A few months back, I was invited as the Guest on the LinkedIn Live show run by Naishadh Gadani, the founder of YourCareerDownunder from Australia. During this show, he interviewed me on how professionals should navigate their careers during the tough times we are going through.
In this interview, I share my strategies, ideas, and tools for professionals to take charge of their careers and tackle challenging times effectively.
Hope you like the conversation and get some useful ideas.
Naishadh: Hello everyone. Good morning, good afternoon or good evening wherever you are tuning in to see this LinkedIn live, a special LinkedIn live on a weekend. My name is Naishadh Gadani and I’m the founder of ‘Your Career Down Under’. I am originally from India, migrated to Australia around 12-13 years back but as of now I’m back in India. I am under or me and my family are under complete lockdown due to the COVID-19 situation and we are slowly finding how do we get back to our adopted home? And since the time that I’ve come here the world has turned absolutely upside-down. Thousands to thousands of people have lost job. There is absolutely mayhem out there in terms of employment. Just in Australia, we have seen three quarters of a million people have lost or will lose the job. These numbers are absolutely mind-numbing and since last five weeks me and my friend and colleague started to do LinkedIn lives and we have not missed any weekdays. But today being an Anzac day and weekend she wanted to take a break and I wanted to continue our tradition of delivering career care package to your LinkedIn stream. So, what is career care package? It is our LinkedIn live event where we bring new ideas, perspectives and also experts to deliver hope to you. Because I think that in this time what is needed is a voice of reason and voice of hope. So, that’s what we are trying to do. So, without further to go into a lot of details about the career care package, I wanted to introduce you to our guest and expert today- Hemant Deshpande. Hemant is in Pune, India which is the western part of India and Hemant brings a wealth of experience. He has been into IT industry for a longtime and then he himself have undergone career transition and now he helps people to go through similar challenges. So, without me telling about Hemant. So, Hemant if you can tell our listeners a little bit about your background and specifically how did you and why did you decide to make a career change?
Hemant: Sure Naishadh. So, I’m an engineer by qualification. I graduated more than twenty three years back and I started into the IT industry which was growing very fast at that point in time. So, I joined the IT industry. I worked in the IT industry for 18 years. I was really fortunate to work with some of the top-class companies in the world such as IBM, Infosys and others. During this 18 years of my career, I was also lucky, really fortunate to work across the globe. I worked in the US for about five to six years across different locations for different clients. I also got opportunity to work in Europe. I worked in China for a year that was a very interesting, very enriching experience for me .So, after working in the corporate for 18 years, you know, out of that about 10-12years as a manager, as a leader something inside of me started telling me that, hey, you know what? Now, it’s time to start looking at you know something new and something, so, this thought started becoming stronger in my mind that I wanted to follow my heart. So, I started looking at what is it that I want to do and that’s where really the career transition journey started. So, that was back in 2013-2014 and I left my corporate job Naishadh after taking a six month sabbatical and since then for the last more than five years now I am working as a career transformation coach, mid-career transformation coach. As, you rightly said Naishadh that after transitioning into a new career where I’m really excited to do this work which I have been doing for the last five years, I was really clear that there are many, there are thousands of professionals out there who want to follow their heart and they want to transition their careers to what they would love to do. So that’s the work that I do now, and I’m really happy to share with you Naishadh that in the last five years I really got this fantastic opportunity to serve almost close to 200 clients on their career transformation journeys. So, that’s what I’m doing.
Naishadh: That’s really awesome and I think people do find their calling, you know, somewhere and I think it is also important because people do find their calling most of the time. I have a theory that deep down we always want always know what we want to doubt it takes a while for us to acknowledge the presence of it and then act on it. And there’s nothing wrong with it. You can act on it when you are 50 years, 60 years. It doesn’t matter because career is no longer a predictable journey. It is unpredictable uncertain and fluid journey as I like to call it. But I think if you can focus on the career you know change and career transformation. Are you seeing a trend that, you know, as is what a lot of people say is that when you hit around 40’s that’s where you hit your crisis around career, that’s what you start to figure out? I’ve worked for 15-20 years, I don’t know whether I want to continue this, I want to do something else. Are you seeing that people are starting to hit those crises? Crisis is probably not the right word but enlightenment or you know, starting to figure out what they want to do. Is it happening around 40’s or is it also happening before that as well?
