MARCH 31, 2002
 Cover Story
 Personal Finance
 Case Game
 Back of the Book
The Online Best Employers Package
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Stanley Fischer Unplugged
He has the rare distinction of having advised through the half-a-dozen economic crises of the 90s. But now economist Stanley Fischer is calling it quits at the International Monetary Fund, and joining Citicorp as Vice Chairman. In India recently, Fischer spoke on IMF, India, and the global recession.
More Net Specials
Help, Tarun!!!

Q. I am a 28-year-old sales executive with a small consumer goods company. An MBA in finance from a second-rung B-school, I am thinking of switching to finance. Now, how do I explain to interviewers why I got into sales instead of finance (I had no good offers in the latter) in the first place?

Crossing Over
The Cross-Functional Edge

A. Now that you have been in sales for three years, it is not going to be easy to suddenly switch to finance. You can continue with marketing and try for a product management or advertising job, else, you could join the sales division of a bank or financial services company, and then get into operations. Alternatively, you can look for a finance job in a relatively smaller company. It will be tricky to say that you wanted to try sales since that would open a Pandora's box of questions. It will be best to be honest and explain that you didn't land a finance land at that point in time and no option but to try your hand at sales.

I am a management graduate from XLRI. I joined the credit cards division of a multinational bank but quit after three years to found an internet company. I have since moved on and would like to join a dotcom, but feel that my prospective employers will see me as a quitter. How do I present my experience in the best light and what questions should I be prepared to answer in the interview?

Although you have not explained why you quit your earlier jobs, let me assure you that you will not be labelled a quitter. There may be many reasons why you might have quit and none of them necessarily indicate that you are a quitter. During the interview, you will be asked about your work profile, the things you learned, and your achievements and mistakes. You may also be asked why you left your corporate job and started a dotcom and why you left the start-up. Your answer will be crucial in establishing your motivation and commitment.

These days, new recruits hired at any level get higher salaries because, apparently, their experience is extremely valuable to a company. But how does an insider negotiate his pay? Is job-hopping the answer to my problem? I have been working in my current company for the past eight years and enjoy complete job satisfaction. How do I handle the situation?

This was a very serious problem till companies realised it and from time to time made salary corrections in order to balance remuneration of the existing employees with the new recruits. Your company obviously does not belong to the league of companies that has done so. If you are satisfied with your work and don't want to quit, you should speak to your boss or someone in the hr department. If you have already raised the issue to no avail you need to look for a job. This is unfortunate since you enjoy the work so much but in the long term staying on may lead to more frustration.

I am a management graduate and have been a part of the consumer durables industry for the past 10 years. In these 10 years, I have worked as a marketing executive in six different companies. How do I explain this to my prospective employers? Do you think my choice of industry is wrong and that this has led to such frequent changes in jobs? Should I try my luck in another industry, say fast moving consumer goods?

There is no reason to conclude that you are or are not cut out for the consumer durables industry. What you should do at this stage is ask yourself what is it that you enjoy about your job and what it is that you don't. Also ask yourself what has been behind your frequent moves. Is there a common thread running through the six job switches? Once you have answered these questions, see whether the reasons have anything to do with the industry. If that is indeed the case, then, and only then you need to change your industry. However, make sure you do not switch to a similar industry. Although you have not mentioned the reasons for your frequent job changes, I assume that they were not the result of sudden whims and you have a logical explanation. This is something that you will have to present to your prospective employers. To assure your prospective employer, you could even admit that you realise you have changed too many jobs and would like to settle down now. If your explanation has a ring of sincerity about it, it will certainly be accepted.

Tarun Sheth, a senior consultant at the Mumbai-based recruitment and training consultancy firm Shilputsi, addresses your career concerns every fortnight. Write to Help,Tarun!!! c/o Business Today, F-26, Connaught Place, New Delhi-110001.

Crossing Over

Debashish Roy, VP (HR), Colgate-Palmolive India

Colgate-Palmolive's Debashish Roy talks to BT's on the increasing importance of cross-functional shifts in career development.

Q. Are companies encouraging cross-functional shifts?

A. Yes. Most companies realise the advantages of all-round experience and give employees the opportunity to acquire diverse competencies and skills thus enabling them to enrich their professional portfolio.

How necessary are these shifts for those aiming to go up the corporate ladder?

Cross-functional shifts inculcate general management skills in high-potential employees for them to go on to senior positions that require a good understanding of the business dynamics.

Do companies look for cross-functional experience in CEOs?

Cross-functional experience is always an asset in any senior management or leadership role.

What are the more common shifts in the industry?

The most common shifts are from sales to marketing. The other shifts are from finance to hr, marketing to hr, and hr to corporate communications. However, it needs to be recognised that these shifts are not a trend or a fad, but planned career moves based on individual aptitude and company needs.

At what point in his career should an executive seek a shift?

Most companies allow cross-functional shifts only after the employee has proved himself. Some make it compulsory for management trainees to go through cross-functional training prior to joining duty.

The Cross-Functional Edge
In-house moves that made big careers.

Manoj Adlakha, VP (Consumer Cards)
American Express Travel Related Services India
Shift: Credit Cards to Strategic Planning to Business Planning to Finance to Marketing
My experience across functions in Amex has not only helped me master various components of leadership, but has also taught me to study situations first and then work out an action plan. Exposure to a variety of disciplines has contributed towards my understanding of the company and business better.

Umang Mundra, VP & Country Branch Operations Head, Global Corporate & Investment Bank
Citibank India
Shift: Sales to Service to Marketing to Projects to Product Management to Operations
I believe that to prepare oneself for larger responsibilities in an organisation, one needs to acquire various skill sets. Seniority is not just about expertise in a single field. One needs to manage all aspects, be it financial, customers, people, or processes. My stints in consumer and corporate banking have provided me with experience across businesses and functions and given me the confidence to handle general management responsibilities.

Hari Iyer, VP (People & Process)
Sasken Technologies
Shift: HR to Strategic Planning & Marketing to HR & Corporate Communications to People & Process
My current designation is actually a combination of HR, which is my area of expertise, and quality. Sasken's open organisation culture gives one the opportunity to move across functions, which, in turn, gives a wide exposure to the business dynamics of the company and the HR needs of its employees.

Manoranjan Mohapatra, COO
Hughes Software Systems
Shift: Engineering to Product Management to Business Development to Operations (Sales, Engineering, Quality Management)
My background in core engineering has always given me a technical edge but my stints in different functions have honed my competitive skills over the years. It has also exposed me to various functions of the organisation. In the process, I have learned to take on challenges and deliver results.