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Abhay Kumar, HR Consultant

All economic indicators of a country are meaningless if they are not doing one simple thing, i.e. generate employment and employment opportunity for the citizens of that country. After all, the very basic objective of any sovereign country is to create an opportunity for its citizens to fulfill their basic minimum requirement i.e. to live his/her life with dignity. No economic model till date has been able to achieve this and that’s the reason why a cry to have a Universal Basic Income has started emerging. But that’s not what we are here to discuss.

We talked to Mr. Abhay Kumar, Team Recruiters, a seasoned HR Consultant on various subjects related to employment and the job scenario of the country. During the interaction we asked him for his take on developments on the economic front, his advice to prospective employees for interview as well as on personal conduct and ways to lead a happy and healthy life.

Mr. Abhay Kumar has a career spanning more than two decades invested in Sales and Human Resource, guiding thousands to not only get placed but live a contended life. His strategy of ‘talk’, ‘guide’, ‘prepare’, ‘place’ and ‘follow-up’ makes him unique and different from others. Without wasting much of time, let’s delve into his thoughtful and informative insights:

Review Board: For a prospective employee, what should be the takeaway from impact of policy changes on Indian employment scenario? How much GST and Demonetization has had an impact on employment scenario of the country?

Abhay Kumar: See, we need to look at the broader picture first on the global trends of last couple of years or a decade. The market generally has been very sluggish, be it US, Europe, China, Africa or Middle East. The Global economy has been under a lot of pressure and in this globalised and connected world, India can not remain insulated. Major Sectors have been under performing and this has challenged the growth prospect of one and all.

Another factor which was playing in the background locally was the performance of the banks which were under tremendous pressure due to NPA and toxic assets. Banks were under scrutiny and this led to a reduction in loan advancements as there was pressure to clean up the books of account.

The challenging global scenario has resulted in countries looking inwards to strengthen their internal economy. This has led to reduced out sourcing of projects and also the increased focus for employment of local resource instead of overseas workers.

IT sector has slowed because projects are not coming from abroad. Reality sector has sucked in loads of money from Banks, Corporate and Individuals. All this has drastically reduced liquidity in the market. And together perhaps this is why the Indian job market has been under a lot of pressure owing to both external and internal factors.

Now coming back to what you have specifically asked, any policy decision of the enormity of Demonetization or GST which challenges the existing system to its core is bound to have a huge impact on everything related, be it economic or social, because both were such huge decisions. Even if we look at either of the decisions in isolation one would conservatively give it 6 – 9 months of a cooling period before the market could bounce back. Coming back to back a year of low growth, challenges and sluggish economic numbers was easily a reality.

Demonetization was extremely challenging to the people in the first 45 days and could only settle down in the six month period. The cash crunch led to conservatism in the market where consumption reduced drastically as people started holding on to the currency and postponing expenses. The over burdened Banks were working with their backs to the wall to ease up the cash issue and the focus from liquidity in the market and businesses taking a back seat.

What added to the problem was the implementation of GST, which brought in a new tax regime. The industry / people lacked in understanding of the Tax System, its rules, implications and a new system both in skill and process had to be put in place. Everything which existed earlier had to be changed / modified. New accounting system, new skills, software upgradation, registrations etc. became a mandatory requirement with a deadline in place. Hence, the back to back implementation of these two major economic policies has further slowed down the performance in the short term.

Look, it is a well known fact that there were very few additions in the number of tax payers in general and the numbers of businesses out of reach of the Tax Dept. was huge. This problem was addressed to a large extent by Demonetization and GST by forcing people to get into the banking system which was mapped with PAN and Aadhaar. So, the two decisions did slow down the economy to some extent in the short term but were much needed to strengthen it in the long run. These decisions had to be taken. We can debate about the timing but one can never be fully prepared. In a country like ours which is full of complexities a gradual implementation would not have been possible and the results very debatable.

There is a thought process that believes India was able to minimise the pains of US subprime crisis because of its parallel cash economy. But at the same time, things cannot remain the same and the way forward required these policy decisions.

But I am very optimistic about the future as the steps which have been taken would start yielding the positive results very soon. This quarter will see a lot of activity on the job front with the green shoots getting visible this New Year. Government is also spending big time on infrastructure like road and electricity which would kick-start the economy and generate employment. Everyone needs to be patient and positive.