Hemant: Yeah Naishadh, that’s a great question. I must say that’s a great question and I will also touch upon what you said earlier that all of us have within us that yearning to follow our heart. Yes, but as we you know many of us start our journeys, we do not have many choices. So, we start with whatever is available at that point in time and I can speak for myself. I became an engineer because all my friends, my close friends became engineers. I became engineer, right. I did not really know at that young age that, if engineering is something that I wanted to do. Yeah, but I did that. So, then over the period of time, over that journey after 18 years I realized when I was close to forties, then I had seen enough of the world, I had seen a career of 18 years. I had worked in different roles. I had worked in different organizations. I had worked in different countries and that journey also started making me or bringing me closer to myself what I wanted to do in that journey. So coming to your question specifically do I see a pattern in that. Yes, I see a pattern starting with myself right. That at the age of 40, I started asking this question to myself that going through the corporate job, doing that there were certain advantages and there were certain realities of life as we call it, right. So, work satisfaction, monotony of work, stress at work, work life balances these things were missing for me at that point in time and then I started asking myself this question that is this really worth it. And, there is a quote Naishadh, I would like to share with you and all our audience here that there is a quote which had a profound impact on me. The quote goes like this, we all have two lives…we all have two lives, the second one starts, when we realize, we only have one. I think that is what happened.
Naishadh: That’s very profound.
Naishadh: Absolutely that’s a very profound way to think about career. So, if we just you know, talk because now, we are talking career transition in COVID-19 times which is not a traditional life right now, you know, we are seeing lockdowns. We are seeing a lot of industries being impacted and everything. So, what are your thoughts on the current employment challenges and I’m pretty sure that the people out there are facing tremendous pressure to continue to enjoy the financial security that they’ve always enjoyed. Now things have started to get shaken up a little bit. So, what are your thoughts on as of now as you talk to your clients and the industry out there, what are, you know, specifically in the context of Indian employment challenges, what are you observing Hemant?
Hemant: Sure, so of course the situation that we are in currently because of the COVID-19, the pandemic across the globe. This is something unprecedented. This is something that this kind of challenge we have not seen for a long time. At least in my life time I have not seen this kind of a challenge. Now, having said that we are living in uncertain times, having said that the world because of globalization and because of internet technology that is available, has had started becoming more competitive anyway even before COVID-19 happened. It had started becoming connected. It also meant that it had started becoming more competitive for example, if I have certain job to get done for example, build my website, I can hire any consultant from anywhere in the world today. So, it has become competitive. So, that’s one thing to look at. Secondly, there are also challenges which are based on geography. So, in India for example; if we see India as a country, we are a country of a large young population. There are thousands maybe millions of graduates which are coming out of colleges and who are seeking jobs. That automatically creates pressure on people who are already in their jobs maybe who have crossed 40, maybe who have crossed 50. So, that was that is also a reality which was already there even before COVID-19. Also, there are industry specific realities such as, you know, in India for example telecom industry has been undergoing some difficult times. There has been a lot of consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions happening. Same thing is true for IT industry which was growing very fast, 10 years, 15 years back, 20 years back. No more the growth has slowed down. So, there are industry-specific realities also. Now, coming to COVID-19 which is the current situation that we are indefinitely, this is unprecedented and it will create, it has created that kind of a challenge for all of us. During this time what is it that, the external situation unfortunately we all know that we cannot change that but what we can, what we can look at, what we can focus on is who am I as an individual, who am I as a professional? This is Naishadh that I think is the best time also to introspect, retrospect also to reflect back on what I have done in my career? What are my best skills? What is it that I want to do next in my career? This is a time to take stock. A lot of times I have seen Naishadh that we do not get time in our busy lives to pause and review our life and our careers. This is the best time. This gives us time to think about what we are really great at. What are the skills that we bring to the table? So, you know keeping a positive outlook, so that is what I would share.
