Who is your role model?

For many years now I have been interacting with management students either at the entrance level or when they graduate and prepare for their career outside student life. As one of the co panelists at the interview stage, I get the opportunity to meet sharp minds who know exactly what they want to do and where they want their career to be.

Of course, there are standard questions that gets asked and trust me, the students are smart. They come well prepared with structured answers to these questions. Common among them are – ‘What makes you interested in this job?’; ‘Take us through your education or professional journey’; ‘Tell us about your strengths and areas of improvement’…

The answers to the above are said with confidence and at times almost as though they have been memorised to puke them out – verbatim.

Yet, among these structured questions, there is one that throws up surprisingly similar answers and I am yet to fathom why.

When asked to talk of their role model, almost all female students chose either their mother or their father. Male students on the other hand invariably have an external person as their role model.

Guess whose name figures the most there? Who else, but Steve Jobs! Management graduates seem to have an utter fascination with Steve Jobs and invariably this has to do with the design of Apple products. However, when probed what didn’t work for Jobs, many students were clueless. Jobs’ inability to be a good manager and his short temper are legion and well documented. But the students chose to speak of the positives and ignore the other personality traits that had so shaped Jobs. I noticed this with some other heroes as well whose names were mentioned.

The narrow tunnel vision stance of the students is perhaps a sign of the world we live in today, wherein, everything that is in line with our thoughts is lapped up and what is not, is discarded without even a second glance. The end result is a lack of complete picture and an inability to connect dots.

For instance, one student mentioned that her mother was her role model. Being a single parent, the child had witnessed the mother take up multiple jobs to keep the fire burning and ensure the student is sent to a prestigious institution. While there was apparent pride in the eyes of the students when she spoke of her mother, there was absolutely no mention of the values that the mother exhibited and which of those resonated most with the student.

Our parents undoubtedly are our first source of role model. We look up to them, absorb their actions, feelings and thoughts. In our adulthood phase as much as we may try to remove the cloak of their habits and nuances, we find that over the years we have molded ourselves to how they behave.

When we look at parents at role models, we are seeking to imbibe their behavior, attitudes and beliefs, and these in turn shape us as human beings. Role models play a powerful role in sharpening our personality and they are the biggest influencers in our lives.

Naming your role model however is just not enough at an interview stage. Interviewers look for deeper meanings to your choice and wish to know the values that you have picked up from your role model. Most importantly, they want to know how you have reshaped your thinking and life and how deeply you have been influenced by your role model.

The next time you are asked this question – ‘Who is your role model’, take a pause to reflect. Bring in your consciousness the values that you have imbibed from your role model. Pick one that is closest to you and share an anecdote or example of how it played up in your life. Go a step further and expand to how this value will further shape your future choices, be it personal or professional.

By being conscious of the qualities of your role model, you become aware of how those qualities inspire you in your life.

So, who is your role model?

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

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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