Introduction Mr. Swamy (name changed) was an ordinary junior assistant in the HR department in a bulk drug organization. He would volunteer to do work of any sort and learned everything about PF and ESI. He had the habit of building personal relationships with family members of employees at all levels. This became clear when he would volunteer to do all work in any marriage and also sing a few songs in such marriages. He was a good all-rounder and had the cell numbers of all service producers. He had good relationships with these people as his brother worked as a Manager with the United Assurance Company Limited and he would visit the homes of customers with his brother. Gradually, even senior managers would call him and entrust him with responsibilities outside work.
Mr. Swamy was too good at Tamil but zero in English. He would not even be able to write out his own leave letter. Yet, he was able to learn all PF rules and service any employee. Even the bosses at the Corporate Office liked him so much as he would organize all parties in the company guest house and co-ordinate everything. One senior manager's wife, who was a good teacher of English volunteered to teach him English. He was able to learn basic English quite fast.
Mr. Swamy is a typical example of an ordinary position who built a unique position for himself. When he combined hard work with integrity, he was able to see a new meaning in life. Encouraged by his wife in later years, he joined a local orchestra and did exceedingly well. He became a talented singer in his own right. It turns out that building a unique position involves a) Enlarging the scope of our influence b) Making constant efforts to improve at work c) Making a habit of improving on special skills d) Developing good inter-personal relationships everywhere and e) Making constant reviews of actions taken.
Enlarging the scope of our influence When we look around us, we would notice that Mr. Swamy was not alone at all. There are many who do such things. There are those who influence small groups to take up environment-related activities. Collecting plastic and disposing of them is now commonly seen. There are many who are learning new skills like Yoga or astrology or whatever and most do not commercialize such skills. Their happiness comes relating to others. By making themselves useful to others. The relationship building with the wider society happens when such possibilities open up or when we engage in some social work that is possible within our means. These are all some possibilities. Teaching slum children free of cost, adult education and such other activities can also give us good happiness and an useful diversion to whatever we do in our official lives.
Making constant efforts to improve output and contribution at work We will be building a unique position for ourselves if we are counted as ones who can be consulted and trusted to take on additional responsibilities. Such responsibilities can relieve us of all tension. In this connection, any value-addition made in terms of cost-reduction or implementation of an innovative idea can work wonders. Management simply takes notice. The individual starts making continuous improvements as a matter of routine. There are too many examples of such people to learn lessons from. In fact, there are pro-active workmen who constantly exhibit leadership qualities. Such employees go far beyond their normal call of duty. If one is a supervisor or an executive, there will be any number of opportunities to recognize such people in a small way. Once done, such recognition will only reinforce such behaviors and actions. The unique positions get multiplied all over and this will be a big benefit to the organization.
Making a habit of improving on special skills Acquiring additional skill-sets is no more a choice but an urgent imperative. Such skills can be obtained on a part-time basis and even through week-end courses.
Look around and count the number of guys who resign their jobs or take a sabbatical and do the MBA from the IIMs or the Indian School of Business (ISB) at the age of 40. The numbers are increasing every day. There are many who enroll themselves for the Executive MBA, without quitting their jobs. Senior-level executives in HR spend as much as four hundred thousand rupees to do a special course in Executive Coaching. Once they get the certification, they are professionals who keep on guiding and coaching CEOs. There are too many who have started doing this with a passion like never before.
The specialized courses available in Capital Markets at Mumbai, through the institute run by the UTI, is a classic example. There are specialization courses in supply chain management conducted by the Indian Institute of Materials Management, Baroda. There are specialized courses in Total Quality Management and Total Productive Maintenance. There are specialized courses in Six Sigma. Of late, the range of specialized courses is increasing day after day. Organizations such as TimesNow are conducting special courses in Banking and Online Marketing. Those who do such courses get good jobs and with experience, they can transition to the senior level roles. Every individual has to spend some money on his own to pick up the special skills. For example, there are some NITs that have introduced special courses in Machine learning. Pick them up if you want to remain relevant. The rules of the game are changing everywhere. Simply said, regular employment is history. Employability, with a basket of skills, is the new game.
Developing good inter-personal relationships everywhereExtremely good inter-personal relationships can go a long way in building a unique position at any point in time. Care should be taken that we relate to persons of high integrity. It is not wise to rope in Tom, Dick, and Harry in any group for the sake of numbers. Such an approach can prove to be dangerous. It is high time that we start understanding the true value of good interpersonal relationships at home, at the office and in the wider society. There is no need to develop such relationships far beyond the immediate neighborhood, which will be within our control. We can improve on such relationships as we go along. Facebook and Twitter can be used judiciously. However, since the chances of misuse are high, it is unwise to depend too much on these tools.
Making constant reviews of actions taken The Japanese refer to the of a common-sense technique called the PDCA. This simply means that we plan, do, check and act. This is called the PDCA cycle, made popular by the Quality guru called Deming. it was sad that Deming was not recognized in his home country, the USA. However, the Japanese lapped up every bit of what he taught on quality. The rest is history.
We can practice the PDCA in our own unique way. Let us say, an individual is an MBA in Marketing from an ordinary institute. Armed with a fire in the belly, the individual had grown from scratch and is now a Senior Executive in a Chennai-based FMCG organization. He has planned, he has acted and when he checks where he stands, he finds that his contemporaries are all armed with an Executive MBA. The review that comes in the "Check" phase of the PDCA cycle reminds him and rings a bell in him. He wanted to do the Executive MBA on the weekends and signed up with the ITM, Chennai which runs the program.
This is just one example. The ordinary MBA from an arts and science college of Coimbatore is now placed with the Asian Paints. He has done his homework carefully and is raring to go. This is what can happen when we constantly review our actions. His standing among family members is now far better. Cousins from the IIMs would chide him calling him "half-baked". He took all such insults in his stride and is today poised to do well in his new role. Wherever we are and whatever we do, a review of our actions is a sure step to succeed in a complex world where skills and technologies are becoming obsolete day after day.
We are now facing a big slowdown as well, as people do not have the purchasing power that they had some years ago. This is one important reason for us to be more active than ever before. Building a unique position for ourselves is a big art that needs perfection at every stage.
ConclusionBased on some real-world examples that this author is aware of and was actually a part of the change process, some ideas have been discussed above on how to build a unique position. These ideas are only indicative. They are not exhaustive. We can always think of some better ways to do whatever we are doing in this direction.
True. Everybody will not have all the chances to learn and start their career at a higher level. But one should be optimistic and he should try himself hard to be unique.
In my previous organisation, there was a worker. He completed his ITI and joined the organisation as a fitter. He was a very skilled worker and he used to understand the skill required for doing work easily and precisely. I noticed the special characteristics he had and shifted him to a special section where a lot of innovation and new thinking was required. He started learning and working. I the meanwhile he completed his diploma. He did CAD and CAM. Now he started supervising the works and while trying to get the work done by his subordinates he used to concentrate on some other important works. He got the recognition and he was promoted as an officer. As an officer, he did extremely well and simultaneously completed his AMIE. With his qualification and experience, he was selected to a post of Works Manager in another company. Now he is drawing around one lakh per month. Company has provided him with a car and house for stay. All this journey took place in 12 years and he is unique in his life.
This is mainly due to the dedication and focussed approach to achieve his goal. I have seen many employees who will just come to work and then leave. But only a few people will be inclined to learn.