Naishadh: Excellent. So, let’s start with the, you know, because a lot of people might be thinking as you rightly pointed out this is the time to reflect. And we’ve been talking about this particular issue for last five weeks. So, a lot of people are starting to or started to realize that maybe it’s time for me to look at where else can I change my career. What are your, what’s your process, you know, so if you give us a kind of an overview of your process, where somebody should start to do the first step, second step, third step because I think taking the first step in my view is the most difficult part. It’s like you are taking that leap of faith into the unknown, in an area that you have never ventured out. And typically, in the context of Indian employment challenges is that there’s a lot of lack of data, there’s lot of lack of career paths available. You don’t have a lot of data and a kind of pre-drawn career paths available. So you’re kind of taking a leap of faith. So, take us through your process.
Hemant: Sure Naishadh. I think you have it on a very important point again here that first step is really important and first step typically is a difficult one especially when we are talking about career transition, career transformation, you know, career change. You know somebody might have worked in a certain industry for let’s say 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and they do not know what’s happening out there in the world. Now, here the first step in my view is look at why do you want to change your career? Why do you want to change it? What’s the reason, right? Is the reason a short-term reason like you want to take up a job which is a necessity now or are you looking at a longer term and both could be possible. I mean you may say that, hey you know, in the short term I want to take up a job but in the long term I want to really get into a career which is satisfying, sustainable for me. Now for the short-term thing I think to look at is what are the skills that you have and if your current organization is undergoing some challenges and because of which one has, you know, lost a job, what are the other organizations where these skills will be valuable? That’s one place to look at. Other place to look at if your industry is undergoing certain kind of challenges. Then look at what are the skills you have, what is the knowledge that you have and then where else can these skills be useful. For example; you know people who have technology skills, now during the COVID-19 times everybody is using technology. Everybody is using Zoom or you know the kind of platform you are using Naishadh, everybody is learning technology. So, I have seen in the last six weeks there have been so many webinars to upgrade people with technology skills. So, where can you use your skill and definitely if you have a skill, you can always use that skill. Another approach that will be useful based on the process that I have developed is again, you know, I would like to take a long-term approach to career reinvention. Yeah, taking short term requirements in view of course, that is something that needs to be done but when we are looking at a career transition, my view is take a marathon approach not a100-meter sprint approach. Yeah, so marathon typically is 42 kilometers. So, in your career maybe you have 20 years, maybe you have 30 years, maybe you have 15 years left in your career. Look at it from that perspective, long term perspective. So, take a marathon approach to your career. Look at why you want to transition? Look at your skills look at your interests also, that’s an important aspect. Create a vision. So first step after you find out why, create a vision for your career, where would you like to see yourself in next three years, five years, maybe 10 years is a very long time. So you know create a vision for your career and then start taking the practical steps. And you’re right Naishadh that there is not a lot of data available out there. So, but these days I mean good thing is that there are a lot of career coaches who are there. There are certain institutes who are providing that kind of data. So, taking professional help during this time could be also one of the support systems people can use. So these are some of the steps that I would suggest, yeah.
Naishadh: If I can, I think you touched on very critical aspects, first is you got to figure out what’s the rationale of you changing your career? Is it just because you hate your job, you don’t like the company, I think identifying the real, the core of the issue is very vital because you don’t want to carry that similar emotion in the next job that or career that you choose. I think if I can add a couple of things into that as well Hemant is interviewing or meeting people that think they’ve got the career that you aspire for. I think on the periphery a lot of people see, you know, wow, working as a coach is amazing, right. You sit down there with a notepad and then listen to people and provide answers, right. But they don’t see that the amount of research, amount of, kind of thinking that you undergo. People don’t see those things, similarly I think after the glamour of it or after the outside or facade of it you’ve got to really figure out what does that person do daily and can I really see myself doing those things daily. So I think that is very important because you really have to get into the nitty grittie’s of it rather than just looking at how much that person earns and how much that person is perceived in the society and everything else. So this is my view on that. Secondly, is to also look at, you know, really going through this kind of finding transferable skills in a process. I think you touched upon that aspect. One of my pet exercises that I do and you know but the next question is around that, is an exercise called mind mapping. It’s a very simple exercise. It’s probably used in education a lot and I have recently used it for myself. I actually sat down and did that. Then I used it with a couple of my clients and they were just absolutely fascinated to identify the things that they already know and the things that they really want to do. It is kind of a blue-sky thinking exercise but you’re allowing yourself to go absolutely free. I strongly urge people to look at mind mapping. It is and there are apps available now. But I’m not a big fan of the apps. I think the writing down with a big piece of paper actually you get more done and you’re more active in bringing ideas rather than when you’re using a computer and creating something on it. So, I believe that mind mapping can be a liberating thing but obviously you need an objectivity to it. Then you need to have someone like you to say, look, Hemant I have done this. Now, help me make sense of it. So do you use any assessment tools or do you know kind of, do you advocate for certain assessment tools and what are some of them. And if they are available freely for people to go and at least check it out and try out some of them.
