According to the All India Council for Technical Education, between 2012 and 2015, only 44-47% of graduates managed to get placed into jobs. It makes you wonder what happened to all the graduates who did not get placed, or if the graduates who did manage to get placed actually like what they do.
And ‘what do I do for the rest of my life?’ was the question I faced back in 2009. I had just won the Best Engineering student award from the VTU that year. The huge recognition carried just as much weight of expectations of friends and family with it. But a cosy career in a well-appointed cubicle simply did not fit in with what I wanted to do. I was a good engineer but just didn’t love it. And that’s when the question changed for me. I grew to understand that it was no more a question of what I wanted to be, the question I faced was what I wanted to do! And that’s when my journey to explore my possibilities started.
I started travelling to rural areas to train the youth to speak English. During one such session where I was taking a training session for the students of an engineering college and asked, “So how many of you love engineering?” For a moment there was silence, and slowly three hands rose into the air. Out of an audience of more than 80 students, there were only three who actually loved engineering? That’s when it hit me hard; our youth was doing something they did not even like because they’d been told that was the way to success, and they followed it to the letter. So many of our country’s youth were taking up career paths that are conditioned into them from very early on, as opposed to doing what they’re good at or really want to do. And that’s where the idea of starting a company that would help kids make educated career choices began to form in my mind.
As I delved deeper into researching about it, I found that almost half the population in India is younger than 21 years, which means that by 2021, 60 crore of our youth would have made the wrong decision and ended up in the wrong career for them.
By talking to students, parents and educators I met through my travels, I understood students pick the wrong careers because they have no idea of their own potential, and decide on careers based on advice people around them offer as a sure shot way to earn good money. Thus kids follow crowds into traditional occupations, which are already overcrowded and settle for a job that’s got the most money involved. In the long run, though, because they don’t enjoy work, which constitutes a huge chunk of every single day, they end up leading an unhappy life.
But trying to convince students and parents that it is possible to make a profession out of your passion was an uphill battle. For the longest time, even my own parents were not convinced about it, and would not even speak to me, until my TEDx talk on Yellow Collar Careers came out, and they truly understood what I was trying to do.
Now with our company, ‘I Love Mondays’, we’ve already helped more than 10,000 kids make educated career choices, and hope to increase that number to 1 million by 2021. It is still a daily struggle as we try and wage war with conditioning and presumptions about careers that still exists among us. But it is also what wakes me with a sense of purpose every morning and keeps me going. To put one step in front of the other each time, leaving one less confused child back, to help people find the joy of working doing what they love. That is my purpose. And guess what? I’m loving it!