What I’ve been Reading

I haven’t been reading much. There, I said it. I’m ashamed to have said it but it’s the truth, especially coming from me – a person who used to finish 2-3 books per week with consummate ease. 

To clarify, I haven’t read too many novels this year. But to compensate, and because I’m writing 1 short story every month as part of the Short Story Challenge, I’ve been gobbling up fiction and essays from literary magazines everywhere, mostly online. 

At the rate of 1 short story a day, I might have easily read as much as 2-3 books a week! 

Despite that, I craved my novel fixes. So I got back in the game with two of the most talked about books that have recently been made or are going to be made into films. 

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I came to the Divergent party a little late, because I didn’t know how much I could stomach. I was also worried that it would end on a cliffhanger and I’d be forced to read the sequels just to know what happens next. 

Luckily I’m pleased to report this was not the case. I enjoyed reading the book. It ended on a note that surely promised a sequel, but it is no loss if you choose not to. 

Though I found it very exciting, the premise felt a little too derivative to me. The sorting of people into factions reminded me of the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, and the violence between adolescents brought to mind The Hunger Games. I understand the appeal, of course, but I’m happy to see the sequels solely on screen, with my niece serving as my guide to plot lines that I may not follow. 

Here’s the trailer for Divergent:

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

If you haven’t read the book already, then there’s nothing I can tell you about it. I knew that there was a halfway plot twist but I didn’t know what the twist was. Briefly, all that I can tell you about the book is this: 

On Nick and Amy’s 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. Nick is the prime suspect – because, almost always, it’s the husband that did it. The book is narrated alternately by Nick, and Amy’s diary entries. 

Now that I know the twists and the endings, I can safely say – please read the book if you haven’t already!

The film is out in October. The trailer is brilliant, as is the casting for the movie:

 

Right now I’ve started on The Silkworm, written by Robert Gilbraith aka JK Rowling. So far, all I can say is, JKR is JKR. She hasn’t lost her touch, or her sense of humour, or her writing skills, one teeny bit.

 

What have you been reading lately?

The Most Marketable Skill

The good folks over at Webucator contacted me the other day to contribute to their ‘Most Marketable Skill’ campaign of 2014. The cause is close to my heart, and with thirteen years of experience in the working world, I feel knowledgeable enough to share my words of wisdom with graduates who are about to dip a hesitant toe into corporate waters. 

I wouldn’t be able to zero in on just one skill, but the following three make it to the top. Note that these don’t just apply to newbies but to seasoned professionals as well, many of whom commit similar mistakes. 

Always be ready with prospective solutions

If you have to inform your manager about a problem, always keep at hand a couple of solutions. Also keep in mind which is your preferred solution, because that’s one of the questions your manager will ask you. The other questions she will ask are – the pros and cons of each solution, the dependencies of each, the time taken for each. The only exception to this rule is for issues out of your control, such as you don’t have the required permissions or tools to perform your job. 

Never, ever, present your manager with just problems. If you do this consistently, you will be branded as a whiner, and nobody likes whiners. 

Be proactive

If you’ve finished the work assigned to you earlier than expected, ask for more work rather than the manager finding out much later. 

Instead of looking for something to do, look around and see if you can identify opportunities to improve some part of the work you are doing – either in technical terms or in terms of the process followed. Don’t worry if your proposals are not accepted for whatever reason – your manager will be happy to see you taking the initiative. 

Learn how to explain issues briefly

Your lead is juggling multiple tasks at a time. To help them help you, learn to condense the problems you’re facing into crisp bullet points. This skill will hold you in good stead whichever field you work in. While everyone else is unravelling epic tales about their problems, if you can explain yours quickly and to-the-point, you will get a pat on the back. More details can always be shared when your senior demands them of you. 

This skill applies to emails as well. When offering a status update in an email, start with a succinct update first and then expand upon the issue at hand. The recipient should be able to glean an idea of the subject without having to read a long story of ambitious proportions. 

As you grow on the job, learn to apply the newly-acquired skills regularly. Remember to pick up new ones and don’t get left behind. 

What do you think is the most important skill for fresh graduates?