Hemant: Surely, Naishadh. Then I really appreciate the two points that you brought up is to look at people who are doing jobs which interest you, which inspire you. I think that’s a great suggestion that you gave and secondly this tool that you introduced to all of us is this mind mapping. I think that’s great. Coming to your question Naishadh that are there any assessment tools? Definitely, there are assessment tools. So one of the tools that I use with my clients a lot and they have found amazing results with that is personality test which is also called a psychometric test. Now one of the aspects in career transition, career transformation as I like to call it is enhancing self-awareness. And personality test really helps in enhancing self-awareness. Personality is essentially, what we are talking about here is intrinsic personality. These are behavioral preferences that we are talking about. We all have certain type of personality and behavioral preferences and it helps a lot if our job, our career is aligned to our personality. To give you an example; if there is an introvert person, person who doesn’t like much of people interaction, that’s their preference. If you put that person into a sales job where there is a lot of people interaction involved then that person may not enjoy that job. Then that career is not really sustainable for that person. That person may become good at it with practice and experience but that person may not enjoy it because it is not aligned to the intrinsic preference of that person, yeah. On the other side, if you put an extrovert person into a people interaction job that person will enjoy that. Now to become successful in that job definitely will require discipline and professional skills. But this is just an example, so personality test helps you also find your blind spots, things that one may not be aware of. You may find your strengths through personality tests you will find your blind spots, also areas of development. There is one more thing that we use which is called based on personality, you can also find out through a scientific report that what are the careers and professions which are suitable for your personality. One example I gave but that’s like a broad example. We go deeper into what are the areas that one may be suitable for. So that’s one tool. Second tool, I mean there are many tools that we use. Now another tool that we use is also finding out your strengths scientifically. Strengths are things which energize you and this is different from skills, yeah. Skills are something that we develop over a period of time through practice by working on it but strengths are something that are natural to us which energize us like communication or working with people is something that energizes me personally. So, that’s one of my strengths and that’s why I got into coaching as a profession. So, that’s another assessment, one more assessment which I spoke about is assessing your skills, what are your top 10 skills? And when I say top 10 Naishadh let me also define what I call as top 10 or top skills? Skills that you are good at or great at and skills that you enjoy applying skills that you enjoy using, that is what makes a great combination. A lot of time people look at being good at something but my view or you know my philosophy around making careers sustainable is that one should be working on something that they are really good at and they are enjoying what they are doing. That makes it a golden combination and there are assessments that can be used to find these out.
Naishadh: Excellent. Now that makes a lot of sense, you know, I think self-reflection or self-awareness is probably the starting point of most of the journey. I always, you know, before I went to Australia, I always saw career as something that is outward and then I will take an inward journey. But the more that I talk to people and the more I understand, I think it is an inward journey more than an outward journey. You got to figure out internal stuff and then say where do I really fit in. Not that you find the fitting in first and then say can I, how do I adjust to it now. I’m not at all advocating that people should drop everything that they are doing. I’m not talking about ‘a monk who sold his Ferrari’ or something that you leave everything and then just go completely on that path well some people can do it but I’m not advocating that at all. So, you got to do it, you know, rationally something that works for you and for your family and your circumstances because it’s ultimately tailored, the whole thing is. If you talk about in your experience if you talk about what really stops people in taking that career transition even though knowing that I don’t really enjoy the work that I do. I know that there are people who are doing far much better job, you know, far more satisfying job, right. How, so what are your views on what stops people or what blocks people in kind of taking those leaps of faith, taking those steps?
