Would you take up an Unconventional Career?

This is a book review of the book, ‘My Life My Rules: Stories of 18 Unconventional Careers’ by Sonia Golani

An unconventional career is one that is not being chosen by people around us. It is the one that everyone advises us against taking up. And not without good reason, as the chances for success in such careers is startlingly less. Forget the chances of success, many such careers do not even monetize!

What inspires people to quit well paying jobs/careers and start a venture on their own (or) take up a job in a company/sector that is rarely opted for, is the subject that is dealt with in the book, ‘My Life My Rules: Stories of 18 Unconventional Careers’

So, what is the biggest factor that drives people to take up unconventional careers? Passion is one. Satisfaction is another. Frustration with rigid/large organizations maybe another.

Surprisingly the people interviewed in this book rate providence too, as an important factor. Many people who went with unconventional career choices never planned to do such a thing initially. They just went with the flow and important decisions/enabling factors happened by sheer chance.

Can there be sufficient security in life, even if one chooses a ‘secure’ career option? Why would people trade economic security for following their passions? What drives people to do what they do?

These are deeper questions that no book can answer. Even people who are successful with their unconventional careers may not be able to answer them convincingly.

The author of this book has done a good job probing the reasons/circumstances which made people choose what they are currently doing. But these short interviews do not reveal much insight on how they did it.

Also, some people interviewed in the book have shared a lot of information about their business and life. But a few were not open enough. Interviewers can only get as much information as the interviewee shares.

The people involved in running the businesses have the eagle’s eye view on the whole process and they mature with time. That’s called experience. I guess this experience can never be ‘revealed’ to others in a wholesome manner.

But what readers can gain by reading such books is, get an idea of what people around them are doing differently and analyze how they can apply their skills to their unique circumstances. People can also get some inspiration and have a positive attitude about what they are doing, if at all they choose an unconventional career. But nothing can replace experience.

Can an unconventional career make people happier? The answer to that question depends on what people are ready to sacrifice for happiness/satisfaction. Are they ready to sacrifice higher income and social status that come with it (at least initially)? This book doesn’t really focus on the negative sides of choosing unconventional careers and I found that, a limiting factor.

It is my personal opinion that irrespective of a career being conventional or unconventional, as long as it enables people to learn and leads to overall personal growth, people should stick to it, whatever be the income/returns. Because, money will eventually find people/companies whose contribution is significant to the society.

Over to the commenters: Would you take up an unconventional career?

Destination Infinity

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book for review purpose. This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

33 thoughts on “Would you take up an Unconventional Career?

  1. Unconventional careers are on the rise now-a-days. While the initial days may be full of struggle and strife, but sooner or later, things do work out! So, if it is your true calling or you find an opportunity… one must go for it!

    1. I guess a lot of avenues that have hitherto been closed, have opened now. New avenues are also opening up quickly with increasing disposable wealth with the middle class and even lower classes. The current scenario seems to be quite conductive for innovative business ventures, when compared to, say, 20 years earlier. So, I guess ‘true calling’ and ‘opportunity’ makes a lot of sense.

      Destination Infinity

  2. I would take up a unconventional career only if my family has a way of feeding itself. I mean what is point of going some unconventional way for sake of it?

    It is my personal opinion that irrespective of a career being conventional or unconventional, as long as it enables people to learn and leads to overall personal growth, people should stick to it, whatever be the income/returns. Because, money will eventually find people/companies whose contribution is significant to the society.

    Seriously, what does this mean? Money will only come if you have a business model that sells. Just because you do/make something useful to people doesn’t mean you will get good returns. IMHO of course.

    1. When will a product sell? Only if it is useful and people come to know about it, right? Making useful products for the society should be the primary goal of any business. Getting exposure through marketing/word-of-mouth works only in the long-term, especially if a company/venture is new.

      Secondly, a job can only be profitable/sustainable to individuals only if they become skilled at it and they are indispensable. So, if a job provides excellent work exposure/develops skill-sets at low salary, I will definitely take these kind of jobs over the ones that pay high and involve mundane operations. Because, with time, skills matter (and pay) more than brands/designations, etc.

      Destination Infinity

      1. I agree to most of your views except the fact that I will never jump for a new job/work just because my current job is useless (which trust me, is totally useless). Not more than 2 years ago, I had same thoughts as you that I will take low salary if needed but will do something that is worth doing. Today, I don’t think so. Not until I want my wife (hypothetical, I am not married) to live in a simple rented house and kids (future, hypothetical again) to get miss out on higher/better education/fun life because I couldn’t afford it.

        I see the point in doing something worthy of out time. I really do. But until I am sure I have earned/saved enough to afford getting a ‘worthy’ work (job/business) without adversely affecting my family, I won’t be able to put my heart in to it.

        I hope my rant makes sense. :)

      2. It perfectly does. individual preferences and immediate society play a huge part in career decisions and every career is good, as long as it is done whole-heartedly.

        Life is a game of winning and losing. If you know what you are losing and what you are gaining, half the battle (internal) is already won. I have seen many people cribbing about their work, talk about doing something by themselves/shift to an unconventional career, but don’t. I think it is sheer internal torture, and can be avoided by a little clarity of thought.

        Destination Infinity

  3. Some times people end up in a unconventional career by accident, then decide to stay and develop. Some can even have multiple unconventional careers, and I’d like to think I am one of those people. If it’s any comfort to anyone, I have actively chased by entrepreneurial aspirations and I’m glad I have. It’s taken me to places, introduced me to new environments (like India being one of them) and to new people which otherwise wouldn’t be a problem.

