Follow Your Heart And Do What You Want

k4604027One of my favorite questions to ask participants in a team session is “What is the one thing you would do with your life if you didn’t have any other commitments?” The answers people give are very interesting as many say they want to give back. Recognizing that they are ‘privileged’ these individuals would want to use their skills, resources and time to give back to their community by helping educate children, helping poor women develop skills to build a livelihood or supporting hospitals in impoverished areas. Others have long standing dreams they were never able to fulfill. I met a Managing Director who always wanted to be a pilot, an HR Director who dreamed of being a pediatric doctor, a CEO who wanted to write a cookbook and a Finance Manager who wanted to be an anthropologist and publish his own coffee-table-photo-books that would cover his journeys.

These are all fantastic dreams and amazing insights into the souls of individuals. Of course the next tough question is always: If that is your dream, then why are you not pursuing it?

The reasons I get for not following ones dreams range from:

  • I don’t have the time
  • I am scared
  • I don’t know how to do it
  • I need to have a stable income to look after my financial commitments
  • My daughter is getting married in 5 years
  • It is too late now
  • I don’t know where to start
  • I can’t take the risk
  • It’s too difficult to do
  • What if I fail
  • I would let my parents down if I make this change and throw away the important position that I have created

All true. All these are good enough reasons not to follow your dreams…right?
So what to do? How can you follow your dreams right now without giving up everything you have worked for? I would suggest you:

1. Start By Taking Small Steps
As Dr. Gregory House, from the TV shows says; “Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were”. It is all about starting to approach things differently. So if you want to become a writer, start a blog or publish an e-book. If you want to become a musician, upload a video on YouTube and shamelessly promote it as much as you can. If you want to help educate people, associate yourself with an NGO and on Saturdays you can give back to the community by teaching underprivileged kids to read and write. If you always wanted to be a doctor, then take a first aid or CPR training class.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

2. Stay focused
Look at all the people that you admire in this world. What is the one thing they have in common? It’s their laser like clarity and focus on achieving their dream. Steve Jobs was not distracted by the million other things he could have sold, Mandela’s only focus was to bring down apartheid, Jake Welch’s sole aim was to make GE number 1 or 2 in every market.

It is all about knowing what you want and staying away from distractions. As they say, you know a company’s (or person’s) strategy on the basis of what they spend their time on. The same applies for achieving your dream. Spend time on one specific goal and stay away from the numerous distractions that come your way.

3. Persevere
The definition of perseverance is “to continue in a course of action, even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” Some steps in achieving your dream will lead to dead ends while others will get you closer to your goal. The only option you don’t have is to stop trying and give up. Don’t give up too easy…it’s your dream we are talking about!

– Paul Keijzer

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3 Reasons Why You Can Get Things Done Faster In Asia Than Anywhere Else

FastBizmanOne of the things I love about working in Asia is the speed at which you get things done. Of course, there are many situations in which the bureaucracies and intricacies of doing business in Asia is daunting for the first timer, but when you know your way around you can get things done in no-time and significantly faster than many other parts of the world.

Over the past few weeks I was involved in an initiative to pro-actively identify and develop Myanmar’s Talent as part of an organizations bid to obtain a telecom license and enter Myanmar (see also Myanmar Talent Gold Rush.) Within 7 days this team was ready to launch a press conference, advertising campaign, and build a social media presence and job portal from scratch. This was all in a country that has been isolated from the international business world for the last decade. I would say that is a high achievement!

Speed is Asia’s salient feature. Why, I ask myself, is it possible to get things done here in 7 days that would take 3 months in many other parts of the world? Over the past 15 years having worked everywhere from China to Riyadh and everything in between I have realized that 3 specific features drive the ability to get things done fast in Asia:

1. Hunger for Success
Asia is hungry for success. The continent wants to move and move fast. They realize its their time to take the center stage in the world and they don’t want to waste this opportunity. They are willing to make the extra efforts, sacrifice and still have that zeal to work and push themselves hard, because they want to create a better life for their children. Asians are self-reliant and know that they can’t depend on the government to bail them out (there is no social safety net other than your extended family). They have to do it themselves and will find any way to create a better future for their families, their communities and at the end their countries.

