Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Part 3

Continued from:

1. These tips are based on my own experience and represent my own personal views which may not be universal in nature and may not apply to you. You must make your own career decisions with due diligence.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
3. No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved



(Friends in the Army and Air Force told me that the same applies to the army and air force, so why was I mentioning only the Navy in my article? 
Well, what I have to say may indeed apply to the army and air force but I have first hand knowledge of the navy. 
However, like my friends say I also do feel that most aspects do apply to the sister services as well, so this may be worth reading even if you are thinking of joining the army or air force)

To recap, let us see the salient attributes of a Navy Career which makes the Navy a unique way of life and not just a mere job.

It is this distinctive “way of life” that makes a career in the armed forces different from a career in the civilian organisations, public sector and private sector industries, MNCs and IT Sectors and the business world.

If you have read Part 1 of this series, you may recall that there are 12 unique characteristics that govern your career in the navy:













In Part 2 we discussed the first attribute HOLISTIC ORIENTATION based on the HR Concept of Total Inclusion”.

Owing to Holistic Orientation, in the Navy, all the three aspects of your life (“Work Life”, “Social Life” and “Personal Life”) are integrated into a single whole. 

Today, in Part 3, let us discuss the second point: “LIFETIME EMPLOYMENT 

Unlike most jobs in the civvy street whose time span may vary from short-term to medium-term, a career in the navy is a permanent job akin to lifetime employment and entails a lifelong obligation and a long term commitment

It is similar for the army and air force too, and you need to understand this aspect very clearly before you think of joining the defence services. 

In order to make this point of “Lifetime Employment” clear, let me tell you a few stories:

A few years ago, a smart young IT “Techie” told me that he wanted to quit his job.

He was thinking of joining the navy or army.

I was taken aback.

He was a B. Tech, in Computer Engineering from a premier institution and was working for over three years in a prestigious Software Firm. 

“Why this sudden decision?” I asked.

“I am bored with my job. I want a change,” he said.

“But suppose you don’t like your job in the navy. Suppose you get bored over there as well?” I asked.

“Then I’ll quit the navy and look for something else,” he said.

“You won’t be able to,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

I explained to him that a career in the navy is a permanent job akin to lifetime employment and entails a lifelong obligation and a long term commitment.

I told him that the navy was an excellent career, but as compared to the civilian jobs, the defence services had some peculiar Human Resource (HR) Management policies which he must clearly understand before he joined the navy.

I told him that one salient feature of a career in the army, navy or air force was the unique concept of “LIFETIME EMPLOYMENT”.

“Once you join, you cannot quit easily. In fact, it is almost impossible to leave during the first few years of your naval career,” I told him.

“Really?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “it is like this. In the civilian industry, it is a two way street. You can be fired. But you can resign too, after giving due notice, as per your terms of employment or contract. Yes, they can fire you, but you too can quit if you want to. Isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said.

“In the navy, it is a one-way street. They can fire you whenever they want. Yes, they can sack you anytime if they want to. But you cannot quit whenever you want to. You cannot just hand in your application and resign. Your resignation has to be formally approved and till then you have to keep serving the navy.”

“What if I just give my resignation and walk off?”

“You will marked ‘Run’ and declared Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL). They’ll catch you and severely punish you, maybe even lock you up.”

“What?” the young man looked at me, in bewilderment.

“Look here. I am not trying to dissuade you from joining the navy. The navy is a good career and by all means join the navy, but you must do so with your eyes open after considering all the pros and cons.”

“What about the other services, the army or air force?”

“Broadly speaking, it is similar – all follow the “lifetime employment” concept. Even if you opt for a short service commission you are obligated to serve the entire mandatory contract period of 7 or 10 years. You can’t leave in between.”

He did not seem to believe me, so I told him the story of a young girl from my neighbourhood who had joined the army as a short service commission (SSC) lady officer.

After two years, she got married to a civilian “Techie” working in Pune.

She was posted to a distant field area and wanted to quit and live with her husband in Pune.

