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  • Raghu Raman

Writing your next 'Posting Order'

I

wrote this blog primarily for officers from the defence forces who are retiring and looking to plan their next career. However, most of the advice is equally valid for those seeking a career change or retirement from the corporate or government jobs as well.

My dear brother officers and sisters,

Very often, officers who are contemplating leaving the forces, or those who are going to superannuate, wonder about their job opportunities in the civvy street.

Since I have been asked this question many times over the last 15 years, I thought I would pen down the dialogs/discussions that I have had with many friends /course mates in a sort of ‘playbook’ for the orbit shift that officers leaving the forces will undergo. While in no way, is this playbook complete, or the only way to approach your career (and life) change, my sense is that it will help you get started. More importantly, it will give you a strong framework to carry out perhaps the most important “appreciation” that you will do in your life.

Understanding The 4 Quadrants of Life

Everything that we do – literally from the time we are born – can be divided into four major quadrants. Health, Wealth, Relationships and Work. Obviously these words are placeholders with broader and deeper meanings.

For instance, health doesn’t just mean your state of health, but also the lifestyle you (and your family) want. Are you open to three hours of commute every day (jobs in major metros will typically mean that) or do you want to play golf or have the leisure of evening walks in pristine environments (unlikely to happen in any metro) Are you (or your family) ok to live in a polluted city? Will you be comfortable doing a job that involves odd hours and lots of travel (Typical consulting company / Start up environment) or do you want a more fixed schedule with lots of holidays (Dean/Administrative Head of a School).

Similarly, wealth has different connotations depending on each individual. Some have financial commitments at the time of their superannuation, others don’t. Similarly, spendable wealth is different from earnable wealth. For instance, let’s assume you have two offers, one in Nashik and the other in Mumbai. Even if the latter pays you 50% more than the former, much of that delta will be consumed in your accommodation and/or commuting cost. So you might be technically earning more in Mumbai, but keeping less money than a colleague in Nashik. Similarly, don’t confuse wealth with money. Wealth is what you have left after all your money is gone. While we are on wealth, here is another aspect that you might want to consider. Please be careful while evaluating offers. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you have two offers. One of say 30 Lakhs per annum and the other of 60 lakhs. While the latter seems to be one to take without batting an eyelid, here the way it works. The employer’s expectation from you will be twice in case of the latter offer. It’s a bit like betting on coming in “Excellent timing” in an obstacle course that you have never seen, let alone even practiced on once! It is far better to surpass expectations in the early stages of your second career, than being an ‘underperformer’. Because once you lose that 60 lakh job because of underperformance, it will be very difficult to find another good opportunity. The civvy street is fairly objective when it comes to performance and taking on an offer – just because its more lucrative may not be a smart idea in the long run. Better to take the offer in which you are reasonably confident on delivering. Its confidence, not bravado that must guide your choice.

Relationships – encompasses how you want to spend your time nurturing them. An officer whose children are settled may want the leisure of looking after ancestral property, or aging parents, or simply travel around the country visiting friends etc. Another officer who still has financial commitments will have to build a strong set of new professional relationships, rather than nurturing old Fauji ones, for the time being at least. Yet others may have an academic bent of mind and want to dabble in think thanks, improving their ‘knowledge relationships’.

The point is that these four quadrants are placeholders and you need to customize your ‘wants’ based on them.

Now comes the difficult part.

Allot 10 points to each one of the quadrants, and now prioritise so that you get the maximum score of only 30. This will force you to prioritise one, or perhaps two quadrants, as your top priority at the moment. This is possibly one of the most important exercises that will influence your decisions for the future, so please take time doing this. Involve your better half or other stakeholders in your decision. Think through the implication of every choice. The crux being, don’t try to get 40 out of 40. That is not going to happen. Life doesn’t work that way.

Lastly, be aware of two phenomena that drive our life’s decisions. There is an external scorecard, and an internal scorecard. The external scorecard are the ones that we have been trained on from our childhood. Which school we went to, what rank we had in class, what appointment we were in the Academy, what were our course gradings, UN postings, strategic appointments, higher command, NDC, ACR rating etc. These scorecards serve as well in a professional life span, because they act as guiding posts and tell us whether we are doing “well” or not.

I think we have lived long enough to realise that the external scorecard has no connection to internal state of happiness/satisfaction. I know of officers who are heading business units worth several hundred crores employing thousands of men, and I also know officers who are working part-time teaching children in school in a small town. As you can guess, their span of command and the happiness levels have no connection to each other.

Most of the officers who are superannuating after decades of service, have lived on an external scorecard through their life. Matter of fact, some might ironically be chucking, because they feel that the external scorecard has not been fair to them. The external scorecard will never be fair on a case to case basis, because it is designed to be fair generically.

But it is your internal scorecard that actually gives happiness. [Read the blog titled "The Pyramid of Leadership" to understand this better]

This Four Quadrant exercise, will help develop your internal scorecard. Once you have decided what your specific want/desire is, then the job you want to do, the vocation you want to pursue, or even the location you want to be in, will fall into place. Once you get the clarity, you’ll be surprised as to how the jobs will find you instead of the other way round.

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