When it comes to our career, we are likely to come across two kinds of people: the first being the ones who have stuck around in their jobs for over three decades or so; and the second being the ones who are ready to jump ship any chance they get.
With the opportunities available today, changing your career has become an enticing challenge. And there is so much that one can do and plenty of places where one can apply themselves, that it feels almost restrictive to stay in one organisation for too long.
However, what happens when you have been contributing to a particular field for the past couple of decades of your life and you suddenly sense this nagging feeling that it’s time to pack up and explore something new? The comfort of your pay check and several other factors may play a role in your decision to stay or leave, but if you are considering a shift in your career, we highlight the risks involved as well as the fulfilment that accompanies your choice to follow your passion.
You have an eye for photography, but once you took up that corporate job, the only time your camera sees the light of day is during your family vacation.
Or, you love to pen down prose and poetry, but haven’t found the time for it while juggling between your work schedule and family life. It doesn’t matter where or how you begin, it only matters what you are doing with where you are right now.
You may be tempted to quiet down the voice that is urging you to try something new. Our comfort zones have the power to paralyse us, ensuring that we settle for whatever is most convenient, even if it’s not entirely satisfying.
Sometimes all you need is a push in the direction of your dreams. Take a look at some people who were courageous enough to change the direction of their career, thus leading them to flourish in roles they play today.
Leaving familiar ground
The most prominent man of the hour is our very own former cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. An honorary lieutenant colonel, he took a two-month sabbatical from cricket to serve the 106 Territorial Army Battalion (Para) for two weeks.
One of the world’s top fashion designers, Giorgio Armani began his career in the Italian army and started working at a military hospital in Verona. Humans of New York creator, Brandon Stanton wasn’t always a professional photographer.
He began his career in the finance industry before realising that his job didn’t allow him an outlet for his creativity. Jonah Peretti was a computer science teacher before he launched the viral media sites Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.
One of the world’s premier women’s designers, Vera Wang dabbled in figure skating and journalism before moving to fashion in her 40s and Julia Child wrote a cookbook and launched her career as a celebrity chef at the age of 50 after working in media, advertising and the secret intelligence!
Ponder it over
Reading through stories of successful career shifts may lure you to make some changes of your own. But we know you would like to consider all your options before you make a decision as big as this. Let’s weigh the pros and cons that a career change entails.
Psychologist Dr Chinmay Kulkarni tells us that it takes decades to build a career, and so giving it up abruptly and following your passion can be risky. “The main risk is that doing something significant with your passion requires a lot of time.
This can be financially stressful. Another question to ask is: What if the field you were thinking you were passionate about is just a hobby and can’t translate into a full time endeavour? There are people who go through these motions and regret their decision soon enough.
Shraddha Shah, consultant psychologist at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre echoes the same sentiment saying, “A passion provides satisfaction, however that's not enough.
It is something you love and that you are good at. But it also needs to be something that you can get paid for.” She focuses on the concept of ‘Ikigai’ — the idea of happiness in living.
“People need to find meaning and purpose in life. Whether it is a change in career at a later stage in life, the reason would be that people don't feel a sense of purpose.”
She explains that certain professions are thought to be more respectable than others and people have picked them according to their needs rather than their wants.
Society is changing and people have more stable livelihoods. Freedom to choose your career today also comes from financial stability. Family counselling and planning prior to making a switch are useful solutions.
A change in career will demand adjustments to a different lifestyle, working hours and possible financial instability. This could pose a strain on people in their 40s and 50s.
Find your fulfilment
No doubt there are several risks involved, but finally choosing a career path that makes you come most alive is fulfilling indeed. As we mentioned above, it comes down to finding your purpose and living it out.
Shraddha adds that more than a psychological happiness, it promotes positive ageing, and research shows that if someone switches their career with the intention of finding purpose and meaning to make their life worth living, it is associated with longevity.
Listening to stories and gaining some advice will definitely encourage you to make a calculated decision. However, it’s important to figure out for yourself what is important to you.
Once you set your priorities straight, you will be able to make a choice and stand your ground through the consequences it brings along, whether positive or negative.
Given that we are celebrating another year of Independence, may we also free our minds from the shackles of comfort and convenience and gauge how best we can use our skills and talents in areas we haven’t ventured into.
Getting back on the track of a long forgotten dream or pursuing a career which takes the focus off you and turns it toward the betterment of society in whatever way, will ultimately bring you the fulfilment or Ikigai you desire.