She could not leave the army and had to serve out the remaining years of her SSC contract living separately from her husband – yes, a long distance marriage in the very first few years of her married life – a pity, isn’t it?

Because of all this turmoil they postponed having kids too till she finally managed to get out and settle down to matrimonial bliss.

I told him about my ex navy friend “D”, a bright service minded and highly competent ex-NDA officer, who was unexpectedly superseded for promotion for Captain. 

He was very upset and disappointed at not being promoted. 

But he took the setback in his stride and decided to explore opportunities in the “civvy street”.

He had completed 20 years of service, his future career in the navy looked quite bleak, so he wanted to quit the navy to commence a second innings in the civilian world.

Soon, he had got a very lucrative job offer. They wanted him to join as early as possible since the position was vacant.

So he had put up his papers for premature retirement and thought he would be relieved in a month or two, especially since he was passed over for promotion.

To his dismay, he was informed that he would be allowed to leave the navy only after being superseded three times and this would take two years more.

He realized that this delay would cost him the job offer and he spent the next few months under great stress trying his level best, pulling strings, making all out efforts to get out of the navy.

It was a harrowing time for him, but to his great relief he was allowed to leave after a few months of struggle.

Luckily for him, the job offer was still open, but he left the navy a bitter man since he felt that despite his exemplary service the navy had not treated him properly.

First, they did not give him the promotion he deserved, and then, they did not allow him to quit the navy smoothly and unnecessarily harassed him by delaying his resignation and made him run from pillar to post just to get out of the navy .

The “Techie” looked at me. He seemed perplexed, confused.

“Do one thing,” I told him.

“What?” he asked.

“Don’t listen to old fogies like me. Go and meet some young army, navy and air force officers of the technical branches and ask them. They will give you the right picture.”

That’s what the young man did. He went over to various army establishments in Pune and met young army and air force officers. He went down to Mumbai and met a few young naval officers.

Did he join the navy, or army?

Obviously not.

He did a bit of “job hopping” in the IT industry, each job better than the previous one.

The same young “Techie” came to meet me the other day to thank me for the advice I had given him a few years ago.

He had come to say good bye.

He had been recently promoted and was enjoying his job.

He was on his way to America for a rather lucrative and challenging “on site” assignment as project leader.

In today’s modern post-liberalization world, the concept of “lifetime employment” seems rather antiquated.

In the civilian world, especially in the IT industry, job-hopping (the practice of changing jobs frequently) is the norm, essentially as a means of quick financial gain or faster career advancement.

At a recent alumni meet I met an engineer working in the IT industry.

He said that his loyalty is towards making money, rather than to any one company.

He switched jobs frequently (six times in the last fifteen years) and he has gained a lot by virtue of job changes.

He told me that his salary has increased significantly compared to his colleagues who have stayed with the same company throughout their career

Today’s youngsters have a job-hopping mindset and job hopping is practically a way of life.

Nowadays, job hopping is the norm rather than an exception.

Someone told me that in the IT and finance, on the average, the number of years people stay in a given job is only 4 years, which allows them to do as many as 8 to 10 jobs in a lifetime.

Gone is the idea of spending four decades at one company till retirement on attaining the age of superannuation.

Young upwardly mobile youngsters refuse to get stuck in a job that they absolutely hate.

Job hopping has benefits.

Disappointment in one career field can pave the way to discovering a more meaningful and personally fulfilling direction.

Job hopping enables you to move up in position and in pay much faster and, most importantly, learn new things and acquire new skills.

Today’s employers are reluctant to hire people who have been at one place for several years, or for their whole work history.

It is felt that such “static” people are not ambitious enough or are so ingrained in a particular culture or way of thinking that they may not be able to adapt to a new environment.

Job hoppers are seen as go-getters and fast-trackers, whereas those who have worked in just one organisation for many years are considered sluggish losers, since such “static” people are not ambitious enough or are so ingrained in a particular culture or way of thinking that they won't be able to adapt to a new environment.

Maybe this is one reason why we ex-servicemen do not get the level of jobs we deserve commensurate with our qualifications, talent and experience.

