Two Phases of a Professional Career

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Ever since becoming a people leader, I have had many conversations on career planning with my teammates and many others who approached for guidance. Questions like what do you think I should do next, should I apply for this new role that’s coming up etc.. are frequent. Some ask these questions in the interest of learning while others out of craving, anxiety, insecurity etc.

This blog is about my own personal belief about two phases of a professional career and how to lead them. This needn’t be right for everyone, however it can benefit those who can relate to it.

Almost 18 years ago as a naive boy who had never stepped out of Kerala, I had no clue of which job to pursue, what career meant or how to plan for it. I just joined the first job that was offered. A job to me at that time was a way to support my family and nothing more.

It took me about more than 3 years and a lot hardships that came with wrong choices to find a role that set me up on the right career trajectory. I owe subsequent successes to all my mentors who not only gave invaluable lessons but also helped shape my career.

During this period I have also had the pleasure of witnessing career growth of many esteemed professionals who made it big in the Industry. While they followed different paths to succeed, no one seemed to have predicted the twists and turns their career took. Were all of their successes a matter of luck?

Definitely not! In my view, they lead two phases of a professional career very well; The Learning Phase and The Impact Phase.

The Learning Phase:

While learning in any profession must continue throughout one’s life, this is a phase where professionals spend time learning most of their craft. True career planning will only start once true purpose in life is clear, however even for that one has to go through the learning phase.

All career decisions during this phase must be guided by new opportunities to learn and not by positions, titles or money. For example; someone who is in the field of Sales and marketing must aim to learn Business in totality.

This phase requires patience and focus. I have seen many talented professionals take wrong decisions because their peers at that stage of the career seemed to have progressed faster. Such choices result in lack of depth in learning and set them up for failure at a later stage.

The Impact Phase:

Having learned the craft through education, exposure and significant relevant experience, this is a stage where successful professionals start making significant impact in their respective organisations.

Professionals who realise they are in this phase need to look for opportunities to create a significant impact in the organisation and society. This is the time when the skills you have amassed can be used for the larger good. By this time one must be decided about the purpose in life. Here again I have seen talented professionals making wrong choices due to either craving for more or poor management of personal finances.

You might have noticed that I have not mentioned title, position or money as a criteria for choosing a role. In my view while money for basic needs is necessary, for a successful career, one must resist the temptations of instant gratification of raise, titles and positions. If you acquire right experiences during the learning phase, you will be in a position to create a significant impact. And during Impact phase when organisation trusts you with roles of higher responsibility, fringe benefits like right compensation, positions etc will follow along with a sense of fulfilment!

Another key focus during impact phase should be employing professional skills and experience towards greater good of society. This is important not only because one has a duty to give back. With increasing life expectancy, post retirement period can run in to decades. And if one hasn’t been involved in initiatives that contributes to society or academia, retirement period can get very lonely. This is not a time you can start something new in life.

So in summary I believe having a purpose in life is very important not just for career but also beyond. Learning and Impact phases will help in setting up a career that will be most sustainable and gratifying.

 

28 Responses

  1. SREERAM M K

    April 22, 2018 02:36

    Awesome write-up, Vinod!

    In my opinion, if one should be able to dedicate himself, remain patient and stay focused during the learning phase one basic requirement is love and passion for what he does on a daily basis in the job.

    I completely agree with your view on comp & Ben. End of the day, it’s all about the value proposition you can offer to your organization that’ll decide your benefits in the long run, be it money, position, responsibilities etc.

    Giving it back to the society requires a deeper understanding of life and has to happen parellely as you have mentioned. Happiness is a voyage and not a destination.

    Reply
  2. Abhishek Sengupta

    April 22, 2018 03:18

    A good read indeed, Vinod!. Also, I would like to understand whether you think that a correct way is required for handling the transition as well.

    In my understanding, transitioning to an impact role( I am reading, leadership roles) would not only mean that the individual has acquired the necessary skills sets but also he or she believes that they are ready. This step of graduating from a successful managerial stint to an impact role is something that I would love to learn more about.

    Reply
    • Vinodkrishna

      April 22, 2018 03:41

      Thanks Abhishek for your comment. I wouldn’t qualify high impact role as a people leadership role. It could also be an individual contributor role. And there is no clear transition that one can define from one stage to the other, learning continues all through the life. It’s a realisation that one has, that its time for me to give back to the organisation and society that defines the beginning of Impact Phase. Some leaders may never enter this stage as they may not feel the need to give back.

      Reply
      • Abhishek Sengupta

        April 22, 2018 08:01

        That is a interesting thought! Did not think around those lines that an individual purely from a behavioural perspective can graduate to making bigger impactful contribution to the organization, irrespective of the role. Makes a lot of sense. Also, when I think about it now, I can recollect experiences of coming across such professionals.

        Reply
  3. Pankaj Khandelwal

    April 22, 2018 03:53

    Totally agree… patience is the key…aligning self goal wrt to organisational focus will benefit in long run.

    Experienced the same….people mostly loose at last minute..

    Reply
  4. Amit Yadav

    April 22, 2018 04:38

    Very nice article & certainly learning provides depth, it’s important to also test these learnings for impact in real world which provides reassurance.

    Reply
  5. Priti

    April 22, 2018 04:40

    Thanks for sharing this insightful blog Vinod!

    Apart from personal will and commitment, what is equally important at the learning phase is to get a right mentor/s. Many of us struggle in learning phase itself as we lack guidance and direction.

