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New job? Look before you leap!
Divakar Kaza, Outlook Money
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April 04, 2008

How often has a 20- or 30-something in a brand new car working in the new economy whizzed past you while you were on your way to work in a bus? It sinks into you slowly. Was it a car that overtook you or was it life itself?

For most professionals in their late 30s and early 40s, who made their career choices before liberalisation started (pre-1991), the sweeping changes in the employment market must be heady.

Industries that didn't exist before - telecom, retail, insurance, BPO, animation - and jobs which we had never heard of - activation experts, merchandisers, insurance advisors, accent and soft skill trainers - are the order of the day. The common themes are: rapid growth/high salaries/responsibility/frequent overseas travel. In essence, a Young India riding the crest of opportunity.

The question playing on the minds of those in the slow coach economy (think manufacturing/PSUs, nationalised banks) is: do we let these opportunities pass by or do we also find ways of jumping onto the gravy train?

The large number of jobs being created coupled with lack of talent to tap into, is making the sunrise economy welcome professionals from other industries with open arms. Before jumping onto to this opportunity called 'New India', it is worthwhile to look at industry characteristics ... being forewarned is forearmed!

Most of these jobs are 24x7x365. Advisors of new age insurance companies meet customers in their homes and at their convenience - mostly late evenings (and after dinner, if you please!) or over weekends. So there goes your favourite TV programme that you were following so keenly.

The majority of workers in the BPO sector sleep through the day and work through the night (euphemistically called: aligning to client's geography!).

Products change, get upgraded, old products/services get dropped, new ones get introduced, operations get closed, merged or restructured at double speed - all due to market dynamics.

These are accompanied with relocation, venturing into unknown territories, classroom sessions for reskilling (by young trainers in their late 20s), quizzes, grading and also, possibly, failing at times. Be prepared for continuous learning.

The question you should ask yourself is: "Do I thrive in a situation like this and see opportunity, or does it unnerve me?"

Your supervisors will be young and the peer group younger. Your experience of 20 years could be seen not as 'wisdom' but as 'baggage' and what will matter will be your performance in the last three quarters. There would be hungrier minds and fitter colleagues competing with higher levels of energy and ambition.

The BPO client wants you in Boston (or wherever it is based) and if you are lucky you get a week's notice. Otherwise it is 48 hours. You will need the stoicism of a Buddhist monk to take this in your stride. Frequent and unexpected travel is de rigueur.

So where does it leave the pre-liberalisation rookie now cooling his middle management heels in the old economy? Does he or she let the gravy train pass by or hop on?

There are no clear answers. You need to evaluate both the downsides and the upsides and balance your personal needs and priorities, and only then take the plunge. And remember, most of the new economy companies have been built by stalwarts from brick and mortar businesses.

The requirements of the new economy - process knowledge, building scalable systems, people management, running a well-oiled transaction factory - involve skills that the old economy has taught you to perfection. So what are you waiting for?

The author is a strategic HR consultant and practising executive coach.

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