Dream no small dreams...

Dream no small dreams...

Dream no small dreams...

Although many of us have been raised on tales of relatives and acquaintances spending all their lives working in a profession they have never felt passionate about, it is unthinkable for us to do something that we don’t love. There is, of course, plenty of evidence for this in the start-up universe — which is abuzz with youngsters following their dreams, something that stands testimony to the fact that one can be successful, even while looking beyond conventional careers. All it took for them was that leap of faith and the urge to find their calling.

One can very well look beyond the start-up buzz and still find plenty of examples of people who have stood by their convictions when it came to career choices. I, for one, have always admired people who truly find their calling against all odds. Once upon a time, it took a lot of guts to utter something that went against the norms of a standard career. Today’s generation, however, has had it relatively easy, what with a plethora of career counsellors and psychometric tests that tell youngsters about suitable career choices. However, finding a calling has got more to do with your exposure in life to something you feel passionately about, and the ability to pursue it relentlessly. A young person’s career is determined by several factors:

What their parents have dreamt for them
The family’s risk appetite to accept their  choices
Their willingness to put in effort in swimming upstream

It also requires the person to stay focused on his/her way to achieving his/her dream. Then, there are the usual concerns raised by family and friends — How much can you earn? How much scope for growth does this career path offer in the long run? How will you manage to earn enough, save enough and care for your family’s requirements in the near future? All these questions are not unfounded, given the scarce information available to parents if the career choice is unconventional or lesser-known. However, when you are well-informed and have enough conviction, things do fall into place. Most of the times, your family looks at how convinced you are, in the first place.

The path less taken
Conventional wisdom tells us that when you do what you love, you don’t need to work a single day of your life. Unlike our past generations, where a career meant doing some work that fetches a livelihood, today’s youngsters look at it as something they’d love to do all their lives and enjoy every moment of it. If success once meant rising steadily in a chosen career and earning a decent living, it is much more than just that today.

If one looks at Swati Bondia’s journey as an entrepreneur, one can clearly understand that this young girl from Bengaluru was always clear that she wanted to be an entrepreneur from her college days. She realised her calling early on and started her own company, Om Shanti Traders while still in college, and then went on to pursue her MBA. Meeting her as part of the Goldman Sachs 10000 women entrepreneurs programme, I could sense the conviction in this petite girl. She knew what she wanted to do in life, though at that time, it was obviously beyond the ordinary. She was also lucky to have had supportive parents.

Then there are famous personalities like Anil Kumble, John Abraham, Parineeti Chopra and Harsha Bhogle, who pursued professional education and ended up following their hearts into unconventional career choices that may have been hazy when they set out. Take the case of Apoorva Dodmani from Belagavi. An engineer by education, she joined her friends to set up her own company Made Creative Works that has evolved into one of the most innovative design studio and event management company. Her demeanor is always that of a convinced girl, who knows exactly what she is doing, going against conventions.

Whatever it takes
It takes tremendous courage to give up the safety net of a safe and high-paying career (or prospects thereof) and deal with the ambiguity of whether it will play off well, especially when under societal pressure. However, if we set out to answer one question at a time, it all boils down to how skilled you are. The world today respects skills more than anything else. So, even if you have chosen to be a wedding photographer after pursuing engineering, or a trekking guide after being a management graduate, or a chef coming from a family of medical professionals, if you are highly skilled in whatever you do, and know how to monetise your skills with proper networking and marketing abilities, you can definitely earn on par with, or higher than those in conventional careers. It is when we don’t skill ourselves enough that our prospects of income drop.

And skilling is a continuous process. Learning all that needs to be learnt, staying abreast of the latest trends, adding to one’s repertoire of certifications through online courses — all go a long way in making you the best in whatever you are doing. An average person faces tremendous competition; the best ones rarely have any. Then, there is also the tendency to give up, that tends to creep in. It is very important that you stay focused, have conviction and develop skills in your career in order to avoid the frustration from taking over. I remember the quote of Harrison Ford, who worked as a carpenter till he was 30, before becoming the star that he is today: “You have to have the darkness for the dawn to come.”

Walking that extra mileHard work always pays off well. If you need to put in eight to nine hours in a regular job with some travelling being thrown in, following your own career path may need you to pitch in with more hours, just to stay afloat initially, and to become the best eventually. Today’s young generation is often enamored by the thought that doing something different is the norm. However, all the glamour of following your heart can prove futile in the absence of reality checks.

Understanding yourself, doing a thorough SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis of oneself before setting out is very important. Seek professional help from career counsellors or subject matter experts, but then of course, it is you who knows best. Gather information from as many sources as possible before taking the leap. Meet or reach out to people who have done it before and get their first-hand account of the turmoil that they may have faced.

This exercise could begin even while you are in college. The Internet offers a galaxy of sources to put your act together. Better still, chart out a sheet with grades for each of the parameters like skills, risk appetite, future prospects, competition, scope for income, scalability, hard work required etc on a scale of one to 10 to understand how convinced you are. If you fare anywhere above eight on all counts, you can take the leap. Or else, do not hesitate to take the conventional path. Nobody was ever harmed doing what thousands of people have done before them.