A toolkit for finding a job and holding it in the new normal

The COVID-19 crisis is increasingly seen as the birth pangs of a new work context, one marked by outcome-based work models, more flexible terms of employment; and more distributed workplaces and teams.

It is a scenario where besides the goalposts being moved, the turf has been replaced, and the rules of play rewritten, and the players have to undergo more than reskilling. A high level of reorientation in terms of attitude is required, whether the professional is in full-time employment or gigging.

Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-founder and Executive Vice-President, TeamLease, a staffing and human resource services provider, explains what this career re-orientation would mean to professionals across industries.

1. Fungibility: Being ready for all 'formats'

Rituparna points out that everyone has to create themselves in such a manner that they are relevant across functions, and this ability would help them fit into at least one other related industry, and if they were to migrate to it, they should be able to hit the ground running. Rituparna says, “We have grown up in a social system that boxes us into an inviting and cosy corner called specialisation. We are asked to be a specialist, but specialisation should not be at the cost of wider relevance, and more than ever before, it is necessary for every professional to bring out skill-sets that can also be used outside of his area of specialisation. The professional has to own those skills,” she explains.

To get an easy sense of what fungibility means in terms of people and their skills, let’s turn to cricket with its notion of “multiple-format players” who can be slotted into every category of the sport — Test cricket, one-day internationals and T20, though the three demand varying skills, fitness levels and game plans. Just like cricketers at home in all possible categories — M.S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli being ready examples springing to mind — professionals with transferable skills who can acquit themselves creditably in multiple functions will enjoy more visibility and career stability in the new work context.

2. Coding: It is not just for techies

Unproductive, repetitive work doesn’t get a professional anywhere, certainly not too far. However, what is called unproductive work has its place and is there to serve a practical purpose, and professionals should learn how to keep it running on auto pilot.

“Professionals should be able to create codes, algorithms that would take care of the repetitive tasks that fall into an easy pattern, so that they are able to free up time for the more critical and creative tasks on hand. Writing codes is not difficult. There are resources online to pick up coding skills. There are workflows in our life and profession, and coding helps systematise these workflows by making certain processes faster. If there is a particular kind of information I look for often, I can write a code that would enable me to access it faster. If there is any function with a high degree of predictability and repetitiveness, why not create a code for it?” says Rituparna. “Coding skills improve self-productivity and the productivity of those around you. It can help one’s organisation become lean. When I can run my business with 10 people, why do I need 100? By having this skill, professionals will be making themselves more resilient.”

3. Commitment: Its relevance in a ‘gigging’ world

Skills without the ability to consistently deliver on the dotted line and meet the expected and promised quality standards would amount to a hill of beans in the new normal.

“The gig economy works on a stringent rating system. Why do we choose a Uber driver with a rating of 4.7 plus? Simply because the driver has a proven track record that he consistently meets customer’s expectations,” says Rituparna.

In the new work context, professionals will have to have the deliverables clearly defined, and when the targets are fixed, they have to deliver on counts of accuracy, quality and quantity of work or any other parameter that would have been agreed upon, elaborates Rituparna. Professionals therefore have to also be careful about what they commit themselves to. In India, the gig-economy it yet to manifest itself noticeably where high-skilled work is concerned, and when it does, it would not be unrealistic to expect a rating system for such professionals to show up.

4. Flexibility: It can be a deal-clincher

Having a “gigging” mindset will provide any professional with a distinct edge over the competition. It is an attitude of openness towards work and what it may bring along with it, says Rituparna.

“It is about being flexible and open to whatever form work comes in — whether as third-party gig work, or a project contract or a permanent job. It is also necessary to offer the employer a degree of flexibility in terms of how much you would want to be paid for your work,” says Rituparna. The gig market will be crowded, with employers having a wider and packed quiver to pick talent from, and in this environment flexibility on the part of the gig worker can be a deal-clincher, when all other factors are equal.

5. Agility: What action-bias can do for you

Agility has always been a cherished quality, but organisational agility has never been so ruthlessly put to test as now. And the demand is only going to get more intense in the new work context. There are various aspects to improving agility in an organisation: Teams being lean and enough powers being devolved to them through an in-built culture of decentralised functioning. Though these systems form a framework, a culture of agility is sustained by individuals constituting a team.

“Professionals have to exhibit an action-bias,” says Rituparna, adding that a professional is capable of the right action by being responsive to what is happening around them.

“This is a skill not many possess, and the older a professional gets, the greater the tendency to respond to situations out of previously-encountered patterns, which can slow down their response to those challenges that are novel,” continues Rituparna, adding that this however need not be a handicap as long as professionals are aware of it, and develop a culture of learning. Agility can be fostered through the more general quality of learnability, and by responding to the challenges of the modern world, which is largely about being digitally literate.

6. Adaptability: The power to beat the odds

During this ongoing crisis, some of the mom-and-pop stores with a strong hyperlocal imprint that had built great loyalty by virtue of sustained in-person contacts were out of their depth when contact-less money transactions were sought after. Omni-channel business strategies are now being recommended aggressively for even SMEs, as it increases their reach. As individuals, professionals are also being challenged to develop a presence across channels. Rituparna says the ability to adapt to various new media that emerge on the horizon will be a key differentiator. Being present in various digital platforms is viewed as a mark of professionalism, and so, irrespective of their fields, they need to work on building this presence. The COVID-19 crisis has led people and businesses to navigate the digital space with aplomb, and professional discussions over digital platforms will become more commonplace even in a post-pandemic business world.

7. Ambiguity: It’s about how you handle it

Rituparna lists the ability to handle ambiguity as another differentiator. How do you define this ability? It is about soldiering on down a road paved with uncertainty. The business environment of the future is going to display considerable unpredictability, and in this situation, the ability to make the most of whatever the situation offers you will be a decisive factor, Rituparna explains and goes on to illustrate it: “The jugaad culture that Indians exemplify is clearly a manifestation of the ability to make the most of what the situation offers you.”

Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:23:15 AM |

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