More and more youngsters are making a career out of their passion
Ten years ago, it was the stuff parents' nightmares were made of — their high-school boy/girl walking into the house with a steely glint and determined chin, and announcing that he/she wanted to be a DJ. The parents would've wrung hands and bemoaned their child choosing a career that nobody had ever heard of and was on the path to certain financial doom. Replace DJ with model, writer, painter, designer, and well, the reaction would not have been very different. Careers, then, had to necessarily be mainstream and the choices were driven by how rewarding (financially) they were.
Today, things have almost turned on their head; while ‘safe' choices (you know, the big four — Engineering, Medicine, IT, Auditing) remain as popular as ever, guaranteeing decent placements and a reasonably comfortable life, remuneration has not been unkind in exciting, offbeat careers too. And so, what was once only good enough as a hobby is now easily viable as a full-time profession.
Fulfilling or frustrating?
Sarah Iyer, senior manager with Thinking Palm's Pathways career guidance programme, says that the definition of an unconventional career itself has changed dramatically over the years. “Today, for instance, working as a chef is a reasonably safe career choice. Also, rewards are commensurate to quality, in that it is better to be a great chef than a mediocre doctor. But careers are also determined by the likelihood of success. Take the average salary and distribution of salaries of IT professionals versus all the aspiring actors. The spread of earnings is far narrower for IT professionals, which implies a lower risk of achieving those,” she says. Which explains why people still routinely knock on the doors of engineering colleges, even though there is a huge, raging debate about how frustrating traditional careers can seem at some point. That is why, choosing the ideal career, Sarah Iyer says, requires identifying something that is not only interesting but also practical to achieve.
Bhuvana Shankar, Principal, Chennai Public School, says that when students are at the cross-roads of choosing their careers, they're often carried away by the success of their seniors, neighbours or cousins and sometimes the publicity that is given to specific courses. “It's only once they get into the chosen field, do they really understand its joys/scope. So as important as it is to allow them to choose a field of their interest, it is vital that we academicians educate them about the various opportunities that come with each choice.”
But given the glut of choices now — a double-edged sword in some ways — it's certainly no joke going about guiding children to pick on something they might potentially pursue for several decades of their life. Do you simply play the supportive parent, and go along with the child's unusual choice, or do you reason out that there are better opportunities out there for a more regular career? “The thing with career choices is that, as parents, we cannot really imagine what jobs our children will have in the future. The way technology and media are sprinting, jobs that may freely be available ten years from now, might not even exist today,” says Gouri Umashankar, mother of two kids, who's dabbled in writing and PR. So parents, she suggests, should keep their fears to themselves and encourage children to follow their passion.
And to identify if that passion can indeed work as a career, Sarah Iyer recommends a few pointers. “The criteria for career assessment are: Are you interested in doing the tasks involved? Do you have the skills to be successful in your chosen profession? Do you like the lifestyle associated with it? If your answer is yes to all the three, then you have found the profession that you will find satisfying.”
And as long as you're enthusiastic, work hard and love what you're doing, “the product is success and the happy by-product is money,” says Bhuvana Shankar. “Engineering and medicine are no longer the only and ultimate choices for students. Courses such as mass and visual communication, journalism, tourism, fashion technology are now accepted and recognised as good options mostly because they're highly remunerative. It is a welcome change, for how long can the country produce only engineers? Let's have more scientists, mathematicians, artists, writers and entrepreneurs please,” she adds.
ROAD LESS TAKEN?
Chef Rajesh Radhakrishnan, Director Food Production, The Park Chennai, says that when he was growing-up, ‘choosing to be a chef was not a career option a smart and intelligent (in traditional sense) individual would opt for. Initially my parents were obviously not very happy about me choosing the kitchen'. But now, ‘the prospects are drastically different. Globalisation and television have generated unprecedented amount of interest in food. Now, I would say, is the best time to be in the culinary field. It also gives you great opportunity to experiment, and I love creating, discovering interesting flavours and tastes. The greatest reward on a daily basis is the wonderful comments I receive from the guests who love their meal'.” His advice for aspiring chefs: “Don't go by the glamour (now associated with the profession) or just because you love to eat. Choose it if you are really passionate about food and cooking, and be prepared to work really hard, especially in the initial years. Despite the toil, it is an inspiring career and also deeply satisfying.”!'
Murali Krishnan, professional drummer, and founder of ‘Jus Drums', School of Percussion, says that from the time he was in school he knew he wanted to be a drummer. “Even though eyebrows were raised at my career-choice, I got through with the support of my grandparents, who said that I will do well if I like what I do.” Today, a much sought-after percussionist in the South, and the founder of a path breaking drums school, Murali likens choosing an offbeat career to riding a one-wheeled bicycle. “It's very easy to ride a cycle which has two wheels; otherwise, you have to be extra-cautious, learn to balance better, be more dedicated. If you're passionate about what you do, you do it better, but in music, there's no replacement for hard-work. You have to keep practising, till you get distinct, perfect' His formula for success – ‘I constantly keep looking at other things I can do with music…it's all in your hands, you can make it work if you utilise all the available opportunities'