If you are on the threshold of getting into your first job, be clear about one thing: your education doesn’t really matter too much. Sure, we all hear these stories about graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) getting stupendous salaries. But there is another side to the coin. There are hundreds of IITians (IIM graduates don’t have it so bad) who, after 20 years of experience, are drawing salaries that a BPO employee with two years under her belt would sneer at. There are many more of them vegetating at their own institutes because they couldn’t get a job worth taking. Where the IITs and IIMs help in life is in networking. But if you are the wrong sort, you probably didn’t network while at these institutes anyway.
Of course, this doesn’t apply across the board. Some jobs need special skills. You can’t become a nuclear scientist after having qualified in geography or a doctor after history. But there are several doctors and geographers in other professions, journalism for instance.
Today, for the people who are really upwardly mobile, the job you take up first also doesn’t seem to matter very much. Yes, it’s good to join a growing concern which is also rated as one of the best employers. Then you can stay on and rise through the ranks. But if you have made a mistake, you can easily job hop your way out of that corner. These days recruiters for the middle level feel a certain amount of job hopping is necessary; corporate loyalty equates stick-in-the-mud.
Yet you need to chart your way to the top. The emerging reality is that if you want to become a CEO one day, you should have an exposure to a variety of disciplines. Some companies, like Asian Paints, make it easy for you. They shuffle you around several areas early on in your career. Others give you that opportunity at a later stage. But in most places you have to make a nuisance of yourself before you are moved.
Traditionally, the road to the corner office has been through the marketing function. In India, it still is (see chart). But it is becoming evident that if you add, say, finance to marketing and top it up with HR, you have a far greater chance of reaching the top.
According to the Chief Executive magazine, which surveys the route to the corner office every year, “more and more of the people now running S&P 500 companies have worn a colourful collection of hats over the course of their careers. They jump between functions, companies and global locations. They seed start ups and mastermind mergers. Even the “lifers” who spend decades at one organisation are likely to have held half-a-dozen different jobs within it”.
In 1995, the magazine had conducted a similar study. The major findings were: “Today’s CEO knows more about technical matters than number crunching and he or she may know a thing or two about operations.” Finance and administration as CEO background was out. (Can you see a bean counter selling soap successfully') The lawyers were out of the running for the top job. Today, however, wannabe CEOs are adding a legal degree to their MBA or other qualifications.
“Cut all the cackle and what do you find'” asks Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. “The CEO needs to be an expert in a host of areas. Being tech-friendly leads the list.”
Are we then getting back to the specialist vs generalist debate' “Not at all,” says Singh. “What you need today is half a dozen specialists rolled into one.” If that’s what it takes, would anybody other than megalomaniacs want to be CEOs' Ask your own CEO. But keep your resignation letter handy.
MARKET pulse (%)
In the new economy, a CEO is more likely to emerge from:
Source: Ma Foi Consultants