Hemant: Sure, I’ll come to that. But before that I just wanted to touch upon what you said earlier because which is very important point Naishadh that you brought up is self-awareness and if I can expand on that a little bit, I call that as an inside out approach if one can take two careers. Traditionally, conventionally we have taken outside in approach, you know, what are the jobs in demand, what are the careers in demand I want to do that because I can get a job nothing wrong with that but people realize over a period of time that, oh this is not something that I enjoy doing. I’ll give you an example, one of the clients that I’m currently coaching she did a course in data analytics from very reputed institute in India very reputed, she spent four lakh of rupees and one year of her time completing that data analytics course. At the end of that year, at the end of that course she realized that she doesn’t enjoy that at all so this money is wasted, her time is wasted and what she got as the outcome of that is frustration and she did not move forward in her career so taking inside out approach. So, this was outside in approach which doesn’t work for many people inside out approach is first knowing who you are, what your interests are, what would you really like to do and then taking the steps from there that’s the inside out approach that we propose and that’s what we work with our clients. I’ll come to your question now that what stops people? One what stops people is, you know, moving out of comfort zone because any type of career transition yeah it requires one to move out of their comfort zone and try something new even for that matter you know as you rightly mentioned learning new skills is moving out of your comfort zone it requires dedication, it requires commitment, it requires effort so is one really willing to do that? Moving out of comfort zone so that’s one. Secondly, also there are a lot of myths, you know, in last five years I have spoken to thousands of people who are looking at making their careers better. Another thing that stops them is that especially when they’re in their thirties or in their forties, they say oh now, can I do it now, you know maybe it’s too late for me, can I do it? These are myths around career transition and career reinvention and those myths need to be busted first, those are beliefs that now I’m 40, so I changed my career at 40, lot of people told me hey, now you’re 40 what can you do now? You have spent like 20 years in your corporate career, right but what will you do differently now, can you really do it? So that self-doubt also creeps in, so there are myths that need to be busted around that. A lot of people think that when they’re reinventing their career they have to start from the bottom, that’s another myth, not at all, you can use your skills, you can use your life experience to bring value to what you are doing. So there are more myths around as you rightly mentioned Naishadh that, hey does it mean that I have to leave everything and start something anew what will happen to my family I have EMI’s to pay, I have family to take care of, it’s not that you have to ignore all of that. You can take care of that and do something. So I think one of the aspects which I would like to bring in is to ‘and’ approach and not ‘or’ approach, you know, you can do this, take care of your family and also reinvent your career you don’t have to do it in one day. It doesn’t happen in one day anyway, you have to start preparing yourself it may take six months, it may take a year, in my case it took me almost couple of years to reinvent completely and start a new inning for myself. Another thing that stops people is not having clarity of what to do, for developing that clarity we spoke about that earlier in our conversation I said that looking at why, looking at your vision what you want to do, what are the skills that you bring, what are your interests? These are all the things one needs to take into consideration so that will slowly but surely start bringing clarity and definitely there are professionals out there who can help individuals who are really wanting to reinvent their careers. So these things Naishadh, in my experience stop people.
Naishadh: Excellent and one of the things if I can add, you know, because I think you touched upon every barrier. So I think one of the trigger to look at career change is that, to identify where do I want to move my career in is to think about what problems really irritate you, what and where do you find yourself gravitating towards, right. Like for example you see an ad on the news or you see a printer and say no that is atrocious I think I can do much better than this, right, that’s you know if your mind space is occupied by certain kind of problem that you want to solve maybe that’s a trigger, maybe that’s an area that you want to check out whether there could be a career for you in that. Similarly, like how I changed my career from engineer to work with job seekers who are disadvantaged because I failed, I saw that I was disadvantaged in a job seeker and I did not receive the adequate help at that time so I think it most of the time it is a personal situation that you find yourself in and you want to do something about it and that’s how it kind of unfolds from it. Lastly I want to ask you the power of network in your career transition because that’s an area that is not really fully kind of explored around how networking or the power of your social and professional network can really help you make those decisions or facilitate in those career transition processes. What are your thoughts on how do you really network for, you know, while you are changing your career?