2. It’s All About People
In the developed world, work is organized around processes and systems. The advantage of this is that you can get things done no matter who you are or who you know. Everything is standardized and delivered against certain parameters. Speed, flexibility and customization however are not something that go hand-in-hand easily with a process and systems driven approach. In Asia work is organized around people. Things get done because of who you know and if you have built the right relationship with the right people, things can move faster than anywhere else in the world.

3. Driven From The Top
The last reason is that the power in Asian organizations still reside solidly at the top of the organizational pyramid. The acceptance of power and authority allows the entrepreneurial business owner to push decisions through and ensure implementation with lightening speed.

Of course all of these elements have their downside and I am sure that as the Asian economies and businesses develop the call to transform from people to process driven / regulated societies will increase. However, for the time being, if you want to get things done fast, get it done in Asia.

– Paul Keijzer

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Myanmar’s Talent Gold Rush

title-Gold-RushI got to spend a fantastic couple of days in Myanmar last week and had a really wonderful experience. Having been isolated by economic sanctions for more than a decade, Myanmar is shaking off its shackles, focusing on the future and booming. The international business world is descending on Myanmar, as it is one of the last white spaces, and is hungry to capitalize on the desire of 55 million people who rightfully believe their time has come.

Infrastructure, FMCG, Automotive, Pharma, Energy Companies and recently, Telecom Operators, are all knocking on Myanmar’s door. Some companies had come prepared, moved in the moment the sanctions were removed and now have a significantly successful head start in running their businesses.

Setting up shop in Myanmar is not for the faint hearted. It has many challenges, but probably the most difficult is finding, developing and retaining Burmese talent. Myanmar’s underinvestment in education, its isolation and the brain drain of Burmese talent to other part of the world has created a super storm, almost wiping out the availability of Burmese talent capable of running an international business.

This high demand and low supply of talent has created a Talent Gold Rush (like the situation I witnessed in China in the 90’s and Vietnam in the early 00’s) where new entrants are going all out to spot talent and are trying to lure them away from existing companies. Existing businesses are introducing all kinds of golden handcuffs in order to retain their staff. The few Burmese who are lucky enough to have the required skill set, fare well by this situation, as their salaries are destined to multiply of the next years. But, an ever-increasing salary spiral for the happy few is not a solution for Myanmar and those companies that are trying to build a successful and sustainable business.

For companies to succeed and for the government to ensure the economic boom trickles down to other parts of the society, both need to design a creative and holistic talent strategy. This strategy should combine casting the recruitment net wide and far, an all out effort to bring people up the skill curve in the shortest possible time and creating a heartfelt connection that binds people with the company.

The companies that prevail in Myanmar will be those that make the achievements of the country and its people their success. That success needs to be earned “Inch-by-Inch” through hard work, being smart, moving fast and a long-term focus.

The enthusiasm, energy and excitement in Myanmar is palpable; It is their time and I am sure they will capitalize on this to the fullest. Lets hope it lifts as many boats as possible and that the past decade has not created a lost generation.

– Paul Keijzer

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Find Me A Job Now!!!

find-job-key-250x250The job market in Pakistan is, and has been for some time now, completely flat. On a yearly basis, my team and I survey the Pakistani talent market and assess its turbulence. Well, at the moment we are stuck in the ‘doldrums’ (a low-pressure area around the equator where there is almost no wind and sailors are stuck for days trying to get through). There is no movement whatsoever as companies are very reluctant to hire. Managers are holding on to their seats with all their might and if someone moves, companies often decide not to replace them, and do without the position.

A lot of people are looking for jobs and trust me, times are tough. The number of resumes that we as headhunters receive from hopeful candidates is overwhelming. Some of them we can help, some of them we advice and quite a few of them we have to disappoint.

Being in the headhunting business you sometimes get the strangest requests. I am bombarded with emails that start with “Hello Sir, please give me a job in Dubai. I am ready to start next week’. It’s unbelievable the expectations that people have (as if I am running a butcher shop from which people want to choose which piece of meat they want.) I understand their bluntness, but instead of people making an effort trying to understand what it takes to land them a job in their favorite destination, they just demand it be done.

