It was wonderful to engage with you at the BYLC Office of Professional Development (OPD) career development workshop on 20 May 2017. This is a historic time for you all. At this point in time, you stand ready at the brink of an exciting journey that will make you a professional and a career minded person. Please give yourself a big round of applause.
Through BYLC, you have interacted with each other for some time, you have developed a sense of camaraderie and you have built friendships. My earnest and humble request to all of you is to please hold on to this positive feeling throughout your journey, and never give in to professional rivalry or petty jealousies. Doing better than others should only motivate you to make others better, to support and to encourage and to reinforce positively.
Based on our conversation, I thought it would be helpful for you to have a little checklist you could refer to in your career and professional lives. These are all from my own personal experience and might be of benefit to you.
A few tips:
- You start small, so remember your beginnings and stay humble.
- Be willing to go the extra mile, don’t just be focused on your job description – that is the worst way to portray yourself and instantly limits you in the eyes of your managers. Do not think for once “what’s in it for me”.
- Make yourself invaluable to the office through your manner, your disposition, your approachability and most importantly, your expertise and knowledge. Try to make a difference. Always hold on to your sense of humour.
- Do by example and live your values.
- You will make mistakes – no one is perfect – but only use these mistakes as a learning experience and aim to do better next time. Have frank and open discussions with your team and your managers about the errors, discuss why these happened, and how you can avoid them in future. Never try to hide your mistakes. You will be found out and when that happens, your integrity will be questioned for not owning up in the first place.
- Always be disciplined – with your time, your efforts, your work and your communications.
- At all times, be honest – with yourself and with others around you.
- Give credit where it is due. You cannot achieve by yourself always – be sure to recognise those who have helped you achieve. This will benefit you in the long run as you will receive support whenever you need it.
- Get rid of your ego, even when you have attained higher levels in the organisation. Be respectful to everyone around you, starting from the office support staff to the highest level of the organisation.
- And when you have attained higher levels, ensure you also know the work of those under you so that you can guide them on improvements. If you don’t know what is being done wrong, you will not be able to correct it.
- You cannot predict today where you will be tomorrow. Opportunities come from unexpected places – don’t be afraid to pursue them and make use of opportunities. Step out of your comfort zone.
- Things will not work out to plan always. It is good to have a plan but always be prepared to improvise. Things may change suddenly but be prepared to embrace that change with a positive attitude. Do not think of change as something scary – it holds opportunities for you that you only need to be willing to explore.
- There will be adversities along your journey – please do not be discouraged because you can still make every effort to achieve in spite of difficulties. Your willpower, your positivity and your strength of mind is what will pull you through these difficult times. Count what you have, not what you don’t have.
- You will face many challenges. These can come from your co-workers, from your managers, from your sub-ordinates, and also from your personal life. Sometimes, these challenges can be simultaneous. Challenges can be extra workload, or multiple priorities, being asked to step in at higher levels, or dealing with difficult colleagues. At times, you may be so depressed, you will feel as if you need to drag yourself to work in the mornings. But meeting the challenges will give you a sense of achievement and worth and purpose. And once you have emerged victorious, there is no greater reward than having overcome adversity.
- Whatever is bothering you, do not let it fester. If there is an issue at work that is bothering you, if someone has said something mean to you, if someone is putting you down, perhaps a colleague, perhaps your supervisor, always engage in dialogue with that person. Do not be silent. It will always help to clear the air. It may be that the other person is completely unaware of the impact that their words or action has had upon you.
- And even after trying, repeatedly through dialogue to change the situation, it still has not changed, then think deeply about where you are and whether you still want to continue to subject yourself to that unhappiness. Life is too short and the world is a big place. Explore your boundaries. Don’t be afraid.
- Always be open to feedback – take it in a constructive manner – do not be defensive. Perhaps it is something in you that needs to be developed and improved within yourself that you were not aware of earlier. Perhaps you may have inadvertently made an offensive remark that you yourself are not aware of. Through dialogue, you will be able to uncover these issues. Even if you are of a non – confrontational nature, muster up the courage to go out and have that conversation. Ask for a meeting, go to a quiet place, and simply state the issue and the impact it has had on you. And then ask the other person what you can both do to improve the situation.
Preparing for the Job Market:
- Never let go of a learning opportunity –learning can come from all kinds of sources – from formal training, from peer learning, from work attachments, even from your juniors.
- Read up on the 70-20-10 Learning Model. The least amount of learning you will get is from a formal training session. And the most from learning on the job.
- A lot of professional learning opportunities out there – a lot of online reading you can do. Read up on biographies, decide on a role model and emulate the qualities you admire most.
- Even if you are waiting or your ideal job, do not let gaps appear on your resume. You can fill the time with learning opportunities – whether it is an apprenticeship, online learning, formal classes, voluntary service or even a language course – every single experience will add to your skills and will help you develop professionally through interaction with groups of people, or simply acquiring technical skills.
- Explore something that perhaps is not the usual, run-of-the mill learning, to give you an edge in the job market.
For those who want to explore career options in the development sector, you will find:
- A great working environment
- Especially in international organisations, you will find a value system that is expected of all staff and that is adhered to all by all staff – so it really enhances your daily experience to be surrounded by people who are respectful of you, irrespective of where you are in the hierarchy.
- Highly sensitised work environment that welcomes people with disabilities and are equipped to provide the required facilities to support such individuals.
What interviewers look for:
- Preparation: Be prepared for your interview. Read up on the organisation you are interviewing with, especially on any new initiatives or ventures being undertaken by the organisation. This tells your interviewers that you are organised in your approach.
- Effort: Dress appropriately, have some chocolate to boost yourself up. (Chocolates create endorphins the happy hormone and builds your confidence.)
- Excellent communication skills
- Domain knowledge
- Sense of humour
- Willingness to learn if you are just starting out
- Commitment to making a difference to the team you will join and how you will do that
- Emotional intelligence / sensitivity
- Ways of showing ability to deal with work pressures
I hope you find at least some of the above useful in some way, and that it helps and guides you in your journey.
I wish you the very best of luck.
Live with humility and shine.
The writer is Director- HROD & ICT, ActionAid Bangladesh