Sutanu Guru

This is a true story. The author spoke to an acquaintance after the second wave of the Covid pandemic had receded. He had spent about Rs 15 lakh as fees for an MBA for his daughter from a middle rung institution. She was in “marketing” but her actual work was that of a salesperson. Her monthly salary was Rs 30,000.

The author told his acquaintance about his driver’s wife who was enrolled in an App as a beautician. Her monthly income was on average Rs 40,000 per month. The daughter of the acquaintance heard about this and quit her job. Always fond of beauty and fitness, she trained for a few months and created two profiles for potential customers: one for beauty and the other for fitness with an emphasis on yoga.

The author casually asked the acquaintance about his daughter recently and the proud father beamed and said she is now earning upwards of Rs 1 lakh a month. More importantly, she enjoys doing what she does.

There is a lesson here for millions of youth in Odisha and India. The future lies in what could be termed as “unconventional careers”. As the economy and society rapidly changes, new career opportunities are opening up at a blistering pace. Those who expand their horizons beyond conventional degrees like engineering, medical and MBA have a better chance to have a successful career and also get work satisfaction by doing what they love.

Why youth, even the “middle aged” are leaving lucrative jobs to pursue “alternative careers”. A cousin of the author and his wife were successful, highly paid IT professionals based out of Delhi with many stints in verse as countries. They were in their mid-forties when their two sons entered college. Both quit, left Delhi and settled in Bhubaneswar.

They now run a Start Up that specialises in taking care of medical and other needs of aged parents of tens of thousands of Odias settled abroad. Everything except personal care is online. Both enjoy being entrepreneurs and do make decent money. In fact, their Start Up has given jobs to about 40 people.

A cousin “surprised” everyone in the mid 1990s by opting for a degree in hotel management; not considered a good career option back then in Odisha. But his choice turned out to be very wise in the long run; in hindsight. Never a high performnace student, the nephew knew after passing out of school that he didn’t have much chance of competing for a seat in a top notch medical, engineering or management institution. He didn’t have the patience to do a normal degree to chase a job in insurance or banking.

He opted to be a chef, did very well in his institution and got picked up by the Oberoi group during campus placement. After 20 odd years there, he has recently been hired by Qatar Airways at a package that we can only dream of! This cousin was facing the usual social pressure of being a “failure” after very low percentage in his school board exams. He was frustrated. He didn’t have reliable information about other career options. A lucky encounter with a classmate’s relative who was then working at Taj Mansingh in Delhi opened a new world for him.

Today, reliable information about alternative careers is available in your smartphones, thanks to the technology and internet revolutions. To be sure, there will still be a lot of youngsters who will pursue a career in medicine, engineering, IT and management. But a lot of youngsters do not enjoy being one. For them and their parents, it is important to find out what the child really enjoys doing and plan a career based on that.

As the hit movie 3 Idiots showed in typically overblown Bollywood style, forcing oneself to pick up a career you don’t enjoy could end up destroying the youngster. Once upon a time, such alternative career options were rare and most didn’t pay very well. But all that has changed. The author has a friend whose son opted for an IGNOU degree and literally “interned” free of cost with senior photographers. His extended family was shocked.

Today, barely 30 years old, he specialises in wedding photography for the well off and charges Rs 1 lakh for a day. He is busy about 40 days a year shooting excited brides, grooms and their families. The rest oof the year, he travels and shoots photographs; many of which fetch a high price. Earning Rs 50 lakh a year for someone who did not even go to college is pretty cool, isn’t it?

Here is one piece of data for the young and restless to mull over. The total labour force in India is 550 million. Out of this, just about 30 million are in “safe” government jobs. The number of government jobs will not increase. So what would you do if you are a smart youngster?

(Author has been a media professional for over 3 decades. He is now Executive Director, C Voter Foundation. Views are Personal)