    I guess sometimes, you need to understand what you want from life?

    1. Absolutely. Our minds are very complex and getting enough clarity on what we want from life takes many many years. And it keeps changing! I have a lot of respect people who choose entrepreneurial ventures/unconventional careers.

      Destination Infinity

  4. It would have been nice if you had indicated at least a few of the unconventional careers
    I have read someone trying to feed daily poor people from donations he collects,someone helping in decent cremation/burial of the uncared for,highly qualified people working for social causes as in education and some starting poor homes Instances of unconventional career if given may inspire some

    1. The unconventional careers mentioned in this book did not have much of a social angle, unlike the previous one I reviewed from Rashmi Bansal. Some careers chosen by people in this book include: Online art auctioning/selling, becoming a chief minister after studying in IIT, running an IIT coaching institute, becoming a model/actor while studying medicine, starting a winery in India, authoring fiction books, designing specialty clothes for the super-rich, etc.

      Destination Infinity

  5. Unconventional jobs. Is this the same as uncommon jobs? If that is correct, then it depends upon the society and country. For example, a secretary job held by a male in USA is uncommon. Similarly, a female bus driver in India.

    1. Yes, the book is about uncommon jobs and entrepreneurial ventures, but most of the people mentioned in the book, followed their passions. So, it’s also about identifying one’s calling in life through a career, if I may put it that way!

      Destination Infinity

  6. I read all the above comments also. And I liked these stories which forayed into the unconventional career path(Rashmi Bansal books).However, at present I think they only present the rosy picture. It is still hard to tread the uncommon career choice in India. That’s why I have not read those type of books since 2yr, probably reality took me away from the roses.
    Praparing for UPSC has given me so many new perspective on the job sector in India. That I can’t even point a career which is conventional here. Saying that particular job as conventional because of Middle class perception is narrow. The whole MSME sector,business sector are ignored totally by middle & top class. That’s also where uncommon jobs breed.And telling that ‘passion’ ,’societal perception’, ‘security’ are the main factors will be undervaluing the life-conditions people live with. I rarely see discussion on unconventional path moving away from Middle class standards. Try that for some change.
    And I will totally agree about the ‘Experience’ part -even I feel that’s what makes the survival of your career a success to the onlookers.

    1. I do agree that I tend to look at careers from the middle-class perspective. I guess the career options chosen by the two other classes are far more challenging than what middle-class opts for. I do wish that more people from the middle class opt for more challenging/unconventional careers.

      I have another theory – Passion, calling, etc. are just means by which we are distributed into doing various things by some unknown power :)

      Destination Infinity

      1. :) Even I had similar idea for a while. And that’s the reason I prefer middle class people treading the uncommon.Only they have the choices which they are capable of taking willingly.

  7. A lot of people are taking up that “unconventional careers” these days, and trying to make it conventional. And it is working in the Indian parent’s mind set. For me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s conventional or unconventional, as long as it is your passion, and gives you a complete satisfaction everyday throughout, then that’s the best job ever!

    1. Yes. We need to take into consideration that even unconventional jobs may not give us satisfaction sometimes. Passion is one thing and learning/growing is another thing that I will expect in a job, irrespective of it being conventional or otherwise.

      Destination Infinity

  8. I would love to do an unconventional job. I so many wonder how interesting my life would have been had I taken some career which I love. We should encourage more and more people to pursue something which they like to do.

    1. We subconsciously take up careers that we like or a career that gives us returns (not only monetary, but other types as well). I also feel that we will anyway end up having an interesting life, if not in the job, then outside it.

      Destination Infinity

  9. I was one of those people who wanted to take up an unconventional career. But it did not work out.
    One, my gender came into question (being out late night, or travelling for long duration out of town with strange people). Parents fought against it vehemently in the name that I won’t get good “proposals”.

    The other issue was that of money, of course. Most off-beat careers take time to get an established stage. Work comes in phases and it becomes difficult to sustain oneself in the meantime.

    I admire people who are able to do so. And I am fully in support of the same since it’s a welcome change from the mindless degrees a child gets, usually because his/her parents want him/her to.

    1. Getting a degree has become like completing school these days! A necessary compulsion and not an option. I guess people who do opt for unconventional careers do face a lot of issues regarding monetary stability, but they (try to) do it in spite of it.

      Destination Infinity

  10. If unconventional career means showing dreams to a wealthy man and walking away; And the wealthy man keeps throwing bundles of notes following you whereever you go, then yes, I would.

  11. Sounds like a very interesting read Rajesh!

    When I made a choice, people called it unconventional and some advised me against it as well. I don’t think of it as being unconventional and all that, though. If choosing one’s interest and following one’s heart is unconventional, I worry.

  12. Very interesting post Rajesh and interesting viewpoints in the comment section too.
    Reminded me of an uncle who started off with ideas of some business and ended up doing something else[selling bottle caps for alcohol :-D] and doing it very well too. We should have the ‘eye’ to recognize the potential of the venture and the confidence to take the risk & ofcourse to slog it out in the initial phase.

  13. Rajesh, can I use your comment wall to post my review of the book :-)
    deepak-malani.blogspot.com/2013/04/book-review-my-life-my-rules-sonia.html

    Meanwhile, the personal takeaway for me was ‘going with the flow’. At times, I over analyse a situation and end up avoiding it. I realize, I must give a try.

    1. Thanks for your comment. The author of the book may or may not read this blog… I guess, these people have done something different with their life and that might have inspired the author to write about them. If you want to read such books, check books written by Rashmi Bansal too.

      Destination Infinity

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