However, it is not something that can be achieved with a simple click of a button. So here are five tips to fast-track your career when there is no clear career opportunities on the horizon:

1. Know where you want to go: Be clear on what you love to do, where you can be the best in the world, where and how you can perform the job you love to do, how you can add value to companies, how you position yourself and what differentiates you from others. As the Alice in Wonderland saying goes “if you don’t know where you are going, every road will take you there.”
2. Take ownership of your own career: If you can’t find an immediate opportunity, prepare yourself and start learning for the job you want to do tomorrow. As the saying goes ‘luck is where opportunity meets preparation’. (Tomorrow Is Here Today)
3. Take initiative: suggest to your boss that you want to become responsible for this specific project. Don’t expect more money or a promotion, just do it for your own development.
4. Read, study and learn: Read a book a month, make summaries of what you read and share it with your colleagues. The best way to retain information is by teaching others. (Teach Yourself By Teaching Others)
5. Network, Network, Network: People that are able to land jobs are people who have a tremendous network and know how to use it. Don’t abuse it, use it.

Hopefully the economy will turn, companies and foreign investors will gain confidence and start investing and opportunities will come. But until that moment, get yourself in shape and be ready to ride that wave.

– Paul Keijzer

They Like You, They Like You Not!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it comes to hiring talent, organizations tend to look for employees who are dynamic, impressive and will contribute positively to the future of the company. However, as leaders of these organizations, how do you know if these dynamic individuals will be choosing you when they graduate from college?  Are you their first choice? Do students aspire to work for you? Do they like you…or not?

To help you answer these questions, Engage Consulting is in the process of conducting, the Most Preferred Employer Study 2013. This study is specially designed to help organizations understand the employment preferences of graduating students across Pakistan. What do these students want when it comes to finding a job? Who is their most preferred employer, most preferred industry? What benefits are they most interested or attracted to? The aim of the MPE is to focus on student’s first choice preferences, to collect data from Business, IT and Engineering students from the leading universities of the country and to help organizations understand what it takes to be the employer of choice in the talent market.

Working alongside Pakistan’s top universities, while partnering with graduating students to help collect survey responses, Engage Consulting will be helping students by giving them a voice and aiding  future employers understand the deciding factors behind what attracts fresh graduates to their desired organizations. Universities also benefit by partnering with Engage Consulting, as they have an opportunity to improve on their career development services and be recognized as a progressive university in the job market, by supporting our research.

In today’s highly competitive global economy, attracting and retaining talent is the key to success. There is a substantial and rapidly expanding body of evidence that speaks to the strong connection between employee perceptions (the people), organizational functioning (the processes) and the economic results achieved (the performance). Organizations that adopt ‘people centered’ practices can see immediate effects that can be translated into a markedly improved competitive advantage.

What factors do you think make your organization a desired work environment for graduating students? To find out what Engage Consulting uncovers about the leading characteristics that drive students to choose an employer of choice, stay tuned to read the highlights report from our findings.

Written by: Anusha Bawany
This author is the Marketing Coordinator at Engage Consulting

Young Entrepreneurs: Taking Charge

iycfposter1_newinWhat do Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Mark Zukerberg, Michael Dell, Sergey Brinn and my father all have in common? No, it is not that they all have been highly successful in building fortune 500 companies (my father build a modest Food and Beverage Distribution company in my hometown.) What they have in common is that they all started their ventures when they were in the early 20’s.

The question is being asked whether extensive experience helps in becoming a successful entrepreneur, and I am sure it has a significant impact. However, the list above shows that the people that really made it big didn’t have the experience, but they did have the idea, the obsession and the drive to succeed.

One of the main reasons that young entrepreneurs have been so successful is that they have got little to lose. They can go all out, take the risk, work as hard as humanly possible and if it doesn’t work, at least they can say they tried, learned from it and can try again.

As Mark Zukerberg says it: “There will never be a better time in your life to live your dream of entrepreneurship. Swing for the fences with a goal to add your name to the prestigious list above. If you fail, it will have been one of the best learning experiences of your life”

I read an article on Inc. with tips from America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs and picked out some important highlights:

  • Simplify Your Mission: “I would encourage other entrepreneurs to spend a lot of time boiling down what their business is, what it does, and what it represents. If you nail down a 60- to 90-second synopsis, that will pay a lot of dividends throughout the life of your business.”
    – Eric Koger, ModCloth
  • Ditch your safety net: “I lined up a job at Goldman Sachs. I thought I was pretty smart since this would give me a backup if the start up wasn’t working out. Looking back now, I realized that having that in hand was a reason not to push harder and higher. The day before the job started, I told them I wanted to pursue my own company. They thought I was crazy, but I think it has worked out pretty well.”
    – John Goscha, IdeaPaint
  • Be Nimble: “The landscape no longer changes every two, three, four years like it did in 2002. If you’re not quick on your toes, you will miss opportunities.”
    – Tristan Harris, Apture

