Money Mongers

Lately, I have been busy arranging and taking interviews of a whole bunch of fresh graduates for my firm. Considering the business is advertising and the firm being Ogilvy & Mather; I genuinely had expected a lot of good buzz from the “graduate market”. It wasn’t too far-fetched an expectation, since almost all of Hollywood has in one way or the other pictured admans to be the coolest, most sought-after and playful professionals right after George Clooney in any role (i.e. negotiator or thief) and Brad Pitt as a renegade (fight club, troy, kalifornia etc.). Even in our fashion/trendz go-to country India has colorful advertising personalities hitting the headlines quite regularly (Prasoon Joshi – Lagaan, Balki – Cheeni Kum and the critically acclaimed Rahul Bose; all hail from advertising). But when in comes to Bangladesh, just as many other “brainiac” industries; advertising is always referred as an industry in its nascent phase. Saying this, I guess its very clear to the wandering mind how hard it is to recruit good talents for the industry…

At the beginning of my career in advertising (which was not so long ago), I was told by one of my earliest mentors in this industry… your career is like a race, either you sprint start and get juiced out by the middle of it or you could run a marathon and live up to the Aesop’s fable of “the hare and the tortoise”. In both ways, its a race and running is imperative… there is no easy way out but its not only about raw power and brute strength either. The smartness lies with the “mode” you choose and also how effectively you make the most of the path chosen. Philosophies aside, it is very uncommon in today’s youth to be accredited for being a marathon runner. For there is no prize for starting small to make it big one day, but only to start big to be the biggest in no time 🙂 Sadly, we fail to realize… as Mr. Paul Arden rightly puts, “Its not how good you are, its how good you want to be”. The word “potential” is more common in people than the word “successful” and one doesn’t have to dig too deep to figure why?

The great talent-grabbers of past – BAT, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and Standard Chartered are still there at the top of the food chain. But its the more hyena like newcomers who have actually redefined the job prospects of a newbie. Upcoming and promising local banks (Brac Bank EBL, Dhaka Bank), conglomerates (ACI, Rahimafrooz), communications superpowers (GP, Blink, Warid/Airtel, Qubee) are all who operate in the upper-mid food chain and consume the most of talents. I am no communist, nor do I see myself resenting for not starting in any of the companies mentioned above… but I am pragmatic  and in no way can I justify some of the absurdest amounts that I hear of as “starting/basic package”.The US of A, the great capitalist superpower, the mother of dreamlands, the country which sets the benchmark for these “martian” salaries has a PPP (per capita GDP) of $47,123 and a minimum average MBA starting salary of $73,000 (the least a MBA graduate would start with). Makes sense; considering “ivy league” is a word coined by them and them alone, and almost 90% (figuratively) of the world’s Top 500 universities are from mainland USA. Interestingly now, if we look at Bangladesh, a developing (a gentle word for poor) country from the third world with a meager PPP of $1565 (that to, after consecutive years of near-to double digit GDP growth), average starting salary for a decent MBA graduate is in and around the region of $5000 (taking in reference the average starting salaries posted in recruitment ads). While the US MBA grads enjoy a nearly 1.5 times valuation (as opposed to the general mass), its an astounding 3.2 times for a Bangladeshi MBA. And just to add more juice to the irony, no Bangladeshi university even features in the Top 500 and there is no sign of one making into that list anytime in the near future (According to webometrics, BUET the highest ranked, is 2916th in the World).

Its really good to be on the receiving end of such astronomic sums at the month’s end… and I don’t see any harm in watching these children (I couldn’t find a better word for the freshlings) become complacent over time. Its not because they are right in doing so, but because in the rat-race of hiring the best talents, we have actually gone beyond the logical sums that rightly valuate a fresher’s talent and capacity to contribute to the hiring organization. At the end, these companies do perhaps get the best of the best, but only to lose them in a few years for a better/sweeter deal to a competitor. This chain of offering better to get the best is indeed never-ending (only to the point when one becomes too expensive to maintain or simply, just redundant). The money we make… makes a lot of difference in our daily lives (after all, that’s why we work to begin with) but we fail to realize the money cannot be the ultimate decisive factor in choosing careers. Religious Teacher, Doctors, Firefighters, Teachers and Police make the top half of the “most satisfying occupation” list in US. And when you wonder how would these occupations actually suit in Bangladesh terms, all you are left with is a grim expression.

All said and done… there will always be a disparity between the highest paying jobs and the most satisfying ones. It is for us to determine for ourselves which suits us the best, and not only that pays the best. A career is not about how fast you start the race, but how high you actually finish it. And finally to end it, I look back on the the apt words of Baz Luhrmann from the song “Sunscreen”,

“…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself”

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