They dared to change course

Gurumurthy K | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on September 18, 2016

People who switched careers midstream for completely untested options tell Portfolio why they did it

News of leading firms across sectors issuing pink slips to their employees has been making headlines in recent times. Naturally, employees in these sectors are nervous about what awaits them.

But there are those who, of their own volition, quit well-paying jobs. They quit not for a higher salary, but to do something on their own that is entirely different from their previous profession. For instance, a finance professional turned farmer, a software person became a handicrafts maker, a visual effects engineer opted for social work. ...the list goes on. What made these people go for such a drastic shift? They share their stories with Portfolio.

Why did they quit?

The reason for these people to quit their job varies. Arunkumar, who has completed his Masters in Business Administration (MBA), comes from an agricultural family. After working in a brokerage firm for about two years, he decided to quit and step into farming. “I always wanted to do agriculture and so I decided to take up farming from my father who was taking care of both our grocery store as well as the farm land,” he says.

On the other hand, lack of job satisfaction and inability to spend more time with family due to long working hours made Priya Vadhana quit her job after 10 long years. “I used to work continuously for 10-15 hours everyday. For the sake of earning money I was losing out on time with family. So, I decided to quit,” says Priya. She now does home decor, handicrafts, and fancy dress costumes for children from home, while catching up on quality time with family members, including her two children.

The case of Giridharan shows that the opportunity is enormous for people quitting their jobs. Giri has worked as a computer and visual effects engineer for many Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films. Indeed, he has also had the opportunity to work for the visual effects of Hollywood movie Kungfu Panda.

But his keenness to help people around him, which he was doing during weekends, has turned him into a full-time social worker. Now, he independently feeds homeless people on the streets of Vellore, apart from visiting hospitals, orphanages, old-age homes and homes for leprosy patients, along with other groups.

“I feel happy visiting and interacting with people who are less fortunate. It gives me complete satisfaction when the doctors or caregivers say that I have made some people smile whom they have never seen smiling or talking,” says Giri. This happiness which was lacking in his earlier career, though he was earning more, made Giri quit his job.

He ropes in student volunteers from colleges around Vellore and provides food to the homeless. But why students? “I like involving students because it will develop in them the habit of helping the needy which they can continue to do even after they finish college and take up jobs.” Giri says the parents of the students are also happy since their children are not wasting time on unproductive activities but rather utilising it by doing some good work. “If we bring a change in the students, society will change automatically,” avers Giri.

Whence the transition?

Transitioning to a career that is completely different is not easy. It needs a lot of planning and strong support from family members. C Jayaraman had a slightly difficult time getting into photography, his passion. He was working in a BPO and did not have any background or experience in photography. “I didn’t even have a camera but I wanted to get into photography. I decided to take the risk since I was young. So, I quit my job just three months after I bought my camera,” recalls Jayaraman.

His family supported him in this switch because they were not happy with the irregular timings of his BPO job, and feared it would hurt his health. By learning online and by reading and collecting articles, Jayaraman managed to join as an assistant with a senior photographer. After some time, he launched out on his own as a freelancer.

Priya, on the other hand, started with her handicrafts while still working as a software professional. She started making dresses for her son for his school functions.

“My work attracted other parents and it all started from there,” she says. Though many mistakes happened in the initial stages, those were good learning opportunities, she says. Priya is now busy with yearly contracts for making dresses for children from a couple of schools in Chennai for their annual day and sports day functions.

It has not been a rosy path for these people though they are doing what they like the most. Everyone has their own challenges to surmount. “Funding is a big challenge for me in providing food, because of which I am not able to do it on a large scale,” says Giri. As of now Giri raises funds from volunteers and also uses the money he earns from multimedia projects that he outsources and does for his own livelihood as well.

Marketing her work in a world where everything is available at the click of a button on e-commerce portals is challenging for Priya. “I do not have a website and I do not run any advertisements. My Facebook page is the only medium through which I market my products apart from being part of some forums,” says Priya.

The careers these people have stepped into might be different. But the one thing common to them is their complete sense of satisfaction and real happiness in what they are doing. “Though there are some glitches once in a while, at the end of the day, I feel completely satisfied with what I am doing.

Also, I get recognition for what I do now, which was next to impossible in a corporate world no matter whatever great work you do,” says Priya.

Being on their own, they are always ready to try out new things. Arun has reduced his farming costs by completely mechanising the processes. Increasing efficiency, too, has brought down bills. “In place of the 18 people I needed earlier, I now need only three. Mechanisation has brought down my cost from around ₹8,000 to about ₹5,000 for a specific process.”

“I don’t want to restrict myself with any specific future plan since photography is an evolving profession. I have an open mind and I am ready to change myself as per the trend,” adds Jayaraman.

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