CAREER DETOURS: JUSTIFIED OR ENFORCED?

Detour

noun

a longer route from one place to another that you take in order to avoid something/somebody or in order to see or do something

         All of us have taken detours at some point or the other while driving because Google maps’ instructions are difficult to understand and Apple maps are simply stupid. Hence we know how cumbersome detours can usually be. Having said that, can you actually imagine taking a circuitous route with your life or career?

         We all have certain ideas and ambitions about how we would like our lives to be down the line, which serve to guide us along a career path. However, life is not always the well paved road we wish for it to be. More often than not, it’s an Indian road after a heavy shower of rain, full of potholes and an apathetic roadways department, needing diversions to avoid accidents. 

        Our society famously thrives on culture, stability and borderline sheep herd behaviour. Every kid is, as a default family policy, taught to “do well in 10th, 12th and college, and then settle down with a well-paying job”. A steady paycheck is given more importance than the interests of the individual, and anyone who deviates from the norm is met with as much wonder as an alien who’s accidentally landed on earth (and not the cute blue Bollywood heliophile, mind you). As such, Indian kids are no strangers to switching fields to get settled in alternative careers. This practice of focusing on getting a job is ages old and is especially prevalent in families where financial constraints force people to take career detours. Now, more ‘glamorous’ careers like social media influencership, or stand-up comedy, are making such switches more ‘fashionable’. 

         A doctor finishing MBBS is perhaps the greatest victim of this practice. In our country, where post graduate seats are so few compared to the number of aspirants, a large number of medical graduates put off pursuing speciality training in favour of earning to support their families. There’s also a sizable fraction who compromise on the choice of branch, as either their rank in the entrance exam is not good enough or their desire to study in a government institution outweighs their interest in a particular branch. However, the driving force behind the decision also influences the path ahead, as well as the amount of success and satisfaction in general. 

         While such a decision may eventually lead to a well-settled life, it needs to be understood that the detours enforced upon someone may lead to long-standing resentment. Comparison with peers, indulgence in social media show-off and at times, dissatisfaction with financial status makes it worse. Yet, a person who chose a deviating path in his/her independent capabilities would definitely be able to come to terms with it earlier than someone who has never had a choice, or was forced into it for aforementioned reasons. It is imperative that career detours once made, should be embraced, for they serve as valuable life lessons that teach resilience, professional skills, humility and make us wiser in the long run. While we’re at it, there is no limit to detours, and life is about trial-and-error at times. Some wise person once said, “Never say never again”. Wait. No. It’s just a Bond movie title. 

         In this world where jobs are scarce, the Coronavirus continues to play Peek-a-boo and the economy is holding on by a fragile thread, career detours have become common. In such a situation all I can say is we need to consider the possibility of enjoying the scenic route and savour it as we go on with life. 

Written by:

Dr. Shraddha Murali (MBBS, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal)

Shraddha Murali is a MBBS graduate from KMC Manipal, currently wondering where life is gonna take her next

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