Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Tips to reach the top


An article in the latest issue of Himal Khabarpatrika talks about the mismatch between the supply side and the demand side of the job market in Kathmandu. Human resource professionals say there are plenty of jobs for the right candidates. But most applicants just do not know how to approach the job market in a manner that makes them a winner.

They submit CVs riddled with irrelevant information. Few know the importance of doing internships and of acquiring the right set of skills. Others never think about how to present themselves effectively at interviews. And most fail to persuade potential employers about a match between what they can do and the demands of a particular job. What's more, many cannot give reasons as to why they are the best candidates available. The result is that most applicants end up wasting their and others' time and money. When things go wrong they find it easy to blame their own failures on the supposed unfairness of 'source-force'.

If landing a job is difficult for most first-timers, maintaining an upwardly mobile career path is triply so for most jobholders. Unless your father owns the business, doing well in a career these days means subjecting yourself to fiercer competition for fewer top positions. In today's job market, an ability to remain progressively employable for much of one's working life has become a new skill in itself-something that's not as yet taught in Nepal's management schools. From what I have seen, most otherwise smart professionals repeatedly trip up in the career game and feel stuck for years in jobs they hate. Could they do something to be more strategic about their career path? The following observations might help.

I have noticed that most Nepali professionals think of careers and jobs as the same. They are not. You can have a job, even a series of jobs. But you may not have a career that puts you on the path to the top. Some people move from one job to another and are happy being serial employees. But if it's a career that you are looking for, then you first need to build up skills and knowledge in at least two niches in your field in which you can claim expertise. Being a generalist as in one who knows many things has its charms. But market pressures these days reward those who can show that they have mastered one or two things in depth at their present jobs and are ready to
move up.

Developing a deeper set of skills should naturally lead you to seek more challenges and more high-visibility assignments. This is where three additional 'softer issues' come into play to make or break your career. First, you need to start mapping out how you see your next two to four years evolving and what you need to deliver to stay on course. If that requires changing jobs or getting promoted, then you need to work toward those goals. Second, since no career develops in isolation, the challenge is to find someone senior and respected who can, based on your expertise and likeability, explain what is expected of you and champion you in the wider job market. I wouldn't underestimate the likeability factor. That's because most people enjoy working with competent people they like, not with jerks with a know-all attitude.

Finally, get plenty of feedback. True, giving and receiving feedback is not common in Nepal. That's because few people seek it, most get defensive when given and the practice of doling out meaninglessly airy praise is widespread. At the least, all feedback can be seen as data points, even if they are outliers, which contribute to a richer understanding of what your career graph is telling you. Viewed this way, getting the first job is relatively easy. The hard part is having a career that allows you to use your talents to the fullest and also enjoy the work.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)