What’s the one thing that is common among the celebrated fashion designer Vera Wang, actor and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos? All of them realised their true calling later in life. While many individuals opt for traditional education paths such as engineering, finance, banking and law due to parental pressure or a lack of awareness, a lot of them in their late 20s these days are making the switch to lucrative and unconventional careers, which include travel blogging, turning influencers, building their startups, acting, and even writing. So, what is the reason behind this rising trend? Is it the desire for a better work-life balance, being your own boss, flexible hours, contributing towards the society or working at a pace that is to one’s liking? According to the Michael Page India Talent Trends 2022 report that was out recently, 86% of employees will be looking for new career prospects over the next six months.
Emergence of the trend
Clinton Wingrove, an HR consultant, is of the opinion that trends of this nature typically have their origins in the formative years of these individuals – the environment in which they had their early nurture and the period of education up to their mid-teens. This cumulative experience creates and refines their values, perceptions of right and wrong, and the expectations they have of the world. Echoing similar sentiments, Shwetal Shubhadeep, co-founder and COO, NWORX, shares how choosing these unconventional careers allow work-life integration, so essential in today’s time. She believes the trend might have grown during the pandemic, but it will continue to rise over the next few years.
Answering the why behind the phenomenon
Talking about his journey from a salesman at a French-based MNC to starting his own trekking firm, Treksome, podcaster Samvedh reveals the obstacles he faced and why it was important for him to make the change. “I studied civil engineering and later pursued my post-graduation in construction management. I was happy when I got my first job, but soon realised that the rat race and meeting deadlines on a day-to-day basis was not my cup of tea,” he says.
Explaining the phenomenon of individuals making a career switch, Wingrove says that professionals in the 23-30 age range had their values and opinions shaped in a period of relative prosperity, substantial social change, which includes access to information, and the ability to share and influence opinions, creativity and innovation, especially in digital communication. These changes have created a belief that anything is possible. On the constant pressure to opt for safer careers in many Indian households, Shubhadeep feels parents here have always wanted their children to tread a seemingly safe path, which usually results in them opting for traditionally-accepted educational degrees and initial jobs. But once that need is fulfilled, these individuals who are truly passionate about a certain field, find like-minded communities easily and start exploring new professions. Simultaneously, with the advent of social media, the demand for the so-called alternative professions is soaring, and in a few years, these professions might become mainstream.
Driving force behind switching careers
While Samvedh struggled with several ideas for a startup after quitting his job, it was a trip to the Himalayas that proved to be a game-changer for him. It was on this trek that he realised that he wanted to build his own startup around travel. This need, Wingrove feels, is borne out of characteristics of fun, creativity, spontaneity, independence and social connection, which are simply more attractive to the current generation than rigour, experience, knowledge, skill, discipline and structure. Shubhadeep feels it is all about independence, optimism and passion, which is unique to this generation. With so many opportunities in the market, millennials are willing to take that risk. What Gen X would call ‘a risk’ is termed as ‘a learning experience’ by a millennial.
Cracks came to the surface during the pandemic
Shweta Advani, founder of the startup Mindful Love Tribe, realised her true calling just like Samvedh did. As a child, she always had this dream of contributing to the society, which led her to pick HR as a career. But after working in the field for over seven years, she felt that the dream was getting farther away from her reach. On a trip to the Andamans, with no network to distract her from her thoughts, she realised how important mindfulness is in every aspect of life. With the sole aim of bringing back mindfulness as an organised sector in India, she started workshops for all age groups. And the pandemic just reinforced her belief, as more people came to realise the importance of mindfulness to keep anxiety and fatigue at bay.
Wingrove shares how the pandemic helped millennials see through the thin veneer of “our employees are our greatest asset”, while experiencing the ruthless demands of the shareholders; they watched short-termism that passion for profit and growth creates. Neel Gogia, co-founder, IPLIX Media, believes organisations and employers need to reassess the HR policies and initiatives, as they play a crucial role today in whether an employee is ready to commit to the organisation or not for a long tenure.
Many reasons: One switch
For Lidya Sonam, who studied engineering and worked in the corporate sector, coming back home to Leh was her top priority. With no opportunities for engineers in her hometown, Sonam had to work at a pharmaceutical company. It was then that she decided to give the banking entrance exam a try, as it was one of the most lucrative jobs there. Once she cleared it, there was no looking back. Sonam didn’t quit the 9-to-5 rut but she did make a switch based on her priorities and what was available to her. According to Wingrove, Gen Z is more likely looking for a change and that is the reason they can’t stick to one role or organisation. Technological advances, or the way we’ve used them, has dramatically reduced our attention spans. Our modes of communication have also reduced our empathic connections and moving on is how many professionals now seek stimuli and satisfaction. Shubhadeep shares valuable insights about loyalty to organisation, which has become a thing of the past. She feels that the loyalty of professionals today lies in making a difference to the world and pursuing their interests. Hence, they move to where the opportunities lie, something that is quite important for an employer to understand so as not to expect a long tenure.
A word of advice
IITian Amol Parashar was working at a consulting firm when the acting bug bit him. His love for the arts pushed him to pursue acting full-time, where he has been a part of OTT shows and films such as Sardar Udham, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, Feels Like Ishq, Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, etc. Initially, it was a struggle, but today, he is proud of his decision. While employers and organisations might be in a dilemma over this matter, when you really think it over, an average person spends just about 100,000 hours at work in his lifetime, and it is only fair that they are in a job where they are recognised, appreciated and known for their work. Gogia thinks that an employee should also check if his core values are aligning with the vision and motto of the organisation. Only if that is true, will an employee make an effort and stay longer. The surge in resignations in the past few years is being driven by people searching for the right job at the right company with the right values and culture — and many would rather remain unemployed until they have found the right match.