Hemant: Sure, so you’re right Naishadh. When it comes to networking a lot of people in my experience and I’ll include myself also into that, I did not network consciously you know almost for years and only people I knew were colleagues that I worked with, on projects that I worked with those are the only people I knew. I never went out and consciously tried to build my network and I realized only later that it is so important to have a network and there are many benefits of network, right. One is you know people, you know what’s going on in the outside world, there are so many different types of professions which are there. There are different types of roles which are coming up. There is a lot that you can learn from people outside your industry that is something I started doing when I was when I started reinventing my career I thought, hey you know what I should have done it 15 years back. Yeah so I would encourage people to start networking wherever they are even if they’re in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties doesn’t matter start networking. It expanded my horizons Naishadh, I started networking, so I used to go to this forum called ‘The Indus Entrepreneurs’, I had never interacted with entrepreneurs, I had never interacted with startup founders, yeah and I found out that, wow this is such an amazing space there is a lot of things happening here. Yeah so I learnt a lot from that networking. I learnt a lot from everybody that I met so networking is really…really important and professionals ignore this bit and thanks Naishadh for you bringing it up, this is a very excellent point. There are some people, you know, based on their personalities they don’t have a preference to reach out also, yeah so they feel oh, you know, I’m not comfortable in networking but I would say that networking should be a strategic piece in terms of your career building. It is a strategic piece because network brings in lot of value not only for yourself, you create value, you contribute to your network and that’s how networking works. It’s not only for your benefit it has to be benefit for everybody involved so going out of your comfort zone to build your network you get to know so many things, you get to learn so many things. There are forums available now you know, we are all currently in lockdown, yeah even then there are so many online forums which are available, right, which you can join where you meet new people and learn new things from them and it is really important especially Naishadh in my experience that after a certain level of experience let’s say, you know, 15-20 years of experience as we look at this pyramid, right, in any organization number of jobs at higher levels become lesser and lesser. People like to recruit people whom they know, whom they trust. These days, I mean of course, there are job portals out there but for especially mid-senior level positions, lot of them, lot of these positions get filled up through referrals, through reference only. Referral is a much more powerful way of finding a job or finding opportunities than applying through job portals. I have nothing against job portals, let me say that very clearly here, right, yeah but for senior level positions network is really important. You through your network can find opportunities, yeah, so these are some of the thoughts I wanted to share on the networking piece.
Naishadh: Excellent. Now that’s really important, network or building your relationship goes a long way because you can actually gather lot of intelligence and figure out the insights about any industry, about a vocation, just start chatting with people that normally you know in normal sense of the work you don’t really get to understand, for example a lot of people say project manager, wow that’s such an amazing fancy title and everything else but when you talk to a project manager then you find out, oh god, this is this is like a fireman’s job, do I really want to do this job or do I have to, I really want to do something else?So I think you can only understand those things once you talk to somebody and your network really helps you to gather that market intelligence. Excellent.
Hemant: Very true, if I can add Naishadh here, yeah so I think you said it really well, first I know initially you talked about role modeling you know based on jobs and careers that interest you, definitely it’s a great idea to go and talk to these people what do they really do, yeah and I advise that to my clients that if they want to change careers and they want to do something different first go and talk to people who are doing it already, right, there is no better way to find out about that job through these persons so that is something absolutely a must, everyone should do. Another thing is through your network, you know, while there are many ways of networking these days online networking is the best networking that you can do but you need to have a very clear mindset that it’s always first give what you can give to this network and then expect some kind of return from there. So I think that mindset is also very important in networking.
Naishadh: Absolutely. So, Hemant that brings us to the end of this amazing discussion with you. So how do people want to if people want to know about you and you know how you can help them. Do they just go and find you on LinkedIn, Hemant Deshpande and then connect with you?
Hemant: Yeah sure, yeah LinkedIn is a great way to connect with me we also have a website called hemantdeshpande.com and they can you know contact me from the website also. So, these are two great ways to connect with me, there is also an email id which is email@example.com. One can write to me directly through that
Naishadh: Excellent. Hemant, thank you very much for spending sometime on a Saturday lockdown in the morning with us and we wish you very best. For our listeners please stay safe, stay healthy and stay indoors please. Thank you, all right, bye everyone.