How Do You Build a Great Career When No One Ever Told You the Rules?

How Do You Build a Great Career When No One Ever Told You the Rules?

Almost all of us want to do really well in our careers. In an ideal world, the brightest people, those that worked hard, would simply rise to the top. But we know that is not always the case. There are many smart people whose potential gets lost to the world because they didn’t really know the rules of the game.


Imagine that you were airlifted and dropped into the middle of a game. You see people running around a field, each person kicking their own football around. When you watch them, you aren’t entirely sure if there is a particular direction that the football needs to be kicked into. Some players kick it left. Others to the right. Some kick the ball off the field. Others take the ball with them and kick it at home.


In this game, there is no real scoreboard, but every once in awhile, someone comes back with a bigger ball, and then everyone seems to take them more seriously. Yet it is not clear where they got that big ball from. You ask people the rules of the game, and people tell you—it all depends on how well you kick the ball. Yet when you ask them what that means— everyone has their own answer. Well, building a career often feels no different when you don’t really know how organizations work and what the real rules of the game are.


In the Secret Life of Organizations, Dr. Pradnya Parashar and I draw upon decades of having been in talent discussions, promotion and hiring decisions to share what we have learnt about the invisible rules that govern successful careers. It helps that both of us have PhDs in behavioural sciences, and so in addition to our own experience, we draw upon rigorous academic research to support your career. We ourselves were “slow learners” who realized that despite the best education in the world, there was so much more to building a great career. We made many mistakes in the early years of our career and often learnt important lessons the hard way. But we want you to be smarter and spell out what you need to know in order to understand organizations and yourself.


The Secret Life of Organizations is a book written for the young Indian professional to help them be wiser and more conscious of how they develop their careers. The book touches on several key lessons that can make or break careers. For instance, one lesson is how understanding your organization’s culture is key to being able to really understand what is considered important here. Other lessons are about developing good relationships— with your peers, your boss, and even yourself. The book speaks about why building great networks matter and how you can develop yours.


Other chapters address questions like “How will you know when it is time to move on?” “How can you make choices when you find yourself at the inevitable crossroads each career does?” And then, finally, “How do you build a career in a world that is changing so fast?” The Secret Life of Organizations is a field guide for the young Indian professional who wants the benefit of experience while building their career.


Dr. Shalini Lal is an Organizational Consultant and Writer. She helps businesses build the leadership and culture they need. Reach out to her at or Her book is now available in bookstores and through Amazon online.


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