Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Insider's Take on 'Alternate Careers'

Two weeks ago I was in Dehradun, addressing an auditorium full of 12th class students on 'alternate careers'. And I realized one very sad fact. Twenty years after I felt pressurized to take up the safe option of science over arts, economics over English literature - the same mindset prevails.

95% of the students - representing the so called 'middle class' of India - raised their hands to say they are pursuing a path laid down by parents. Engineering nahin to medicine nahin to MBA.

But don't we keep hearing - "Today kids have so many options!". While that is true, most students are not given the freedom or encouragement to go down different paths. Parents mean well and want their kids to be 'happy'. But they are woefully ignorant and see safety in sticking with the herd.

Students know, in their hearts, this is not what they want. But they don't have the courage to take a stand. And what do they take a stand on? They have no idea of where their passion lies.

Agar kuch idea hai to they are convinced it is 'very hard' to make it doing something you love. Rozi roti kamaane ke liye kuch to sacrifice karna padega!

Since all of middle class India is dreaming of one thing - acchhi degree leading to acchhi (assured) naukri - let us examine the premise. Let's say you do your BTech from a theek thaak college and make it to Infosys or TCS. You can expect a starting salary at age 22 of about Rs 3 lakhs.

Assuming you perform in the top 25% and hop a couple of jobs, you can expect to earn around Rs 1 lakh per month by age 30.

Is that such a big deal? I think not! My contention is that if you join any industry at age 21 or 22 and gain 8-9 years of experience - you would be earning that much. Assuming of course that you have some passion or flair for what you do.

The path taken may of course be slightly different. You may not get a 'brand name' employer right out of college and your starting salary may be much smaller. Your work output and skill will matter more than a 'degree' as such. But I can bet there are any number of you out there who are nodding your heads as you read this. Haan - yeh to sau pratishat sach hai.

Radio jockey, rocket scientist, helicopter pilot, pastry chef, hair stylist, film editor, insurance salesman, psychotherapist, college professor, veterinarian, entrepreneur.

Share your stories with me. The criteria is that you are earning Rs 1 lakh per month at age 30. Give or take a couple of years. And if you don't earn it in money terms you get it in perks or other material benefits. Not to mention the satisfaction of doing something you are really good at and love doing. And calling it 'work'.

Mail me at rashmi_b at yahoo.com with brief details of what you do and I will mail you a small questionnaire. I will share your stories on this blog and other mediums, to spread awareness among students.

I know the vast majority will continue to follow the easy path, the path of mediocrity. But if we can ignite a few lost souls out there, those few sparks are enough to create a bonfire of old ideas and prejudices.

Breaking this cycle of doing the done thing, even if we are dying in the doing of it. Every minute, every hour.

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