We have set out inspiring goals, got the basic knowledge, and gotten into the habit of updating our knowledge, skilling ourselves in the identified areas for success. One needs to continue to work/ learn in all the areas. When I started my office in 1987 (pre-qualification) there was hardly anybody visiting for days together. I wasted those precious years reading novels!!. However, if I had joined an advocate in indirect taxes I would have moved up the knowledge and experience ladder faster. I felt that even if I had joined the industry for a few years, it would have helped. I had a guru Shri KS Ravishankar to whom I would go for getting my work validated. But I had very few assignments coming in. In fact, one of the reasons for converting from a proprietary to a partnership was to provide a learning platform and spawn the thought leaders in this domain where there were very few. In 2007-09, we had an open mentorship available for anybody. No reference needed. We had around 8 professionals from across India. One of them is my partner in Gurgoan today. We also had one from Delhi who did not sign the NDA when he left. This in addition to my stint in the ICAI council stopped this program.
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Planning to re-start this wonderful "gurukul" type system with checks and balances in the next few months.
In all of the professions, the need to get adequate experience is very important to succeed faster and more importantly provide quality services to clients to avoid any exposure for them later. The Guru or the mentor is expected to always provide guidance on what are the characteristics one needs to incorporate in themselves like the spirit of service, ethical way, integrity, excellence, etc. in addition to the knowledge and insights. Therefore, choosing the Guru is extremely important. If we look at every professional who made a name for himself/ herself, they have decided to learn under a senior for a few years before they ventured on their own. In larger firms, it is easier to put the mentorship program with the qualified mentoring the new joiners and the partners doing the same for the qualified. Today online mentoring from famous people is also available. The best learning today is experiential learning which is available on the job. Stage by stage one progresses till they are able to appear effectively before the Tribunals/ Court with confidence. The choice of learning maybe from different sources to broaden one's understanding. An example could be that the tax advocates can join a practicing chartered accountant and vice versa.
The relevance of my sharing may need to be tweaked depending on the stage one goes for practical training after getting the requisite knowledge. The read may differentiate between the junior, semi-qualified as well as qualified - all of whom can choose to get the experience.
The focus of this series is for the practitioners. However, many of the directions/ guidance /tips could apply equally to those going for a job to be able to discharge their responsibilities with more confidence.
The advantages of practical training/ internship/ exposure for self-improvement could be many as you know. Some have been briefly discussed as under:
1. Understand the business globally, in India as well as the client. What makes it tick? What makes it fail? What are the common challenges, disputes, solutions? If one starts with a senior then a wealth of such information is available in the records. Different industries, trades, issues would have been dealt with. One can devote a few hours after office hours to assimilate the same.
If one is on his own then, it may take a decade to get the needed exposure.
2. Every generation stands on the shoulders of the earlier one. This is true for those who chose to get on the job training as they need not make the common mistakes which lead to the client getting a disservice though the intention was good. Very important as a few poor opinions/ cases would mark one as unreliable!! We all know bad news spread fast.
3. Applying the knowledge being gained in real-life practical situations to see what works and how it works. Some best practices can be adopted.
4. Applying and honing the skills one has learned in book/ videos with the clients, revenue officers, judges. Slowly building a name for oneself in the shadow of the senior practitioners. The professionals unlike the industry may not in the initial period have an attractive salary package. However, they are not charging for the training and personal grooming and guiding which one is sure to take advantage of.
5. Observing the senior, others in the office, other professionals during the course of learning from the senior would develop the professional aptitudes and characteristics for success in the future with some stability.
If one is on his/her own, the lack of work may lead one astray to clutch at unethical ways to earn or getting bored with bookish knowledge.
6. Understand interpersonal relationships at all levels- juniors, seniors peers, bosses, clients. In today’s world, having a good connection with the employees yields excellent and astonishing results. In practice personally, I have proved that the background of the employee: economically challenged, from a rural area with language challenges, gender, physical challenges are not relevant if we have a support system. In our office, we have had 3 children who did not have money for school education rising to partner level in a period of 10 years after qualification.
Of course, inducting smart students is a much easier method but has the flip side of probably not for the longer term. Retaining good contributing. Committed professionals ( especially if homegrown) is very important. The inculcation of money not being an end in itself while having examples within the firm as to the possibilities to have a good economic standing should inspire others.
7. When we meet more people and are in circulation as we would be if we are in a bigger firm gaining insights, we have a better chance of building our network and contacts. This could be further speeded up by serving all and attempting to make a difference to them.
8. There is something to learn from everybody. Learn from other professionals in that office and see how teams can work effectively, learn to manage.
9. This is also a place where one can make mistakes that would not be catastrophic. A great chance to improve your communication and leadership skills on the ground. When we do good work, more important work would gravitate to us.
The opportunities/alternatives for getting experience can be as under:
a. If one is doing CA then there is a mandatory 3 years of articleship. This, in my view, is the golden period to get maximum exposure. It may be important to join the firm in which you would get the proper training on the job.
In CA industrial training for 1 year could be a wonderful option if available.
b. If one has not chosen earlier, then maybe take a transfer to a firm where the focus on your area of interest is there.
c. While studying the possible "job shadow" – being able to observe someone who is doing his/her job without interference. Open the Ekalavya method.
d. Remote internship is also possible nowadays but I have my own doubts on what one picks up in a natural environment.
e. Summer internship or on the job project work as is preferred in good management schools may also be possible. This can give an idea of whether to get more experience.
f. In the period while one is getting the qualification- volunteering is a good way of getting insights
g. Some companies have a regular trainee program for professionals. Joining them for a year would give vital practical tips
h. Freelancing and being available for other professionals could lead to their seeking your support
i. Join study and networking groups in the chosen area. Here there may be more in your position. However, what is happening in the market would be known. Today due to the pandemic [silver lining in the grey cloud], one can join an online study circle sitting at home.
j. Be open to collaborating with those not in your field on their terms. Giving is the easy way of doing jobs together. However, clarity and working in a fair manner would avoid discord. It is ideal not to have any enemies, especially in the professional world.
k. Offer 1 year lower salary expectation to fast track learning in firms who already are well-staffed. I have had 10 qualified who paid for themselves or by their firm for periods of 5-8 months to get the exposure.
l. Establish your capability in the workplace chosen to grow in that organization itself for other higher-level jobs.
m. Join an organization known for extensive training and mentoring and take full advantage of that time.
In the event that one is able to do this for a few years then, one is ready to go for a professional career and may be able to start at a higher level. The variety of businesses understood and the human relationship nuances would go a long way for those who wish to get into practice. This article is prepared by collating the information available interspersed with the hearing/ learning in my life.
Inputs from Adv. Naveen Kumar KS acknowledged.
Read the next article in the series - Attracting Industry/ Trade
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