Random forays: What’s life without a career-shift?

  • Vivek Atray, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 12, 2016 13:06 IST
Two uncles of mine, both of whom once held senior govt positions, made the switch. One resigned from service to become a disc jockey! Other left at an even more upwardly mobile post and turned a professional singer. (Photo: Getty Images)

Most of us go through life in a specific mould. We just choose our career and stick to it. Those who opt for, and are selected into, a service like banking or the administrative services tend to spend 35-odd years doing much the same thing. A promotion, an increment, an appreciation letter are what keep them going, and also perhaps the satisfaction of having done a decent job along the way.

A guard who mans a railway crossing in a village setting, and there are thousands of them out there, does not have the opportunity to deviate from his routine except once in a blue moon. He probably meets one familiar visitor every day, waves at a train driver whom he knows well and has his tea twice a day, sandwiched by a lunch break at 1 o’clock. He does the same job day in and day out. We should be proud of him and his ilk, of all those who serve their country or their organisation, in some manner. They remain plugged in, they keep at it, and they deliver the goods, year after year. On the other hand there are those who have sipped the waters of many ponds, who have shelved many career streams for new ones and have broken several moulds along the way!

A childhood friend of mine started off by being a techie at an IT firm, then started his own software venture, shifted gears again and delved into event management, only to settle into a career as a lawyer after studying hard to manage a law degree!

Even more drastic is the example of two uncles of mine, both of whom once held senior government positions. One resigned from service without a second thought to become a disc jockey! The other left at an even more upwardly mobile post and turned into a professional singer!

I have wondered for years about what had got into them and what made them take the plunge. Having analysed the mindsets of creative people and interacted with quite a few, I find that there comes a stage in life when the straight-jacketed approach does not make for a fulfilling life. This is not true of most people but certainly for some. In any case, human beings are seldom satisfied with what they have in the bag. They are usually on the lookout for more and better all the time. Both uncles did spectacularly well on seeking newer pastures and one admires them for having resisted familial pressure to ‘live their dream’! Yet, a vast majority of us do not venture out with creative strides for fear of rocking the stable boat of our careers. Only some have the gumption and the inner urge to do so. A senior executive with a multinational firm is found nowadays to spend most of his time fishing and biking. He also volunteers at a home for children from impoverished families. He explains what led him to shun the lucrative but frenetic work-life that he had in exchange for the calmness and nothing-to-do-ness that he so enjoys now.

‘I figured out at the age of 48 that I had made enough money to live decently for years to come, but was not spending enough happiness filled moments with myself, my family and my friends!’ He quit one fine day and despite several jaws dropping when he did, he has never looked back. One can also be inspired by examples of well known celebrities like Rajnikant who became a superstar having started out as a bus conductor, of Brad Pitt who was once a limousine driver, and of Harrison Ford who was a carpenter! There are also theories on what the right age is for a career-shift: 30, 40 or 50? I am going to stick my neck out and state that it is never too early or late. What matters is what the heart wants, provided it is not too outlandish! Thus even highly placed CEOs and IAS officers are giving up their status for what really makes the heart sing each morning. And my vote is with them. More power to the career changers!


(The writer is an administrator, author, and motivational speaker)

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