How to be street-smart in being ahead of learning curves

Being street-smart is not only applicable to entrepreneurs. It is also applicable to professionals. From sheer common sense to applying thought to any situation, professionals do stand out. They implement strategies and are ahead of the learning curves in their professional domains. This article deals with certain aspects of such street-smart moves.


The process of being street-smart is an urgent imperative in these tough times. Those who are already into some job can feel relatively safe if their companies decide not to disturb them. At least, they can hang on to secure jobs. This will include bankers, chartered accountants, professional doctors, design specialists, and so on.

The process of being street-smart is applicable to them too. However, those who are in the early stages of their careers have to be necessarily street-smart, so that they are ahead of others in the rat race and are into domains that cannot be reached by anyone. Given the current state of the market, it does pay to a) Work in highly specialized domains b) Spend money on multi-skilling c) Milk all international opportunities d) Shift to jobs with multi-faceted roles and e) Never stop learning.

Work in highly specialized domains

Take the case of Suresh (name changed) who now works in a job in the hospital software sector. He used to work in the banking domain earlier. When he got a job through a reference, he chose this sector, as the competition is less and the chances of specialization and growth are far better. This happened in the pre-COVID phase. Today, since the advanced West is also affected by the virus, the scope of his special skills has increased manifold and he took very seriously every opportunity to learn. Today, he is just 28 but leads a team of six professionals. They all work from home now, but their productivity is always high. Their jobs are safe.

If there is any slot like this, you should milk that. Do not be bogged down by the COVID virus scare. Become street-smart, right now.

Spend money on multi-skilling

Ramesh ( name changed) was an HR Manager with a famous Chennai-based auto component organization. He quit and joined the food sector. Here, he reported straight to the Top Management and brought in some good innovations. He introduced quality circles. The Management saw the results and sponsored him to Japan for advanced training. Today, even with reduced manpower, two of the plants have obtained permission to re-start. He has also perfected the art of counseling on a practical basis. The workmen were paid full wages and the Management took a long-term view to not sack a single employee. The reserves of the company are always good. Multi-skilling is the name of the game. It is not just experience. It is a meaningful experience. For instance, Ramesh is now a well-known expert in Quality Circles and he is the internal consultant who heads the initiative in all the plants.

The Management is keen to take over a sick plant in another part of the State, where the district is classified as "green". Hence, the HR Manager has been able to convince Management at the right time. When the normal times are back, the organization is keen on exports in a big way. He had also spent his own money in completing the Executive MBA from a good private B school in Chennai, two years ago. Today, he has become an indispensable part of the Management and he has considerable say in influencing the Management. The owner-manager ( son of the Chairman and Managing Director) was also educated abroad and this is a big plus for Ramesh. Only when you are multi-skilled, you can remain on top of the learning curve. You just cannot talk about "practical" problems anymore. Every situation, every opportunity for trying new management concepts is part and parcel of a good learning process, worldwide. If you need to spend your own money to equip yourself, so be it.

Milk all international opportunities

In the post-COVID phase, the action is likely to be back. Contrary to all public perception, the cost-cutting measures will not be there for a long time. Already, the scope of new industries coming to India, from China, is good. If that happens, the scope for professionals with additional skills will increase and not decrease.

For instance, those who are in Finance, need to equip themselves with the nuances of international finance, in a changed scenario. This is likely to happen in late 2021 when the virus will he history. The international companies will also seek to understand the nuances of the Indian market and the Indian companies like Havells will start exploiting every single opportunity to simply take over the overseas companies in the Western markets. They might even shift their attention to the African countries for possible take over targets. Those who are skilled with adequate exposure will be urgently needed. Anywhere in the world.

For example, there is this case of a Deputy Manager with a good conglomerate. He has had a good experience in all aspects of manufacturing plant finance and cash flow management. He has also had around two years of experience in Corporate Finance, in the pre-COVID phase. Even now, he has been given work from home and have been asked to come out with innovative solutions to manage the emerging situations. The plant is expected to resume production after the 20th of May 2020, and he is sure that the export orders will revive the company. He has been widely appreciated for the good suggestions to make and are appreciated by the Management.

He also has personal relationships with the Top Management and they have attended all your family functions. He has been given exposure to the financial management of all plants of the company abroad, particularly, those in Oman. A headhunter had already talked to him earlier and he is still in touch. He wants him to join as Senior Manager ( Finance) with a big conglomerate, headquartered in Dubai. This conglomerate is cash-rich and they are also into trading of spices and businesses that fetch them good profits. He still has this offer and he has asked them time till September 2020. You have to now decide.

What will this young man do? The aforesaid case is not hypothetical. It is real. The person concerned is confused. He wants my advice. I have already asked him to quit. He is just 35 and has had good luck with this job. He is only an inter ICWA by qualification. His chances for global exposure, after the virus scare is gone, is too good. Yes, he would find it difficult to convince his Management, but loyalty also has limits. It is a dog-eat-dog world and we also need to draw our own lines to go ahead. Learning opportunities can only occur now. CBSE schools are also there in Dubai. His wife, who is a banker is ready to quit her job here and take up any job in Dubai. She is likely to be offered a job in the same conglomerate.

Shift to jobs with multi-faceted roles

Those who have certified qualifications in administering psychometric tests and executive coaching, are always in demand. Even today, some are doing the job online. The candidates are being administered such tests online and the job of interpreting the results is left to the professionals. Those who have experience in corporate roles are also experts in this field. They keep on specializing in one field after another. They are professionals in their own right and many of them are consultants on their own, even by the age of fifty. They have wide respect across industries, for their special skills. This is exactly what you should do in any given situation. After the industrial organizations are back in action, only those with these kinds of skills will be ahead of the learning curve.

Never stop learning

Skills and competencies are more important than mere salary. Those who have made career moves based only on the basis of an increased salary have found to their dismay that they are out of the rat race. There is always someone who is better skilled, as he had made smart career moves. Even this is a learning experience.

However, the scope of learning in any situation is huge. For example, if an organization is certified in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), one fact that is clear is that the knowledge will simply float around. While phot-copying any technical matter is a crime, learning the background of whatever change has happened and the process involved is a learning experience that can be stored in your brain and transferred to your personal computer. If you are mandated to carry out any change, you can jolly well document all the learning in the process. This is never a crime.

Such learning opportunities abound and you just need to look around for whatever is applicable to you. If you take the easy route of just doing your job, you are sure to be doomed forever.


Based on my personal experience of having observed change processes and the learning curves of some professionals, some simple ways of staying ahead of the learning curves, have been discussed in some detail. The steps are merely indicative. There is a lot of scope for innovation as one goes along.

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao12 May 2020 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

A Science and mathematics teacher will get more students for tuitions and hence they can earn more money whereas social subjects teacher may not get so many students for tuitions. The specialised skills are very important for a professional to be street smart.

A person who is having experience in a particular field for many years may acquire in-depth knowledge in that field and will become an expert in that field and people will start looking at him when there are problems. As you go on to the top of your expertise in that field, it will come handy for you on many occasions.

Persons who are having multiskills will have better chances for a good career as organisations look for people who have multi-skills. I have seen people taking up more works at a time and planning the works in such a way that all the works can be completed as planned without any problem. Such people will have many chances in the market and can dictate terms to employers.

So one should have multitasking abilities, multiskills and specialised experience and expertise in a particular area to be preferred in the competitive world today.

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