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This story should have been called “It’s All in the Family”. The kind of organisation you join makes a significant difference to your outlook and your career. In India today, every organisation claims it is “professionally managed” but this may not always be true.

Rohan is a senior executive who consulted me about a career change some years ago. As often happens, he was not actively seeking a change but a headhunting firm approached him saying that they had an opportunity with a great compensation package and challenges. It was in a very large organisation traditionally run by members of the founding family. It did, however, have many professional managers in their ranks, many having been inducted in the last decade or so.

I advised Rohan to check the organisation structure, particularly from some one within the organisation. Often structures displayed to the public and potential employees are misleading because structures don’t reflect personalities. I also asked him to check the “political” environment in the organisation since politics cannot be wished away in any organisation.

I think the title, the promised compensation package and some smooth selling by the headhunter did the trick. Rohan told me that he would like to give it a shot. He had age in his favour, he argued and even if things went sour, he still had a long way to go. I told him it was his decision though I wouldn’t have taken up the offer myself had I been in his shoes. He kept in touch briefly after he made the change and very little was heard of him after the initial few months.

Last month he came to see me. As we chatted I noticed the many changes in him. Gone were the vibrancy and urgency in his talk and actions. He seemed dull, “given up” and unsure. The couple of years in that organisation had taken away his spirit and independent thinking. He told me he had resigned without a job in hand since he could not stay there any longer. He had two months time to look for another job.

A few lessons in making a choice. Look before you leap!

  • Research the organisation very thoroughly
  • Don’t be taken in by elements like compensation or title alone
  • Check cultural compatibility
  • Don’t be misguided by “external” structures. Look for the power equations within
  • Be clear what you want from your career. What matters most to you.
  • Don’t be suckered by flattery to accept a position which is really not for you

Yes, Rohan has age in his favour. He has a good record. Surely, he will get a good job elsewhere but only he can speak of the agony of the last few years. The humiliation. The frustration. The constant feeling of regret. The visible decline of his capabilities.

He will of course get another job but he will never be the same man again.

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This is the 94 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.