For example, I have seen many M. Tech. qualified officers employed as Facility Managers, Trainers or in HR Departments whereas they deserved front-line top management positions, considering their abilities, qualifications and experience.

Yes, in the navy too you “hop” from job to job. 

But this happens within the navy. 

And this “job hopping” within the navy does not bring you quick financial gain or faster career advancement. 

In the navy, and the army, career progress is slow and you patiently wait for your turn. 

Your compensation package is moderate and does not depend on your performance. 

Your salary is fixed and linked to your seniority and years of service. 

The only thing which happens is that, in the navy, you become “a jack of all trades”.

Thus, a career in the navy entails slow career progress and a non-specialized career path.

We will discuss these two aspects of a career in the defence services in future articles in this series.

Meanwhile, before I end this part, let me tell you another apocryphal story, of unintended consequences of the “Lifetime Employment” policy followed by the defence services.

(Please note that this yarn is fiction, an apocryphal story, the characters are imaginary and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental)

Cadet “A” who was a trainee at NDA became acquainted with and started weekend dating “B” a smart girl studying in a premier college in Pune.

Three years later, “A” completed his NDA training and was off for sea training and “B” finished her graduation and joined the MBA course at an elite B- School in Pune.

They kept corresponding with each other and realized that they had fallen in love.

“A” opted for the Engineering Branch of the Navy so that he would be at the training ship at Lonavala (near Pune) for the next three years for his degree engineering course. This proximity to Pune would enable him to meet his lady-love frequently.

“B” finished her MBA in Finance and got a good job as an investment banker in Mumbai.

“A” too managed to get posted to Mumbai after his training.

“A” and “B” got married and enjoyed a few blissful years of married life.

Them, “A” was transferred out of Mumbai.

He wanted “B” to move with him to the new place.

But “B” was reluctant to move. 

She was doing well in her job and her career was just taking off. 

Besides, there was no scope for her in the new place where “A” was posted, which was a comparatively small town.

So, the long distance marriage of “A” and “B” began.

Though he tried desperately, “A” could not manage to come back to Mumbai (a station in high demand) and so “A” and “B” spent the next few years living separately.

I told you that it was a “love marriage” so “A” and “B” could not bear the separation it any longer, and one day “A” rang up “B” and told her to quit her job.

“B” retorted that it was “A” who should quit the navy, since “B” was earning much more than “A” and her career prospects were much brighter.

She said, that even of she quit her present job, as an investment banker, job opportunities for her were in big cities, especially Mumbai. 

Besides, “A” would also be able to find a civilian job in Mumbai.

“A” felt that “B” had a point  - she was earning much more than him, she had brighter career prospects and “A” would easily get a job in Mumbai once he quit the navy. In fact, he already had a prospective job offer.

So “A” put in an application to quit the navy.

Many years have passed, and he is still waiting – the stark realization of signing up for “Lifetime Employment” dawning upon him.

Meanwhile “A” and “B” have got used to living as “married bachelors”.

Earlier, once a girl married a defence officer, she used to go along with him wherever he was posted as a “memsahib”, playing second fiddle as a full time housewife (homemaker).

Nowadays, things have changed. 

Women are pursuing their professional careers very seriously and are not willing to “sacrifice” their careers. 

Modern women want to be financially independent and do not like to become “second fiddle” housewives dependent on their husbands. 

Working women do not want to give up their jobs and go to live with their “fauji” husbands to some back-of-beyond place.

Owing to all this, it is no wonder, that an unintended consequence of the defence services policy of “Lifetime Employment” is that defence officers are no longer much sought after in the “marriage market’. 

Maybe it is the same for women officers of the defence services as well.

Probably that is why you see an increasing number of marriages between male and female defence officers within the service.

At the outset, I told you that “The Navy is not a job. The Navy is a way of life”.

“Lifetime Employment” is the way of life in the Navy.

Do you have the mental make-up, the mindset, the attitude for lifelong obligation and long term commitment towards the navy (or the army or air force)?

Like I said, for a career in the defence services, attitude matters more than aptitude.

To be Continued in Part 4 - REGIMENTATION

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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