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Shifting Careers: My Story

Posted: November 29, 2011

Shifting careers to chase your dreams is not always easy. Here is my career change story, from IT professional to becoming a writer. 

By Anne John

I was living the Indian Software Engineer dream. Selected early on by a reputed IT MNC during campus recruitment even before I finished my graduation, offered a hefty salary, with promises of a friendly and open work culture and exciting opportunities for travelling abroad – it seemed like I had it all. I had every reason to be happy. But strangely, I always felt that something was missing.

Shifting careers: Knowing what I wanted

Today, people ask me, “When did you get interested in Journalism?” My interest goes a long way back. When I read Lavanya’s interview, it felt like she was echoing my sentiments! Although I too was a good student, I never excelled at anything; until that fateful day, in 8th grade, when my English teacher singled me out and praised my work. That is when I began to actually believe, that maybe I was capable of shining at something. But I had still not made up my mind completely, by the time we were supposed to choose our streams in the 11th grade and so I chose what seemed to be the most popular one – science. As the months rolled by, it became clear to me that this was not for me. It’s not that I found it extremely difficult – rather, I was extremely bored.

Once I finished school, a bitter battle raged at home, when I joined a prominent Arts college to pursue English Literature instead of Engineering. There was such a hue and cry that I finally gave in, dropped out and joined Engineering instead.

I worked for four years in the IT industry in a wonderful company. I learnt a lot, did my work sincerely, made a few great friends, travelled to a handful of countries and grew as a person. But there was not a single day that I got out of bed looking forward to go to work. There was not one instance where I felt that I should contribute more than what was expected of me. After a while, it dawned on me that the main thing I liked about my job was the month end pay slip. When I had a choice to move to another country with my husband, I took it and did not feel the least bit of remorse that I was quitting a lucrative career. In fact, all I felt was freedom!

A career change towards my dreams

Once we had moved and settled down into married life, my husband encouraged me to follow my dreams. But the once-earning-and-standing-on-my-own-feet part of me could not bear to make him pay for my studies. So I pooled in all the settlement money from my previous company and joined a long-distance journalism course. I was not sure if I possessed the discipline and dedication to study from home, but I found myself waiting eagerly for the lessons and plunged into the assignments with gusto.

As my course was nearing completion, I started hunting for writing opportunities. Of course, I would have loved to land a position with some “famous” publication – but I did not harbour any illusions. Realistically, I knew that I would face stiff competition from other journalists my age who would have hands-on experience as well as exposure. Being in a country whose language was alien to me did not help my cause either.

I was not sure if I possessed the discipline and dedication to study from home, but I found myself waiting eagerly for the lessons and plunged into the assignments with gusto.

During the course of my browsing, I came across Women’s Web, quite accidentally (Providence?!) and liking what I saw, soon became a regular reader. It was then that I noticed that Women’s Web, welcomed book  reviews from contributors. Grabbing at every possible straw, I took a shot and sent in a few reviews to the Editor. Imagine my delight, when they were published!

As fate would have it, Women’s Web was on the lookout for an intern. I applied and got it.  This opportunity soon grew into a full-time position, allowing me to start my career in my chosen field.

Shifting careers does mean compromises

I was fortunate enough to not have any pressing financial responsibilities to fulfil; therefore I could afford to take the risk of a career switch. Still, the transition has not been easy. Being a beginner in this field, understandably, my bank account is considerably lighter than it would have been had I stuck on in IT. My parents have yet to come to terms with the fact that their daughter chose to ditch a handsome career for a relatively lower-paying job.

The fact that I work from home in my pyjamas only adds fuel to the fire! It can be highly distracting when people assume that I am simply whiling away time and stop by for chats. I realized that to begin with, I needed to give due importance to my work. Then I started explaining to people, firmly but politely that I had work to be done. Initially I was rewarded with surprised looks but slowly the seriousness of ‘work’ has started sinking in. Also, for many years, I had worked in a team environment, whereas now, it is just I, me and myself! Although it suits my temperament, sometimes it does tend to get a little isolated. But technology has shrunk the world, and when I get lonely, it is easy for me to pick up the phone and call up a friend.

When working from home, demarcating work and personal time is quite a challenge, especially when my profession and personal hobbies like reading and writing overlap! It is essential to consciously carve out some time to do things unrelated to work in order to feel refreshed and open up your mind for new ideas.

When working from home, demarcating work and personal time is quite a challenge, especially when my profession and personal hobbies like reading and writing overlap.

To be frank, when I see my friends climb the corporate ladder with fancy designations, buying posh houses, racing in fast cars, eating at upscale restaurants regularly and vacationing at exotic destinations, I sometimes do wonder if perhaps, I made a mistake.

When I see my husband slogging away at work to meet a major part of our joint expenses, and coming home exhausted because of working overtime, I feel guilty for making him pay the price of me following my dreams. I am at a loss to explain what passion is, to some people who say, “You are doing this simply for time-pass right?”

At peace with my career change

Every night I go to bed looking forward to my tasks for the next day eagerly. Every day I log on to work with the same excitement that I felt the very first day. Now I work because I want to, not because I have to. Of course, I have my off days too, when I don’t feel like working, but they don’t last long and when I get published, I feel so satisfied. When I read the comments that come in and see the number of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, when I realize that I can strike a chord with others with my words , that I can bring about some change however small it might be, I feel elated.  And I feel assured that I will never regret my decision.

Pic credit: qisur (Used under a Creative Commons Attributions license)

Anne John loves to play with words and calls herself a reader, writer, explorer & dreamer.

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