Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of the year again. When all of us have our anticipating eyes set on the new year. The remaining days of this year don’t count. Some of us are planning parties. Some others are a part of parties thrown by others. And some others, like me, don’t mind ushering in the new year quietly in the confines of their homes. But all of us are thinking of at least one thing that we want to change about ourselves in the new year. Choose to call it a resolution or by any other name, all of us think of the new year as the best time to kick bad habits and begin afresh with good ones. i can wildly guess that the resolution on top of most people’s list is to lose weight. At least to start and stick to a regular exercise routine. It’s the most common because this goal is perennially on our list as we begin, flounder, give up and begin again with renewed energy only to fall back into the vicious circle through the year. Many others might want to kick the butt or the bottle. Maybe develop a new skill, start looking for that dream job you have postponed for so long or simply stop biting your nails!

The resolution could be anything. We all know what the end result is going to be. The first few days of the new year will keep us motivated and remind us to be regular with whatever goal we have in mind. But gradually we’ll miss it for a day or two, real life will take over. And as the new year wears on, so will our enthusiasm. The reassurance we should look for is that our intentions behind the resolutions were honest. We just need to be constantly motivated and realize that setbacks are a part of any change process. We just need to start afresh as many times as we fail. There is no other way to do it. And probably we’ll be more successful if we didn’t wait for the new year to start initiating change yet again.

Whatever your resolutions - all the best!

And a Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Trials in the life of a freelance trainer

Being a freelancer in any field has both, advantages and disadvantages. As a freelancer myself, i can vouch for the the fact that the biggest perk of being a freelancer is the flexibility it offers to plan your work around other things in your life. You can decide how much work you want to take on. And also appraise your own worth as you gain experience over a period of time.

When i tell people that I am a freelance corporate trainer, their eye brows go up in admiration (God knows why?) possibly because it’s not exactly a mainstream career. A whole retinue of trainers have spawned only in the recent past. A whole bunch of freelancers I should say. This happened because a lot of companies woke up to the new fangled idea of having training sessions organized for their staff.

On an individual level, i definitely feel passionate about training - meeting new people, handling new content and ensuring that the training is a success at the end of the day. The thrill begins with stepping into a training session with participants i set eyes on on the same day. And to not just build rapport with them but also be able to get the learnings across through building credibility by the end of mere 8 hours of a day. The failure to rightly assess the participants at the beginning of the session can spell doom for the rest of the session.

In all the years that I have been freelancing, i have come across certain challenges which are unique to freelance training profession. Especially if you are an individual not affiliated to any organisation. First of all, as a freelancer, one is perennially a job seeker, you might get assignments faster and better ones with experience, but work doesn’t land on one’s lap unless there’s constant effort towards it. If you are new to the field without much experience to boast of, it could be a rough ride.

We all work in exchange for money. As a freelancer, you earn as much as you work almost on a pro rata basis. Consulting companies, who are mediators between the client and the trainer, definitely get work for the trainer. But at the expense of the fee that the trainer’s work and worth deserves. Since the consultant does the majority of the work, the trainer ends up with a very small percentage of the deal. This might sound fair but the expectations from the trainer to get excellent feedback after having steeped into the scene on the day of the training far exceeds the compensation given for fulfilling them.

The dates for training programs have to be committed in advance to the client. So one has to ensure that uncertainties in life don’t interfere with them. This is a bigger difficulty since there are no substitutes for a freelancer. If i commit dates to a client a month in advance, its pretty much a commitment on which my integrity towards my work rests. i better have a really strong reason for calling them off, if the need arises. So suffering from fever etc are definitely paltry reasons to jeopardize your relationship with the client by canceling the session.

This brings me to the next big challenge. A trainer is as good as his or her last session. i have done great programs for consultants but got dropped out suddenly because one session didn’t fetch good feedback. That too because the training needs analysis wasn’t done well and hence the content was unsuitable for the group. And i could have done precious little to save the day having just stepped in at the training stage in front of live audience. The consultant refused to take the blame and expected me to have done something to keep the participants happy! So, one slip and you might lose the rapport built painstakingly with a client over a long time. The feedback based on the preliminary perceptions of the trainees is more critical to the career of a trainer than the real long term benefits a company might gain from the program. Sad, but true!

