (More than 5 years old – i.e., Once they start formal school)
* The personal network she is associated with because this greatly influences her thought process and how she perceives herself, her career and her contribution to the family, society and world at large
* Her own passion and desire to work and carve out a meaningful career for herself by doing work that she is passionate about
* Whom she marries (purely in terms of financial standing) because this determines if she can pursue a career she loves or needs to pursue her career to make money to contribute to the household
* The organization she is working in and the willingness / openness to accept woman at the top and in senior leadership roles (Many women said that there still existed a “glass ceiling” for women in senior positions)
* A career choice which leaves her completely financially independent. In today’s age, families don’t last but careers’ last!
* A career choice of something she excels at and brings value to the table as only then would employers or clients be willing to accommodate her requests for flexibility to manage personal and professional commitments.
* To NOT have a Career (This was a surprise for me – But there were some who wrote saying that the best career choice was to NOT have a career!)
In conclusion, I’d like to say that every woman makes her own choices in career and in life. There is NO right or wrong. It all ultimately depends on YOU! – Your choices, your priorities, your health, your circumstances, your passion, your purpose, your strength, your preferences, your desires, your interests, your family, your support systems…
Ending with something for every woman to think about:
1) Do you really KNOW what you want out of your career? Out of your life? – If not, think about it!
2) Do you really ENJOY your work? If not, think about why not?
3) Do you really think that your work and contributions are VALUED by those around you? If not, ponder over it!
4) Do you really put your BEST foot FORWARD in all that you do? If not, why not?
I’d like to hear your views on “What is the MOST IMPORTANT career choice a woman makes”? Leave a comment to let me know…