I started my career 13 years back after completing Engineering and joining an IT MNC as a sales trainee. In these 13 years, I have gone through career breaks, job changes and career transformation journeys. At different phases of my career I have experienced stagnation in growth, frustration in role, and dissatisfaction in the job and forced me to evaluate career choices and make pivots when necessary. I’m sharing 5 such significant decisions that has pivoted my career journey to an entirely different trajectory.
1. Choosing to be the Black Sheep-
Choosing a field sales job that involves selling IT hardware door-to-door was something many frowned upon when compared to a glorified software job with unlimited access to coffee and air-conditioned rooms. Based on popular opinion it was unusual for a woman to do this, but by making this unconventional choice at the start of my career, I got the opportunity to learn from some of the best men who dominated the market and picked up street-smart survival skills which would come in very handy at a later stage in my career.
2. Choosing to do an MBA-
If you are early in your career, but certain that you do not want to stay in the current career path and at the same time confused about what to choose, doing an MBA is the best option. After working for a few years, you will know what you certainly don’t like but you may not know what you will really like. MBA gives you a fresh perspective to explore new possibilities, connect with new set of people and discover opportunities that you may have not thought about before. After completing my MBA I was not only able to get a much better job profile which offered a 4X increase in salary, but most importantly it gave me a newfound confidence and a positive change in personality that helped me navigate through the nuances of corporate life.
3. Choosing to Work Abroad-
The decision to migrate from India and work abroad for a couple of years was a conscious choice. This came with a lot of challenges like integrating into a new culture, struggling to find the right job, and proving your value in the organization. But it’s worth the struggle both professionally and financially. Even in a crowded job market like Dubai, you can get a better job offer with a 3-4X increase in salary for the same set of skills and experience when compared to India.
4. Choosing to Work in a Start-Up
Yet another significant milestone in my career was the decision to get out of my comfort zone and work in a start-up. Career journey in a corporate is predictable, with set single-digit annual hikes and planned promotions and steady growth. It’s great for a beginner to be structured and organized but can become frustrating for an ambitious professional who always wants to do more. The predictability of a corporate career can be so comforting that sometimes one may end up spending a decade in the same chair in the same role without noticing. The only way to break the pattern is to consciously take a leap of faith and embrace the uncertainty & ambiguity of a start-up. If the start-up does well you earn a lot, if it doesn’t do well, you learn a lot, so it’s a win-win.. Personally, the start-up phase in my career is where I have felt most valued. The feeling that your opinions matter is very empowering giving you an innate confidence to dare and make the impossible possible.
5. Daring to Start-Up
This one is my personal favorite, one that has not only changed my view on career but also on life. In 2019, after taking a career break and reflecting on my career values, I decided to take a break from 9-5 jobs and ventured on my first entrepreneurial journey. I wanted to create something new from scratch, work for myself, on myself and above all wanted to experience what is it like being an entrepreneur. I was always interested in creating a positive impact in people’s lives and hence I chose to start a coaching company. From putting theoretical MBA jargon like TAM, product-market fit, and 4Ps into practice to accepting that I can’t do everything on my own and I need to seek help when required, it has been a very fulfilling and humbling journey. I’m better aware of my choices, flaws and strengths today, and become emotionally intelligent about people around me and their sensitivities.
Not following the herd, quitting job for higher studies, taking career breaks to recharge and rediscover, taking the risk of working in a start-up, daring to exhaust all savings to starting-up, all of this has worked greatly for my career in the hindsight although when I was making that decision at that time I was doubtful and not sure if any of this would work out.
What I have learned in these 13 years of my career is that firstly, opportunity will not knock at your doors, you need to constantly watch out for it, and secondly, you will never be fully ready for any opportunity, you just need to say YES first and figure out later!