Another thing that is generally never mentioned as a hardship in training is the physically strenuous nature of the sessions. The trainer is on his or her feet for almost 8 hours of the session to sustain the energy levels of the group. This can have a huge effect on a person training on an average 4 days a week. The back, legs, soles of the feet are just a few areas that bear the highest brunt apart from vocal chords that can get harmed with constant talking. i speak from experience of one of the assignments I had worked on for 6 months. It’s not just mentally arduous but also takes a toll on one’s body.

i have tried to put forth an insider’s view of a trainer’s life. It is great to interact with new people and do exciting assignments. But it’s not as glamourous as it looks. It is, sometimes literally, back breaking work. It is worthwhile only for the satisfaction it brings to a trainer’s life of having made some difference to people’s lives, albeit for a short while.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Innocence lost

The longer i stay away from Delhi, the harder it is for me to adjust back during my trips. Sometimes i am surprised that i lived in the city for 12 years of my life. But i guess those were simpler times. Though i’ve always had problems with the class/status obsession among the people of the city. The car you drive, the house you own, the clothes you wear, the dog you have, the bai who comes to your house, the look of the guests you receive, the colour of your watchman’s pants and the size of your crockery cupboard. Every single thing points only to your status. Crazy but very true about the capital city of india.

Okay! So i console myself thinking we all know how it works and how much of it is just a show off.  But there is one thing that truly disturbed me this time. And that is the effect all this show-shaw has on kids. And age no-bar here. i always knew my niece had her school van friends boasting about the movies they watched and she came back home complaining that she hadn’t. And i also knew that these kids had an eye on the birthday cakes in other kids’ parties to make sure they matched up to the trend on their own special day. And birthday party is as fun or memorable as the return gift.

But as my niece reached her 7th birthday, this sense of competition seems to have reached new heights. And at that age, we were busy taking care of one doll we ever got and a couple of comic books. A new dress on the day is definitely still the norm. But the dress has to be unique - a Snow white costume or a Cinderella dress. And if you have the one that no one else did among friends, the kid feels a new sense of respect. (We later realised that her idea behind choosing a particular dress was to tease another show-off friend, a year younger,  who had teased her earlier!) Toffees for class mates is fine but how about cupcakes for the school van companions. She wants to obviously stand out and be the talk of the town by using these novel ideas.

The materialism bug has definitely bit the kids industry. There is the largest variety of games and toys available and at ridiculously high prices. i wonder if it even makes sense to have entire household set with a Barbie doll for kids to play. The tiny pieces in the set are lost as fast as the kid’s interest in the novelty of the toy. But the number and type of gifts received for the day are equally important to make an impression among the peer group. No matter how many Barbie doll a kid has, there is always scope for more. And the more gifts kids get the more they hope to get. And that’s because the high point is in opening new gifts and then they lose interest in exactly 5 seconds hoping on to unwrap the next one. 

And the worst part is the sense of superiority with which they are going to go back and ‘show-off’ to their friends about how many latest and expensive toys they own. And the tone is ‘oh-so-perfect’ and condescending. I feel really scared for these kids who have lost the innocence of a toys and books being just that rather that status symbols in their own baby world.

When i really think deeply about this i realize that it’s impossible to keep them away from all this. They live in a society where appearances are more important and are used to judge the real you. How would young kids attach meanings to inanimate objects unless parents have somewhere been instrumental in guiding them towards it? i agree that parents might have the means to make a mega event out of their child’s birthday. Maybe it’s their way of reasserting their position in the social strata. But is that more important than instilling the value of more important things in their kid. Aren’t there other areas where they could make the same point? Is it so shameful to teach their children to value their toys instead of saying we can afford to get more every few days so it’s ok to throw things around?

Food for thought? Yeah! But we'll have to rise above the petty materialism and broaden our horizons so that the next generation can perceive the true value of things that truly matter.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rain rain...go away!

They: Oh! The weather’s so lovely! Raining and green and romantic! I love this weather!
Me: i hate the rains!
They: What are you saying? Really??
Me: What’s so romantic?
They: Wow! Sipping coffee, watching the rain is so wonderful!
Me: And what happens when you have to step out?

Dig a little deeper and to that love of rain comes with a ‘conditions apply’. It lasts only as long as the cup of coffee comfortably sprawled on your couch. And then it’s all there. The troubles of reaching office in muddy waters. Sitting all day with wet ends of your pants folded. The stubborn rickshaw walas who exercise their right to free will exactly during monsoons. Clogged roads that make walking on them a messy task. Puddled potholes that further slow down the drive home. The groceries that are finally over and you have to step out now to buy more. Or maybe order food for home delivery. But the torrential rain ensures that by the time your food arrives, you’ve waited so long for it that you want to just curl into your bed and sleep. Not to mention the dampness that creeps into every inch of the indoors that you really begin missing the dry crispness of summers.

There is an alternate world like Bollywood that has turned monsoons into a fantastic opportunity for romance. Invariably, it's the leading lady drenched to the core unleashing sensuality...or something like that. (Trust me, all I am thinking watching something like that is "yuck! wet clothes sticking to the body. Get her some dry clothes!) And some of those romantic associations seem to be stuck in real life as well.

In the end, i know it’s fun to watch the rain from the safe distance of our homes and enjoy Raveena gyrating to tip tip barsa paani on TV. But it’s totally different to encounter it in all aspects of life while trying to get on with the practical business of life. So guys, just own up! Rains aren't as wow! on second thoughts as it comes across in the first!