Career advice from my Grandad that I finally understood this week…

Circa early 1996. I had just finished my MBA, and was enjoying my time back home in Madras with my grandparents, getting set to open the local branch office of a PR firm, when a letter arrived. 

It was a letter from the firm saying that the plans to open a Madras office had been put on hold and that I was to report for duty in Mumbai. All my well laid plans were thrown into disarray and as I contemplated this sudden change with dismay, my grandpa- God bless his soul- offered to make a few phone calls and get me a good job in Madras. I was tempted, but my ego got in the way and I wanted to prove that I could get a job on my own merit, so I insisted on heading off into the then unknown world of PR.

In a quiet moment as I was preparing for this adventure, Grandpa said to me “Nikhil, it does not matter what profession you choose. Just remember, whatever you may be in life always remember to be a gentleman”. I have played this line over and over in my head at many cross roads that have confronted me. This advice has helped me make choices when times were tough, but till last week I don’t really think I appreciated the value of his counsel. 

To quote Tom Rath, who wrote a brilliant piece titled ‘Push the boundaries of your personality’ (on medium) that I found on LinkedIn, “We need a whole new way to think about our life’s work. Think of it as moving from “You are what you do” to “You are how you help.” 

The good wishes and warmth that I have experienced over the last few days from two professional families that I belong to (the Communications and the Coaching fraternity) has taken me by surprise. My deep gratitude to each and every one of you who has reached out and offered your guidance, good wishes and support. The world can indeed be a kind and gentle place. It’s what we make of it. The world gives back what we put into it. I am thinking of you today Gramps, as I sit and write my weekly column and on so many other days as well. Your hand continues to guide me every day in ways that I don’t realise. 

I was in the middle of this trip down memory lane when my boarding school buddy Sanjay Gautam called me from Kuwait. He had seen the news about my next adventure on LinkedIn and wanted to know what was going on. I filled him in and then told him how I was remembering my Grandad’s advice, and he shared a metaphor that I had never heard before. He said “You are like a Dolphin! You can swim with the sharks and still remain your friendly and happy self, that’s what Dolphins do…” 

So on that note, I sign off this week, there are many fish in the sea and we all choose who we want to be. Thanks to my Grandad and the advice he gave me at the start of my career, I am blessed with so many friends and well-wishers, gratitude to each and every one of you, you know who you are. My Grandad gave me this special gift of all of you.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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