When Gulliver turns tiny. Being from a small town – not a small problem

When Gulliver turns tiny. Being from a small town – not a small problem

Gulliver visited Brobdingrag too. Yes, a country where he was staring at giants too large for his eyes to even size up. It was a land where his height hardly matched up to someone’s toes. Toes that could have crushed him had he not been cautious...read on

 
When Gulliver turns tiny. Being from a small town – not a small problem

What plus-points or minus-points do small-town candidates bring when they are recruited for jobs in big cities/corporations?

Gulliver visited Brobdingrag too. Yes, a country where he was staring at giants too large for his eyes to even size up. It was a land where his height hardly matched up to someone’s toes. Toes that could have crushed him had he not been cautious.

Most students, brains and hearts from small towns venture into big and bustling cities with the same look of confusion, shock and disorientation. It takes a while before they can find their own feet. It takes more than a while before they learn how to save themselves from oblivious/reckless feet of people walking about their own business in these new giant lands.

But then, are these giants really walking with the sole purpose of reducing a small Gulliver to pulp? Do they even notice that there is a tiny person around? Aren’t those the questions to ponder?

Along with this one – does this Gulliver want these giants to acknowledge his presence or not?

Now that’s the bigger question. Because once you are in a giant city, you have to make sure that you are sure about that, if not of anything else.

It is not all roses laid down on this new huge path; not all thorns either. However, frankly and thankfully, it is a mix of both. And that’s the word of not a philosopher or a doting parent but that of a few, seasoned, HR experts who have seen, picked and, even, mentored talent from tier 3 cities and tiny towns. This is what they have noticed – hope, promise and some room for introspection and improvement.


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First – What small-towners need to soup up on?

Are you from a town that is not a crazy, too-busy-to-breathe, berserk metro yet? Well, then that’s both good news and bad news.

Let’s clear out the red flags to start with. If you are from a small town, you may not be equipped (yet) to handle the pressures and culture of a five-star workplace at the very first go.

People in big cities have been fighting since childhood – for a seat in the bus or a foothold on the career ladder. Politics, brutal competition and people who will easily step on you – these are going to be unpleasant surprises, so better be ready to deal with them.

That is why, perhaps, a start-up presents a symbiotic relationship and a window for these people to evolve adequately for a big corporate set-up. The scale, feeling of community and level of politics is better to digest in a start-up scenario.” Neddhe Mahajan, who has been knee-deep into career coaching for many years, suggests this by bringing arguments of better alignment of values. “A bigger company is a longer rope. A well-entrenched company can meet the high expectations and affluence of a big-city person but what about a start-up? They need someone who can have the patience and willingness to grow together and with time. Start-ups are hard-pressed for resources and they need people who can wear multiple hats.”

Good Side of hailing from a Small City  
Appreciation
Helpfulness
Ability to Work in Teams
Multi-Tasking
Eagerness to Learn (and ability to unlearn)
Not-So-Good side that needs to be worked on
Language
Exposure-heads-up that Big Town people possess
Inability to handle corporate politics
Experience on relevant skill sets that big-town people can tap into quickly

Shagun Sood, who has cut her teeth deep in the recruitment space as a HR professional for many years now, notes that even with some jobs that need attention to detail and a high-level of analytical competencies, she has seen how communication-gaps can bring small-town people on a backfoot – no matter how good their analysis skills are.

“Those can be tough nuts for small-town people in an outright sense. The learning curve they need can only be had by being in a big city and in a relevant role that gives the kind of exposure and hands-on experience required there.”

“Many small-town candidates lack communication skills in the beginning.” But they learn fast and pick up later, observes Varadarajan, who has spent many years in the manufacturing industry, as well.

In the reckoning of Sumi Nair, HR Manager, RM Education Solutions India Pvt. Ltd., if small-town students cannot adapt or think that they are aliens / others are very different, then that can be quite a challenge too.

As to what Krishnan Ramakrishnan, Director HR, at Savvysoft Technologies can pick up as a major, and possibly the only, constraint, these students need to work hard on their language skills.

Mahajan reminds that it is crucial for small-town career-aspirants to learn to handle corporate culture of giant environments. Suitability for the right organization culture is a good place to start looking at. Small-town candidates are, thus, better fits for start-up environments than for established companies.

The strengths of being small

Rishi Kapoor keeps reminding his folks and frenemies in ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ that it is much easier for a plain-looking small scooter to navigate busy traffic-lanes than it is for a sleek car. When you are not too big, you are more agile, more humble and quick to change tracks.

There are a lot of innate, and hard-to-replicate, qualities that only a small-town professional can bring to a table – no matter how big or oak-ish it is.

Small-town candidates are well-behaved, are not arrogant and are impressively-simple. “They are ready to work at any place (which is important in my industry as manufacturing facilities are situated in rural areas).” Underlines Varadarajan.

Shagun Sood, who has cut her teeth deep in the recruitment space as a HR professional for many years now, points out one special characteristic here – their inclination to help. “Growing up in a small town, with and around well-knit communities, makes it natural for these people to offer and execute help.” She quips that how asking for directions in a small city is different than in a big city. “One place you are warmly dropped by the person himself. Another place you get manipulated or played a prank on, just for fun.”

Mahajan pins down another key difference between small-town and big-town minds – the sense of entitlement that is frequently seen in the latter category.  “People born in the 80’s or early 90’s did not have this sense of entitlement. Big cities are generations-ahead of small towns in many dimensions. The exposure and consequent values that the relatively-better-off generation gets, is vastly different from what their parents or small-town counterparts have. In small towns, avenues are not that great. Often, the only way to rise and make it big in life is through good education that parents stress on. Hence, small-town talent has a better appreciation and gratefulness of what they get.”

This is perhaps why, like Varadarajan also notes, the small-town talent is eager to learn and adapt to the new environment. “They are more grateful to the opportunities as well as the challenges thrown to them. They bring a culture of inclusion with them.” He echoes the gratitude aspect as a differentiator for small-town aspirants.

So you see?

Being from a small town is unique – whether you are looking at possibilities or pitfalls. What matters is how you evolve and make sure that while you acquire the strengths that big-townies have, you do not let go of some extraordinary advantages that your small town armed you with. And no matter what, always remember that Gulliver was both in Brobdingrag and in Lilliput. You can be small or giant depending on ‘where’ you are, not because of ‘who’ you are.

Gulliver had a good time at both these places. And he made friends too.

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