And my favorite:

  • Don’t Go It Alone: “Surround yourself with an awesome team because you’re going to need them to overcome all the obstacles that come with starting a company. Lots of people have great ideas that they try to tackle by themselves, but I think it’s almost impossible to do everything by yourself.”
    – Emily Olson, Foodzie

I am sure there are a number of amazing entrepreneurs out there in Pakistan. People that have got great ideas but need a support network in order to make it big. I would love to contribute to the success of young Pakistani entrepreneurs. Men and women that have embarked on the journey of launching and growing their company, and in the process change their future.

I know that it can be lonely setting up a new company. Knowing whether you are taking the right steps, sharing your success and more importantly your failures so you can pick up the pieces and bounce back even stronger.

I want to reach out to aspiring young entrepreneurs that have recently started their own company, maybe have one or two other people working with them and are looking for companionship, counsel and a desire to be part of a larger group of like-minded people. If you are interested, send me a quick email at and lets catch up and see how I can help you take your business / idea to the next level.

Go for it!

– Paul Keijzer

The Interview IQ: Great Questions for Candidates to Ask

Screen-Shot-2012-03-18-at-8.13.38-PMOver the years I have interviewed thousands of candidates. Some have been highly impressive, some good but the majority of candidates were mediocre. There is plenty of advice out there on how you should dress, behave and prepare for these job interviews. But, looking back I found that the majority of candidates that I hired made an impact not because of the questions they answered but because of the questions they asked.

Candidates asking great questions stand out because they have not only properly prepared themselves, they have gone beyond that and have immersed themselves in the company and the job that is at stake. It shows not only a different level of interest but also a different level of intellect to get the job.

So here are some questions that you might ask:

  • What are the outstanding achievements expected from me 12 months from now?
  • What are characteristics of employees that have been successful in working with you?
  • What are you looking for to determine whether a person has potential to grow in this company?
  • In addition to the company values, what other characteristics do you value in your employees?
  • What have been the reasons the company has been successful in the past?
  • What is the reason this company exists, what contribution does it make to the larger community?
  • How would you describe the leadership style of the CEO and his / her direct reports?
  • What makes a person successful in this organization?

In addition to asking questions you might impress the interviewer by sharing how your recruitment would add value to the organization. You could do this by:

  • Sharing a number of ideas on how you would grow the market / launch an innovation / improve a process / develop people
  • Share insights on how ways of working from other industries might be applied in this company
  • Highlight a number of best practices that you have picked up that might work for the organization you are applying
  • Compliment the interviewer by sharing positive feedback you have heard about the organization from others

An interview is all about convincing the interviewer that you have the required skills and competencies, that you are the right cultural fit and above all how you could add value to this organization so that paying your salary is an investment on which an organization gets a greater return.

Go on – blow them away and land that amazing job you are gunning for!

– Paul Keijzer

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What Women Want … At Work

Female-workfoce-640x480There has been a lot of talk in the past about how to motivate ones employee to perform better and whether the motivational factors for women are different from those for men. The number of women being added to the workforce in Pakistan has increased considerably, enough to ask – how many of us actually make it to top ranking positions and stay there?

Employers may argue that they don’t have enough qualified and developed female employees to promote to top level positions. If that is the case, it should be the responsibility of organization leaders to invest in the female workforce and to create a corporate culture that appeals to top female performers. However, the question still remains: What appeals to the top female performers? What Do These Women Want… At Work?

According to an article by Dr. Romila Singh, “Corporate America has made huge strides in attracting top-notch female talent to their workplaces, but they rapidly lose them – not for gender-specific reasons, but gender-neutral reasons. Retention is closely tied to advancement: same for women as it is for men. What is Corporate America doing to close the revolving door for women?”

After decades of research, the question is no longer what women want or even whether their needs are similar or different from that of male employees. The question is: How do organizations ensure that they are indeed offering women the same things as they are offering men?”

Speaking to some of the top female talent in Pakistan’s corporate world, here are a few factors that came to light:

My Work Arrangements Should Be Flexible:

Flexibility is about an employee and employer making changes to when, where and how a person will work better to meet individual and business needs. Being in charge of work arrangements is something that greatly appeals to women. When balancing their personal and professional lives, women tend to favor having flexible options on how to manage their time.

According to an article I read in the economic times, written by Saundarya Rajesh, “Being able to allot some time to home-related activities even during the regular working hours, is the biggest ask from the side of the woman manager. Multiple flavors of flexible working abound – part-timing, flexi-timing, job-sharing, job-splitting, staggered work hours.”

My Work Should Be Meaningful:

In today’s world women are studying, pursuing their careers, raising children, running households and taking care of their spouses. It’s important for working women to feel and to know that what they do is meaningful. A female employee needs to feel that her time away from home and family is something that will yield her extravagant results in the future and is not going to waste. She also needs to feel that the organization depends on her and that she is valuable resource.

My Appraisal Should Be Fair:

One of the most important factors in understanding the right way to attain and retain female talent, is to understand that women don’t like to be discriminated against. The principal thought is “I am a woman, but don’t you dare hold that against me.” It’s important to note that every female in the corporate world wants to know that they are taken seriously and the playing field is leveled. A future pay raise, promotion, transfer, etc… should not be held back because the employer feels that being a woman, the employee needs to be tried and tested more.

“Never make the cardinal mistake of paying a woman less than her male counterpart.” According to Romana Khokar, Director at Engage Consulting, it is very important for a woman’s work to be appreciated by her family, colleagues should recognize the contributions and the organization should aim at consciously remove glass ceiling which prevent career progression.

Anushey Matri
(Marketing Manager, Engage Consulting)

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Your To Don’t List For 2013: How Not To Engage Talent

Work_New_Year_ResolutionsThe beginning of the year is always about ones New Years resolutions and what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Recently I read an article in the New York Times that suggested; instead of making your “To Do” list, make a “To Don’t” list. I thought that was a brilliant idea, as you will be taking into account the things you should NOT do!

So, if one of your resolutions is to fast track your best talent this year, here is a list of things Not To Do:

1. Think Small
Your department has to deliver operational results. You want to make sure you use your best player to deliver your department results, right? … Wrong! Use your best talent for delivering results that will blow your boss away. Don’t waste their abilities to deliver daily / operational tasks. Let them run. Give them challenges and make sure they constantly run in 5th gear.

2. Be Murky
Not being clear of what you expect of someone is the number one performance killer. How can people perform if they don’t know what is expected of them? Setting clear performance expectations is significantly more difficult as it sounds, as it requires you to analyze, articulate and simplify into a clear objective. Answer the following questions: What will WOW you? Will your team achieve their goals/targets by the end of the year? What would success in this project / task look like?

3. Sit On Their Head
Talent is talent because you know they have got the capability to get things done. Maybe they don’t have the experience or knowledge yet, but they are imaginative enough to figure it out or find the information they need in order to get things done. The worst thing you can do is to hold them on a tight leash. Give them the resources they need and trust them to do the rest.

4. Keep Them In The Dark
People that have talent are not only aware of the fact, but also know their market value. The best thing you can do is to acknowledge this and help your talent discover how they can achieve their potential and maximize their growth. The moment that you start hiding opportunities (inside or outside the company) you will lose their trust. Treat people with respect and help them think through the career and learning options they have. If you put yourself in their perspective and help them reach their potential, you will not only gain their trust, but maybe even their loyalty.

5. Hide Them
Talent learns from doing big things, making mistakes and a guiding hand who can help them sweat the small stuff. Above all they learn from exposure; learning from people that are better than them and being exposed to meetings, interactions, presentations, discussions that are far above their pay grade. Talent wants to meet other talent. They want to measure themselves up with others and want to network with other top performers. Not only will your talent benefit from this exposure, but the organization will benefit as well, as learning spreads around quickly. Even more importantly, you will benefit from exposing your best talent and your bosses will recognize you for the talent developer that you are.

I wish you an amazing new year and if there is one resolution for 2013 that will benefit you professionally the most it is to develop your talent. It will help them, help your company and above all help you!

– Paul Keijzer