Review Board: What is the short term and medium term employment scenario of the country?

Abhay Kumar: As we discussed that market has been under tremendous pressure since 2008, so, there were various challenges on employment generation front. But as far as future is concerned, impact of policy changes have firmed up and taken shape. Market players are also now sure that there won’t be any roll back from the government on these decisions and things are here to stay. So, they are back on their drawing board, coming out of their ‘hold-back’ strategy… re-strategizing their plans and actions.

As mentioned earlier the last quarter has been favorable and so will future as predicted by different organizations of importance. Normally we see that the last quarter of a financial year is generally strong and bullish. In the answer to your first question, I have already said that there is a major push for infrastructure; rural electrification and roads etc. The big Infra push would drive and be the engine for growth and more jobs will be created bringing relief to the employment scenario in the medium and long run.

Our discussion so far has been revolving around the changes and challenges of the last ten years. I think we have seen almost the end of it and we will see organisations re-inventing themselves and re-drawing their business strategy. The ability to adapt and re-strategise will drive the success stories in future. The changed scenario will require employees too to re-skill themselves to remain employable. So on one side re-skilling will be the order of the day on the other side the business of re-skilling will also be a big opportunity.

Review Board: What are the top five points which you would like a candidate to have and keep in mind to leave positive impact and get hired?

Abhay Kumar: First and the most important point for a prospective employee is ‘Know your profile’. People actually spend least amount of time on their CV. They do not read it and very often they are not conversant because professional writer/external help is taken to prepare/write the CV. So, it is very important to read and understand one’s CV, the words written in it, the projection you are trying to make and the goal you want to achieve.

Second is ‘person should be prepared very well’. Before going for an interview, the candidate must know the company very well; the kind of business they are into, product or services they are providing, who are the competitors etc. This would prepare him/her for the questions which would be posed in the interview.

Third is ‘have a positive outlook’. Many a times it so happens that the interviewer cross checks you on various aspects of your personality by throwing challenges or situations; whether you are ready to work hard, are you ready to experiment, whether you are ready to take new challenges etc. Any kind of laidback or lethargic response would put you down in the eyes of a prospective employer. So your words and body language must communicate positive frame of mind and positive approach.

Fourth is ‘long term picture’. It is imperative that people have a very well defined goal or a long term picture in mind. Often people have a very idealistic picture of their career. They want to be at the top in no time. They don’t realize or often forget that there are many steps to a stair between the first step and top of the ladder and every step is a process in itself. And he/she has to go through every process to reach the top.

Fifth is ‘planned approach and open mind for salary negotiation’. Throwing any random number can’t get you hired. Before salary negotiation, it is very important to be realistic and be prepared with your expectation. You should have all the details of income which you are drawing from current employer. You should be aware of the market trend etc. You also need to keep in mind that you need to deliver in multiple times of what you are asking from your prospective employer.

Review Board: What are the ‘words’ you would suggest the candidates to not to have in their resume?

Abhay Kumar: I won’t suggest anything about the words as the context is very important. I would suggest on positive mindset while writing the resume or during an interview. Your resume should represent you, the direction of your career and the path you want to take. You should be as factual as possible and should resist the use of superfluous words and numbers. While mentioning achievements one should try to give a true picture and not to go overboard with the numbers. Similarly when writing about responsibilities one should try to be specific on the responsibility you actually have. If there are additional responsibilities which have been assigned to you do mention them separately and not mix up the two.

Review Board: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are buzz words these days? How much substance do you think these words holds for the future? Which are the industries or sectors will be most affected by them?

Abhay Kumar: Look, every change in technology brings a kind of upheaval and change in the market. That’s their nature. Couple of years before Y2K, every company worth its salt jumped into ERP business, with basic objective to cater to their own demand and to explore the outside market. So, it created a requirement for new skills and opened the doors to new avenues for various companies. Similarly, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will have its own impact. It is a long drawn process, so effects will also be visible accordingly. Old skills be discarded and new skills will come in demand. New jobs will replace old jobs; new skills will replace old skills. And as I said earlier, re-skilling will be very crucial factor for survival and success.

