SHABNAM ASTHANA, a veteran in the field of PR, has penned down her thoughts on the different facets of the corporate world and how it can be blossomed into successful endeavours in her debut literary release,
Take a step towards meeting your professional goals by reading through SHABNAM ASTHANA’s debut literary release, ROMANCING YOUR CAREER
She is now a published author, but she is also a woman who wears many hats. Having dabbled in a multitude of careers, it was the eld of Public Relations in which Shabnam Asthana found her true calling. With industry experience of more than two decades, the self-proclaimed ‘career enthusiast’ wants to help others reach their true potential t hrough her first book, Romancing Your Career. We get her talking about her successful past, her parallel career in writing, her life and more…
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Public Relations professional with over 25 years of work experience in reputed companies both in India and overseas, but when the entrepreneurial streak became very pronounced in 2005, I set up my own PR & Communications company, Empowered Solutions. However, I did not start my career with PR. I dabbled in other professions like teaching, which included a threeyear stint at the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla. I also took up freelance writing for various local and national publications. Post that, I successfully headed an international company as President - Sales & Marketing, but I eventually discovered that PR was my true calling and settled for it. My PR career has been very rewarding, not only in terms of the awards and recognitions that came my way (which include the Highest National Award in PR in 2012, awarded by the Public Relations Council of India & The Indian Achievers Award 2017 by the Indian Achievers Forum), but also in terms of the numerous avenues it has opened up for me. I am now ooded with speaking engagements at both national and international forums. Besides, I am an acclaimed international soft skills consultant and trainer, and now also a published author. I feel that the PR profession houses a wealth of opportunities, and if you have the self drive to discover those, your PR journey becomes very intriguing with interesting bends and twists, leading to new milestones and destinations.
What made you venture into writing?
Writing has always been a passion
for me. I vividly remember winning essay competitions during my school days, taking on the role of Editor for my school and college magazines, actively initiating newsletters for the companies that I worked for, contributing articles for newspapers and magazines… In fact, as I go down memory lane, I realize that writing has always been an integral part of my life. I have always been fascinated by books and was always determined to write one. I have, by nature, been very impulsive, but it has been a planned impulse (if you could coin such an oxymoronic term), and it was during one of those planned impulsive moments in March 2017, that I decided to author a book. Being the typical me, when I start something I pursue it whole-heartedly till it culminates into what I want, so despite my busy schedule with my regular work, travel, juggling in between different time zones since my work involves interacting with companies and people all across the world, I still managed to achieve what I had started in a record two months’ time. I was so enthused that I would stay up late, sleeping for only about three hours. I was hooked to writing during the entire process. So much so, that I used to write even while waiting at airports.
How difcult it is to make a career in writing?
In my opinion, it is as difficult or as easy as any other career. It depends to a large extent on your motivation, energy and drive. Like any other profession, this profession too has become extremely competitive, since being an author is not the only career you may have. The mind-set is
changing and times are evolving as we have seen in recent times, you can be a lm producer or director and also be a writer; you can be a politician and a writer; you can be an actor and a writer, etc. In fact, writing is not limited to a certain section of society or people, so by that logic, it is very competitive. I strongly feel, though, that if you have some past recognitions or laurels, you get a good head start. You may be an excellent writer, but to get noticed amongst the clutter, people should be familiar with your name. It is very difcult for debut authors to initially establish a book and get noticed only on its merit. On the ip side, you may be a big name, but if you don’t write too well, the initial encouraging sales and visibility will gradually dip. For a win-win situation, you must have the winning combination of self belief and motivation, a air for writing, combined with some previous recognition that you have earned, or made a mark for yourself in whatever you have been doing earlier, so the name itself is enough for people to at least have the inclination to pick up the book from the plethora of reading choices that are available today.
Tell us about your most treasured book till date.
My most treasured book, which may come as a surprise to a few, is not from recent times, but a classic called Mill On The Floss by George Eliot. I strongly believe that my love for writing and English Literature got an impetus from this magical book. It was prescribed in our syllabus in Std 12 (ISC Board.) There were many fascinating things about this book, rstly that the writer was a woman, Mary Ann Evans, who chose to adopt a pseudonym to gain acceptability in her times rather than curb her desire for writing. Then, our English teacher was Sister Bertha Wilcox from London, who did a wonderful job in fanning our love for English Literature. I was and still am intrigued by the character of the main protagonist Maggie Tulliver, and the various shades that colour the relationship of brother and sister- Tom and Maggie. I have a strong sense of empathy with Maggie.
What gave you the idea of wanting to write on the chosen subject?
