Difficulty might well be a subset of paid employment and of course, no job is a cakewalk. But like the Orwellian pigs, some jobs are more difficult than others. Surviving them is the stuff of archival value and we have tracked three professionals who shared with us how they survived tough jobs before moving on to better assignments.
Akash Banerjee, 31, programming head
Banerjee spent eight years in the frenzy of television newsrooms, reporting, anchoring, negotiating office politics, and through it all, managed to write his book Tales From Shining And Sinking India, published last year. He has now switched jobs to work in a radio station. “When some of us started out wanting to become journalists, all of us instantly thought of Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt and wanted to become conflict reporters. We fantasized about the glamour of being in TV,” he says. Of course, once you’re in it, you realize that it’s very far from being glamorous, and “the conflict reporting, although exciting, needs you to have a life insurance cover of Rs.1 crore”. Banerjee says he was threatened in Singur, West Bengal, got lost in the Nallamala forest near Hyderabad in the middle of the night, and was beaten up by the police in Midnapore, West Bengal.
In the studio, it was a slightly different kind of difficulty. There was the boss to be taken care of, in fact, entire cliques to be managed (in case you did not align yourself to any). There were also powerful guests on the show that you were not permitted to ask difficult questions of, he says. The quality of news being produced was also beginning to lose its charm. “The day we did a James Bond special, wearing a bow tie and with a Bond Girl sitting next to me, I seriously began to question what I was doing here.”
How he survived that job: Bosses have to be kept in good humour in any profession, but here it was taking that to a whole new level. “In the media, there are no numbers to back your work, a lot depends on the perception that you carry among your superiors,” he says. The other tool of survival, was to develop a very thick skin. “Every time your boss tells you you are about to lose your job, it probably means that’s what his boss told him. Just keep at it,” he says.
Remembering the importance of interpersonal relationships is key. Just like the boss, the other people who have to be kept in good humour include friends or colleagues who can cover for you when you can’t make it for a particular shift, or can swap with you,” he says. And finally, have a “flexible” social life. “If you have something planned over the weekend—chances are the plans will fall through because something will happen and that’s the end of your holiday,” he says.
Shagun Sharma, 28, marketing professional
Sharma’s last job was as marketing manager for a newspaper before she moved on to her current job in a brand management and consulting firm. Sharma looked after the northern region and her work entailed travelling to tier II and tier III cities like Bareilly, Agra and Jaipur to conduct research and work it in with the numbers. Budget travel, hectic schedules and visits to the press until the wee hours were not easy to deal with.
“Most organizations allot travel budgets according to your designation and I was often given small-time hotels to stay in. What this meant was the gentry there was not the best possible and this, combined with my late nights, turned out to be a bad combination. I have got strange phone calls at night, most people in those areas looked suspiciously upon a young single woman coming in and out of a hotel room late in the night,” recalls Sharma.
How she survived that job: The best way to deal with this, Sharma realized, was to communicate all these problems to her boss. “I told him of the nature of problems I was facing and the first thing I requested for was to increase my travel allowance so that I could stay in better hotels,” she says. He agreed and also made sure that whenever she had late nights, the unit manager dropped her back to her hotel no matter how late it was.
Arjun Khera, 26, advocate
Khera’s last job was a two-year stint at a small litigation firm in which the sole members of the office were his boss, the senior partner, and him. “We covered a gamut of cases—from criminal, civil, to matrimonial and commercial matters,” says Khera. Since it was a small firm, Khera was given full responsibility for his cases, and was involved at every stage, from research to drafting agreements to appearing in court and pleading cases. This also meant that Khera’s day was sometimes a 9am-4am one.
A typical day would begin at 9am, with him reporting to his Greater Kailash-I, south Delhi, office before heading to the courts—it could be the district courts of Dwarka in the south-west, Karkardooma in the east, Saket in the south, Tis Hazari in the north, Rohini in the north-west, or the Patiala House district courts and high court in the central part of town. “I’d hear my cases and get back to office at 4-4.30pm, and from then to 2-4am, I would be in office,” says Khera. In six months, he got around four Sundays off. It got to a point, he says, when he wasn’t just losing out on family time and “me time”, the quality of his work was being affected. “I was preparing a matter and hadn’t slept for three nights straight. I was in court, waiting for the hearing, and just shut my eyes for 5 minutes. When I woke up, my matter had already passed. My client had missed her maintenance application by a month. I had slept for an hour,” he says.
How he survived that job: Typically, a young lawyer with just about a couple years of experience would get to do some research on judgements and some basic drafting work, certainly not get to represent a party in court, says Khera, who has moved on to another firm. It was this steep learning curve and the sense of being entrusted with incredible responsibility that kept him there. “I had freedom to do anything I wanted with a case, which was incredible,” says Khera.