Review Board: Few years back, I had read a book ‘Startup of You’ written by Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn. In that book, he has written that the time of stable jobs are over and every Individual is required to be in startup mode all the time. Most important reason he had given for suggesting was the pace of technological advancement. He was of the opinion that high speed of technological advancement won’t let the world to stabilize, so everyone will be required to be fighting fit all the time. Since 2008, no big Greenfield project has been announced by any big company, whether they are Indian or multinational, if we minus Reliance Jio. During this period, Startups and Unicorns filled up the space of employment provider. But they came with their own characteristics and that is ‘uncertainty’. Do you think that this is going to be the nature of jobs being provided in future or big companies will be back and bring stability in the nature of jobs?

Abhay Kumar: Yes, technological changes are happening at a very vast pace, so ‘instability’ in the market will be the hallmark. When market remains unstable, then jobs obviously will be unstable. But I would like to use the word ‘dynamic’ rather than ‘unstable’. Again I will bring the point of re-skilling, which will be a continuous process for everyone, if they want to last long.

Review Board: In this age of startups, where employees are getting hired and fired at will, sometime getting duped and dumped, what would be your suggestions to the prospective employees to stay afloat financially and mentally?

Abhay Kumar: If you remember in earlier day’s people used to live their life in simplicity. After fulfilling their major commitments in life, they used to venture towards luxuries of life. Children’s education, daughter’s marriage, medical needs etc. used to take precedence over other types of expenditure. Construction of house and purchase of car were to be done nearer the age of retirement. There was a strong logic behind it. They used to build their strength first before getting on with luxuries of life. Today’s generation hits the ground running, getting into these expenditures at the beginning of their career. When they get smallest of jolt in their career, they are already saddled with EMIs of house, cars, credit cards etc.

I am not suggesting that today’s generation should imitate older generation’s lifestyle, but they should focus on building their strength first. As we discussed early in our conversation, speed of technology advancement is very high and it will become even higher in coming days. So, job market, which is dynamic today, will become very dynamic in coming days. So, they should take risk only when they can, otherwise they should avoid it. It will save them from financial and mental stress.

Review Board: I believe that job satisfaction and finding the purpose of life are overrated terms used to manipulate employees. How someone will know without doing something that it is something he/she wanted to do and want to do all his/her life? In my opinion, a person should be like water and should find his/her way in everything and everywhere. He / She should take up anything which comes his/her way. God knows, what will become his passion and start giving job satisfaction. Moreover, focus should be on ‘money and family satisfaction’, because first one is what we take to the bank and second one is ultimately what we aspire to achieve?

Abhay Kumar: Yes, I would say ultimately it is the money that we take to the bank which drives the individual. There is a lot of talk on job satisfaction, living ones dream, dream job but I have a different take on it.

Our education system is such that the number one scores in an examination defines your career choice. It is only now that children have started experimenting with choices they like. Marks tell you were you are likely to study and the specialization you are likely to do. While applying for jobs after college, the Campus Recruitment processes defines the kind of company and profile you get into. The only icing would be the CTC that you bag. This continues during the early employment period when money is the driving force for most youngsters. If it comes with a profile you like then that is the icing on the cake.

Another aspect that does matter in today’s time is “Leisure”. With a stressed work environment Leisure is what de-stresses you. The “Me Time” helps you unwind and recharges your battery for better performance. Even if the workplace is stressful, your happiness at home will help you tide over the challenges.

Review Board: There are lots of advices available on internet to how to get a dream job, which makes people dream about it. Does really any dream job exists or it is just a dream?

Abhay Kumar: Dream job???? How do you want me to define it?

Review Board: Whichever way you wish to…..

Abhay Kumar: Dream job is a very subjective word; it varies from person to person. For a person fresh out of college, anything which gives him the money and the time to spend may be his dream job. For a middle management level employee getting a senior level profile may be his dream job and so on so forth. So, it is very difficult to define a dream job; a dream for you may not be the dream for me or someone else.

So, I would rather advice people not to fall in the trap of these good sounding words. They should focus more on the jobs which fits into their long term career plan and also which allows them to earn good money and time to carry out personal responsibilities.

Review Board: It automatically answers my second question. I believe that a dream job is something which adds value to your professional life in terms of money and growth and personal life in terms of basic quality time with your family.

Abhay Kumar: Yes, it’s all about progression. A job may be a dream job at the time of landing it but after joining if you are not conducting yourself well or if your immediate boss is not in sync with you, you might get into a very uncomfortable situation. Then you start cribbing and plan your exit. We have created lots of hype around it. I would say that any job which gives you financial, physical and mental comfort and continues to do so over sometime, is a dream job for you.

Review Board: You have been working in the field of manpower planning and recruitment for close to twenty years. What are the steps you would suggest to prospective candidates, from writing resume to facing interviews and negotiating salaries?

Abhay Kumar: One needs to have two set of targets; quantifiable and non-quantifiable for both short and long term. Coming back to question you have asked I would say that first one should have a very clear cut quantifiable short and long term target of money he wants to earn, the house he wants to live in, the car he wants to drive, holidays he wants to take etc. Benchmarking is one of the key points of success, whether you are benchmarking against yourself or someone else. These quantifiable targets help you in measuring your success. Moreover, first four needs of hierarchy, as defined by Abraham Mashlow, i.e. Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging and Esteem are deeply connected with it.

Second, he should fit in his education, expertise, company, profile etc. into those long term and medium term targets. If someone doesn’t have these things properly drawn out on paper, then he will drift from one place to another for a few thousand rupees growth and will end up messing his career in the long run.

Now, you will have to bring in the five points which we discussed earlier. All those five points needs to be addressed every time someone prepares himself for the next job.

I have seen people throwing whimsical numbers as their expectation which are bound to be rejected. And even if, by any chance, any of these numbers gets accepted, it puts extra pressure on the candidate to perform and bring out revenue in many multiples of the salary being paid. So, it is always advisable to understand that what you are asking depends on what you are bringing to the table. It makes sense to checkout the market trend, industry trend to zero down on a realistic expectation.

Review Board: After getting selected for a new organization, leaving the earlier one becomes a challenge. What would be your advice to the candidates to handle this situation amicably and in friendly manner, without trying to get even with immediate superior? Could you lay down few rules for ‘Exit Interview’ which every candidate must follow?

Abhay Kumar: Employees leave any organization primarily for three reasons; growth in money terms, growth of the profile and continuous disagreement with the immediate superior. In all the scenarios, it becomes a bit difficult or sometimes very difficult to leave the current organization. So, it is very important to be transparent at the time of negotiating a joining time frame with the new organization. All the eventualities like serving the notice period or buying the notice period should be discussed in advance, so that everyone is on board.

As far as rule for ‘Exit Interview’ is concerned, there aren’t many except one, “don’t burn the bridges”. It has been witnessed often that outgoing employees, in the case of tiff with the immediate superior and which again is quite frequent, tries to run him down or create a bad impression. Whatever is the situation this kind of hit-back should be avoided at all cost. You never know when you will bump into him in the future. He may become your boss in the next organization or may be he might be friends with your new boss. Not only that, your new organization may like to take a feedback about you from your boss, colleagues or the organisation and your action may simply put them off and would end up in getting an unfavourable feedback. Further, if you want to come back at a future time for whatever reason may become impossible if you have burnt your bridges.

Review Board: Employees leave their present organization in a stressed environment most of the time and most of them end up taking the wrong decision. I have seen people burning their happiness and energy out due to the wrong decision they take. What would be your advice to such people?

Abhay Kumar: When you are in an organization, you are with competitors who are all striving to achieve success from the same pool. So, there is bound to be friction sometimes more than you can normally bear. But, that’s the situation everywhere. You can’t run away from each and every tough situation or you can’t have the best shot all the time. To play your best shot, you will have to wait and sometime, this wait may seem lengthy. You will have to bide your time and wait for your moment. It is easier said than done, but that’s the only way.

Review Board: New organization is always complete with new people, new environment and new rules. What would be your suggestions to new employees to handle the new situation?

Abhay Kumar: People are often short on three virtues; patience, ability to observe and ability to listen. In any new environment, these three virtues come as a very big help.

When someone joins a new organization, he must know that he has joined a new space which belonged to others till sometime back. Everything will be new for him from his workstation to coffee machine to the cubicle, not to mention his colleagues and the boss. It requires a lot of getting used to.

So, my suggestion to everyone joining a new organization would be to wait, have patience and observe the people and the new environment, listen and understand everything, then open up. It will help them to avoid many unpleasant situations.

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