Like I mentioned in the prologue of my book, ‘Thinking of a topic for my rst book was for once something easily said and easily done, I guess this ease stems from the fact that it is only people and things close to you that come readily to your mind. The dilemma lay in its classication,
was my career to be categorized in the former or the latter? Was it animate or was it inanimate? My career has been as inseparable as life itself. It has permeated my very being, with wonderful emotions and enriched me immensely. What ensues in the chapters is not a natural, linear, mundane progression of my career, but in fact a medley of memories, people and incidents that come randomly in my ‘mind’s eye’, as they would for all people who are in love, for love dees chronological orders, dates and sequences.’ So I, being a career enthusiast and a 24x7 workaholic gave birth to Romancing Your Career.
What message does the book convey to the readers?
Well, to answer your question, I would like to quote from my book, ‘Your profession is a storehouse of immense learning, provided you are in a receptive mode. It provides you with ample opportunities and springboards to catapult to success. It also comes with its fair share of volatile situations, and it is for you to provide the safety switch of maturity and experience to prevent any short circuits.’ The hallmark of my book is that each chapter ends with a wonderful takeaway, which will provide a wealth of learning for the reader. It is very different, because it is not the regular sermonizing approach, but very informative and experiential.
Tell us about your encounters with the personalities covered in this book?
All the characters in the book have been a part of my work life. I have had a rich work experience of over 25 years and since a large part of my work involves networking with people and companies, I have had a wealth of experience in relationships, which I recount in my book. All my characters, be it Manager Shriram, Ragini, Mrs Gupta, Alex, Mr Joshi, although the names have been changed, every reader will be able to recognize them as typical denizens of the corporate world. Romancing Your Career is a must read for every professional who wants to make a success of his or her career. Its universal appeal lies in the fact that it introduces you to the important facets of the corporate world, with easily identiable characters who you will laugh with, cry with, pity, despise, and even get inspired by. These are inhabitants of your nine-to-ve world and an integral part of your daily interaction at the workplace. So, it’s
not only me, but every professional who would have met the characters in the book during some stage of their job tenure.
How was your experience working on this project?
I was greatly enthused and it was very exciting. There was never a dull moment when I felt bogged down by the idea of writing. I was always charged up and eager to nd a moment or ‘in-between’ time during my hectic travel and busy work schedule to pen my thoughts. Travelling down memory lane was very enriching, as I relived many moments of my career. I was overwhelmed with emotions, as I recounted my experiences.
Any incident that you recall while in the process of working on this book?
There is a chapter in my book titled, ‘Chains and Fetters – Stress Prevents You from Being a Go-Getter’. In the chapter, among other ways of destressing, I have mentioned love for pets and my love for my Labrador Scooby, whom I am immensely fond of as an ideal stress buster. While I was writing the chapter, I was so immersed in my writing that I was oblivious to my surroundings, and I recall that when I nished the part about him, I looked up from my script and straight into his dark warm eyes. I had closed my study door and he was outside somewhere, and I didn’t realize when he had pushed open the door with his nose and sat near my feet with his favourite blue ball in his mouth looking at me. It was as if he had sensed that I was writing about him. He is very possessive about this particular toy and never parts with it. The moment I looked at him, he gave it to me in my hands, as if to say, ‘Thank You for including me in your book. Although I cannot speak with words, here is my favourite toy for you, for I love you more than you do.’ It was this appreciation, this love and encouragement, which came from my four-legged friend, that moved me to tears, and I held him and said, “Scooby, this is our book. Thank you for being in my life!’
What projects are you currently working on?
I am debating between two ideas. One is of writing pure ction, which I am convinced I have a air for, and the other is writing a motivational or self-help book, where I recount witty real life experiences and key learnings from them.
Why should readers pick up your book?
Well, there are several strong reasons, but the prime and foremost one being that it is an easily identiable book, because everything about it is a pick from the real world. It is neither ctional nor hypothetical, as it draws from the daily experiences and daily interactions in any professional’s life, and makes them realize how they can translate them into their individual professional success.
Narrate some memorable feedback that you got from your readers?
I have got amazing reviews on Amazon, Good Reads and other online sites, plus quite a few appreciative emails inboxed to me. What is very heartening to note is that they are not just one or two line reviews, but detailed feedback and in depth analysis and the readers have taken the effort to pen it down.
Concluding, now that you are a success, what would you want to tell someone who wants to venture into writing?
I would say, if you have the zeal and conviction to write, just go ahead and do it. During your writing journey, you may encounter along with a few encouraging people the many naysayers, dissuaders, or unasked-foradvice givers, but just go ahead and follow your passion and dream. You will feel immensely satised and happy after you have nished writing. The outcome of it translating into sales and recognition should not be your primary objective, because, believe me, if you write from the heart and put in your best, the rest will surely follow!