    While in impact phase, most of us fall a prey of short term gains like money, position, title etc without caring that we have responsibility towards the organization and society at large.
    The bigger question is, how do we create those checks and balances in both the phases to record whether we are on the right path with right pace or are we driftig from our purpose?

    Reply
    • Vinodkrishna

      April 22, 2018 04:59

      Thanks for you comment Priti!
      Your observation is correct that decision making at times can be challenging. In my view there are two things one can do.
      1. Defining one’s purpose: This will take time to evolve, however given enough time for self reflection everyday or week, detaching yourself from day to day chaos may help you get there eventually.
      2. Associating yourself with right mentors: Mentors won’t seek us out. We have to seek them, find them and take advice. Multiple mentors will help you get different perspectives and help you develop independent thinking Vs associating with one mentor.
      Also you are never late in this journey and these phases are not equally divided, they overlap significantly as well.

      Reply
  6. Gaurav Patel

    April 22, 2018 04:51

    Very insightful post Vinod. I also believe that the right transition from the learning phase to the impact phase is critical for a successful professional career. The decisions made during this transition may have long term consequences. Moreover I doubt if one gets too many chances to make a successful transition to the impact phase.

    Reply
    • Vinodkrishna

      April 22, 2018 05:00

      Agree with you Gaurav and I believe as life is a journey of continuous learning, its never too late and you will keep getting chances as long as the purpose is clear and one is not fixated on the route to achieve it.

      Reply
  7. Gitesh

    April 22, 2018 04:58

    Hey Vinod !! Interesting perspective very succinctly penned . Yes we all go through this transition irrespective of role / designation etc. There is a point in professional or even in personal life where most look forward to create Impact for society at large by one way or other with help of knowledge acquired.

    Reply
  8. Sreekanth

    April 22, 2018 05:12

    Indeed,a true reflection of various phases a professional come across in his career ladder-the learning phase and impact phase.
    While everyone is enquistive to learn and continue what goes out during their tenure is the willingness to part their learnings unlike few which is evident from the number of mentors and mentee that we come across nowadays,may be the value preposition not being established and we run behind short term goals.
    How do we prioritise between our own requirements and pass our learnings to the society/colleagues in this fast phase of life is one thing we need to learn for ourselves as true leader.

    Reply
  9. Swapnil Sathe

    April 22, 2018 05:42

    Very good read for all the young people like us ! This will definately help us to go in right direction not only to succeed in professional life but also in personal life. Thank you Vinod Sir !

    Reply
  10. Amol Raul

    April 22, 2018 06:05

    Nicely put across vinod . The impact phase talks about how our skills could be used for larger good. It’s imp to live up to when the organisation trust you with higher responsibilities.
    Nice to read about the learning phase too. Truly this phase requires patience and focus. Need to really invest in yourself.
    I do feel at times you also need the right direction which truly your mentor can provide. It’s so much to do and learn but one should not end up with what and where to start. Of course mentor would play a role here. Fortunately at times exposure in new work assignment gives you good realisation where you need to improve 🙂

    Reply
  11. Rocky Mishra

    April 22, 2018 06:20

    Completely agree with you Vinod on the expect of Learnings which one acquire during his learning phase & utilise those to make an impact for his & organizational benefit!!
    Also purpose in life is something which is of utmost importance as that gives direction for future endeavours.
    Thanks once again for putting your thoughts so eloquently that every professional can relate to.
    Regards

    Reply
  12. Vishal Chaudhary

    April 22, 2018 07:30

    Hi Sir,
    Indeed it’s a great thought also thanks for sharing such a insightful blog. Which clearly shows our selection on learning & impact phase.

    Yes, a good mentor plays a major roletowrards in learning phase where today’s era this is very important to everyone to develop his/her carrer through good guidance & directions.

    Impact phase is to all about to understand our responsibilities towards the organisation with competences rather then to run for money, position etc.

    Reply
  13. Manoj Kumar

    April 22, 2018 15:04

    Thanks Vinod for the insightful blog on a subject that’s most widely discussed but least understood. As most of us just following the tail lights in our career progression or just allowing the wind to drag our sails.
    What I think is another crucial part of this subject is to identify the right moment when to take this decision of shift.

    Reply
  14. Abhishek Sharma

    April 24, 2018 16:11

    Thanks for sharing Sir!! This is really insightful & inspiring ..I feel most of the youngsters in their career trajectory are more focussed on creating an impact on what they do..on organisations, society etc , by which they believe of moving up the leadership ladder quickly..But, important is whether it is sustainable..I mean just focussing on creating an impact at a higher level without having attention to details or complete knowledge of the subject is actually dangerous in long run..Absolutely agree with you!!

    I believe Learning phase is like building the foundation..the more one devotes time on his learnings, better will be the foundation..And no Tower can stand tall until the foundation is strong..
    Thanks for sharing sir & request you to pls keep on sharing such insightful lessons for our exposure to your experiences..Thanks

    Reply
    • !nder

      April 25, 2018 16:01

      So simply explained, thanks for writing this blog. I think that in today’s VUCA world: learning, unlearning and then relearning New techniques continue during the impact phases as well. It’s a life cycle process. An unending cycle.

      Reply
  15. Premkumar Menon

    April 25, 2018 01:38

    When you start thinking of where your carrier is going is a critical time. I ahve seen many people who realise or start thinking at this stage that they are in the wrong side. These people tend to forget to look ahead and most of the time end up frustrated turning the situation worse.

    Well written article Vinod congratulations

    Reply

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