Imagine sitting next to a career coach with 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to seek help for the most burning issues in your career. You know these will help you grow. You also know that some thoughts you had about negotiating those bends in your career could be validated.

In the first of a four-part series, questions millennial employees ask their managers or mentors were sent to Prabir Jha, one of most followed HR influencers and among the top five LinkedIn’s Power Profiles for 2018. Jha, president and global chief people officer of drug maker Cipla, has over three decades of people management experience across industries, including stints with Reliance Industries, Tata Motors and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories. He tells millennial employees what to do when they have little or no access to information, why waiting for assignments you are passionate about is a waste of time, and how self-learning is the way ahead. Edited excerpts:

I feel I am only an extra hand in my organization. Does my employer really want me to make a difference to the business? How can I effectively contribute?

Every organization is unique, and so is every manager. Some are more inclusive, empowering and trusting than others. However, at an individual level, you can do your best to stand apart and be counted. Show initiative and passion, not just cynicism and indifference. Always aim to deliver better than expected, qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Demonstrate great collaboration and teamwork—these behaviours are scarce and, hence, much-sought-after in most companies. All this will help build your reputation and bring more opportunities your way.

I want to take up passion-based, and not availability-based assignments. What can be done to address this need?

Be open to assignments. Very often we become fussy about the kind of assignments. And it is possible that the organization may not have enough of those. Can you make even a mundane assignment come to life by trying a different approach? My own experience is that you cannot put a good guy down for long. They will make anything look different from before. So, instead of cribbing and losing more of your passion, you ought to think positively and creatively to solve routine problems in a smarter way. Every constraint is an opportunity to prove your abilities. Just do it. And better opportunities will follow.

Hoarding of non-classified information gets me frustrated because limited access affects my job outcome. How does one navigate such dynamics at work?

This is unfortunately true of many companies and managers, who believe information is the source of power. The good news is that new digital reality is bringing in more information democracy. Yet, learn networking skills, build personal relationships, and share your experiences and knowledge. Follow the rule of reciprocity. The more you give, the more you get. Sometimes, it boils down to just asking more clearly. We often believe nothing can change. But I believe everything can change if we only speak up more confidently.

How do I stay focused on a job or task at hand at a stretch?

Distractions in today’s world are quite normal. Prioritize your energy on your near-term deliverables. Build impact in your role, and in the process, your reputation. Share your doings with key stakeholders. Ask for help—it is not weakness, but a sign of inclusion. Sometimes, laughing at yourself and your assignment helps too! Do not take it more seriously than needed. All these will add more life to your routine assignment. And you will finish it better, quicker and happier.

How do I fuel my need for constant change—the kind that entails enhancement as well as the addition of skills and knowledge?

Inquisitiveness, curiosity and learning agility have no constraints, really. A lot of learning comes from the demands of your role, or the way you fashion your response to these demands. Practise new learnings, and experiment in every role. Learn from colleagues beyond the need of your current role—both in terms of breadth and depth. Learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of disciplines and functions, possibly the most crucial learning to master. Explore opportunities to be a part of cross-functional teams. Read and write or speak about your areas of interest. This forces you to learn all the time. Check out internal job opportunities and go beyond being a prisoner of your past education and experience. And you will realize that there are different ways of responding to our learning needs and yearnings for new experiences.

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