Consultant…by default

January 10, 2017 OPINION/NEWS

By

Bikash Mohapatra

In the past few months I have taken many calls from people seeking professional consultation. I am very patient with these people, and try to help them in the best possible way. At the same time I can’t but laugh at the irony.

If I sit down to list the biggest regrets of my life, one of them would certainly be the lack of that ‘consultant’ who I could have leaned on when I needed to make decisions, the ones that shaped my life in general and my professional career in particular.

 

This week I received another of those phone calls.

An ex-colleague, on the verge of putting down his papers, needed some advice.

He was in two minds as how to go about things, and wanted to consult with somebody regards how to proceed.

I was the one he chose. Mind you, we aren’t friends. At the same time, I am content that my advice helped him.

It was not long ago I received a series of calls from another friend. He had multiple offers, for the first time in his professional career, and was palpably confused as what to choose. The consultation with yours truly helped him make a decision. And so far there have been no complaints.

In the past few months I have taken a dozen such calls from friends, ex-colleagues, relatively lesser-known people whom I may have met, but not enough to remember that interaction, and even a couple of individuals whom I have never met, but who got the reference from common friends.

If I go back further this number shall increase to a few hundred at least.

 

It is always a tough call when it comes to the biggest decisions that impact your life and career. In those moments you need people who can give you the right advice.

I have never been that fortunate. Not yet.

In the absence of that ‘expert consultant’ my mind has always gone through the same set of emotions when it comes to making a decision: a bit of dilemma, some soul-searching, a lot of confusion and a few sleepless nights. On most occasions I have been forced to go with the flow.

The eventual decision has been a success or a failure depending on how I look at it at various times. In hindsight it is always easy to say you could have done better, had you decided in another way it would probably have served you better.

But I made those decisions, the circumstances notwithstanding, and howsoever good, bad or terrible they were, I stand by them.

However, when it comes to others I have so far been more circumspect, and definitely a lot more confident.

On a serious note you can say that I don’t want others to suffer the same fate as I have. On a lighter note you can put it down to the fact that I am an Indian, a country where giving advice to others is an innate attribute that runs in the blood.

 

Why do people come to me for advice? Why am I their preferred consultant?

Frankly speaking, I don’t have an answer to the questions above.

You can put it down to my eclectic professional career (so far that is) – that has seen me handle fields as diverse as HR, media, communication and strategy, and acquire multiple skills over the years.

Then there is the general perception that people have about me, based on their interactions (in person) or as suggested by others. The fact that I am extremely well-travelled, gaining considerable experience and (dare I say) wisdom in the process, has helped.

Also probably because my advice makes sense, rather made sense to some of those who have consulted me over a period of time and benefited therein. Here I would like to mention these two gentlemen, whom I distinctly remember as both had the same problem.

The duo had been working in one office for more than a decade and had consequently developed a mental block – that initial hesitation which prevents a person from taking a risk or making sensible career decisions.

It was no surprise that when they actually received offers, rather were referred to by their generous ex-colleagues, they didn’t even have their resume ready. For me the challenge was not just to help them out with the paper work but also help them get out of that mental barricade. A couple of questions would come up frequently during the discussions in those days.

“What would I answer if they ask me why I have been in this organisation for so long?”

“What do I say if they inquire why am I looking for a job change after so many years in one organisation?”

I offered possible explanations, at times reiterated the responses to boost their confidence, and one of them even wrote it down (verbatim) so that he doesn’t forget. It actually worked.

Today both these gentlemen have new jobs and are palpably happy. And I am content that I had a role to play in helping them get rid of their confused mindsets and take up new challenges at this stage of their respective careers.

 

Then there was this street-smart, albeit ill-informed guy who was on the verge of securing a deal with an US-based firm but couldn’t negotiate on the money part – blame it on his confused notion about the dollar. I helped him crack the code.

Being a good samaritan helps cultivate goodwill to an extent. As also the fact that when the consultation bit benefits the individual concerned I don’t usually take the credit, putting it down to his/her good fortune. However, there have been a few exceptions to this rule, occasions where the individual has generous enough to admit that my advise indeed helped him/her.

I would reiterate here that being a consultant is not something I do out of choice (I am doing quite well professionally. Thank You). However, it is something I have inadvertently become over a period of time – the last couple of years in particular have seen the volume of people contacting me has increased manifold.

I am not complaining, especially keeping in mind the fact that being a consultant can be a future career option.

There’s a problem albeit. At the moment I am not getting paid for my efforts.

And that is definitely something I won’t mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bikash-mohapatra

Bikash Mohapatra

A firm believer in the adage ‘variety is the spice of life’, New Delhi-based Bikash Mohapatra has been a human resource manager, a communication specialist, a strategist, a media professional and a researcher/writer at various stages of his career, acquiring a new set of skills with every additional responsibility.

Outside of work he is an avid traveler, with an innate desire to learn about various people, places and cultures. It is this ‘travel education’, coupled with varied ‘professional experience’ that manifest into thoughts and take the shape of detailed and elaborate narratives.

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