It’s an exciting time to be a rising professional in India. Whether you work at a large corporate, a fledgling startup, or a nonprofit organization, you’re probably exposed to myriad opportunities to take on responsibility and create impact through your work.
We spoke to five young business leaders who know a thing or two about creating outsized impact early on in their careers and asked them to share the best career advice they have received along the way. Here are some tried and tested nuggets of wisdom for anyone looking to take their career to the next level.
Varun Deshpande — Managing Director for India at The Good Food Institute, a global non-profit that works towards building a more healthy, humane, and sustainable food system and replacing industrial animal agriculture with plant-based and clean meat alternatives.
“The idea of ‘inspiration’ is usually overrated, and waiting for an epiphany is just a waste of time.
For the vast majority of people who didn’t emerge from the womb knowing that they want to be cancer surgeons, ‘inspiration’ comes from diving deep into problems — headfirst, without knowing the outcome. Naturally, you should optimize for risk, skill-building, career capital, financial expectations, etc — but anybody who ‘knows what they want to do with their life’ and is driven by a mission, first had the benefit of deep engagement with problems. Grappling with questions, studying industries and companies, perhaps even suffering trauma and wanting to ensure nobody else has to — that’s what leads to certainty of vision, and there’s no excuse for just sitting on your hands and waiting for your ‘inspiration’ to come calling.”
Ria Shroff Desai — AVP of People Operations at Sula Vineyards, India’s leading wine company and exemplar of sustainability in the Indian alcobev and manufacturing spaces. Ria also spent over two years in the CEO’s office at Teach for India.
“The best career advice I received was to never be afraid of your team becoming better than you. As a leader and manager, the best metric I can evaluate myself against is when people start approaching those in my team instead of me directly to resolve their issues.
Don’t hold your team back from getting involved with senior management, allow them to take decisions in smaller projects and always, always have their back in public. You can always review and correct their behaviour or give feedback in private — but as a leader, always take the responsibility if things go wrong. Your team will support you that much more in the future.”
Rishabh Khosla — Previously Country Head for India at Shortlist and tied for the honour of being employee #1 (and also a perpetual source of gyaan for the team). Rishabh is now Business Head at Freedom Tree Design.
“Build your own empire” — With flat hierarchies, constantly evolving role definitions, and most people sticking to a job for 2–3 years, it’s on you to chart a vision for your career and role and make it happen. You’ll be surprised how much responsibility you’ll get if you just ask.
“Don’t overthink it” — People fresh out of college (myself included) tend to think WAY too much about every single path they could take or job they could be doing instead. As long as you’re doing good work, having fun, and BUILDING TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, you’ll be surprised where the next opportunity will open.
Harshil Karia — Co-founder and Managing Director at Schbang, one of India’s leading digital solutions agencies and among LinkedIn’s Top 25 Most Sought After Startups in India!
“The best piece of advice I ever got was from Piyush Vora, who said — “Don’t let anything or anyone get under your skin unless it’s absolutely worth it for you”. I found that so apt for a people-led business. We’re dealing with people who are working on short deadlines and hence may say something unnecessary that may destabilize us. We’re dealing with multiple diverse stakeholders who have the license to say what they feel like. Negotiations are always intense with all kinds of vendors and clients.
In all the fracas, it’s important to keep your cool and only be affected by things that are personally meaningful. Else everything should be measured, thought through, and business as usual with the most rational, calm decision making.”
“‘It’s more important to know what you don’t know than to know what you know’ — this applies to every leader. You are not expected to have all the answers, you need to learn how to delegate and make yourself as dispensable as possible.”
“When you build a business, look at it as if you are running a marathon rather than a 100-meter sprint. Don’t look for shortcuts or short term gains. Invest in processes, people, technology and don’t take unethical shortcuts. Money comes & goes, but goodwill stays forever.”
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments!