Moving careers is not moving mountains.
People often think that what they have committed to become cannot be changed. In a previous article I wrote about why I selected medicine, went to Madras Medical College, then did my FRCS and then quit to pursue a career in management consulting. I know numerous examples of highly successful people who have switched careers. At INSEAD where I completed my MBA, I had colleagues from various walks of life. There were fighter pilots who had flown in Iraq — lawyers who had practiced in London — engineers from Silicon Valley and of course the odd doctor like me. Despite our varied backgrounds and education, we had commonalities. We were all looking for opportunities in business and in general management (and not necessarily in the same field we came from). We had all been very successful in what we had done until that point in our lives. We were open to new ideas and new ways of thinking and doing things.
Why do people look to change what they have chosen to do? Research done at Thinking Palm TM shows that more than 50 per cent of young adults are not happy with the profession they have chosen to pursue. So the answer is simple — many people are not happy in the roles they have selected and therefore are looking to do something else. However, the percentage of people who actually make the change is very little. This is because of fear of failure, not knowing what else to do and inertia.
Okay, let’s say you have chosen a field of study or a profession that you now find yourself unhappy with. What should you do? The first step is to truly ascertain that you are indeed unhappy with the current position or role. The grass always seems greener on the other side, so you should absolutely make sure about what you are interested in. Once you are sure, start looking for opportunities related to what you have educated yourself in or in what you are skilled at. For example, a qualification in medicine could help with a move into pharmaceuticals or medical devices. For many alternative careers, you may not even need to re-qualify yourself — you can learn on the job. For example, management consulting is a career where the training is given on the job — you just have to have a problem-solving mindset. You can also find many short courses directly related to careers that you can choose to do. For instance, animation courses can help you enter the field of 3D design, movie making etc where the prime requirements are the skills you have and can bring to the job at hand.
The best way to chart your new path is to first systematically explore all the possible opportunities available to you in the wide world of work. Do you want to stick to the same broad area or sector or change? If you are in engineering, do you want to explore opportunities in arts and entertainment or in hospitality? Once you have made up your mind about the sector, then you can narrow down on the role. Speak to people who work in the sector and roles you have in mind. Ask them about the success factors. We have interviewed numerous career professionals who have detailed the requirements for success in their fields. It is surprising how many careers do not require a specific qualification.
Shifting careers is not easy. However, if you are truly unhappy in the profession you have chosen, it is better to put in the work to find a field and area that you will be truly excited about and interested in right now.
The writer is director, Thinking Palm’s Pathways program.