Thoughts on Career Progression - II


Today I was thinking about all the people whose job relies on their physical self: actors, models, and athletes.

Because they know the shelf life of their work is limited to 10 - 15 years, they are forced to reinvent themselves and by 30’s start picking side hustles which has a self-generating source of income.

In regular jobs, (and in tech), we imagine our shelf life to be longer because it relies on our mental agility and cognition, but it is true that we will become irrelevant too. Already we’re lagging with the new skills of people in tech and new domains are starting to feel harder to imbibe. Career decline is coming sooner than we can imagine, especially if we are not constantly innovating.

But if we start treating our mental agility the same way as athletes treat their physical agility, we will be less afraid of career agility and become more open to reinventing ourselves time and time again.


In the November of 2022, I got laid off for the first time in my life. I did not imagine it so, because I had moved countries with my bed and baggage for this role. And for the vision, they had sold me. I was willing to work really hard and give them my time for a salary and some glory. This was the same tech winter where 2,00,000 other highly skilled workers lost their jobs in BigTech. Hell, even my best friend and (now ex-)boyfriend lost their jobs just a week from each other. I look around and there is a bloodbath everywhere.

I wonder what lead my life to this situation. Tech was my safe haven. A field I worked almost 4 years to settle into. And for many long periods in between, it had been super gratifying. The company culture made me believe that I'm building the most life-changing. Apart from the daily rituals of new projects coming and past projects doing well, there are constant calibration cycles which only leave a few weeks in a year when you're not thinking about the next cycle or riding the wave of the previous one. Heck! The 24x7 coffee and all the fancy quotes on the walls keep screaming to us that we're changing the world. But all that makes zero difference if your job is dispensible to investor whims. So tell me again, does it really make a difference?


I met a friend who was doing her second Masters from the US, purely for the joy of studying that subject. And I have to admit I'm envious of it. I am raging because, at one point in my life, I had to forego my dream ticket because converting a US education to INR debt did not make any sense. Sharanya B talked about the anger we (middle-class kids) have towards folks with generational wealth, and while I had felt it long back when I was in my "study phase", I felt it again, because, despite all my hard work to earn a comfortable lifestyle, it was not enough to never think about money and financial freedom again. The kind of privilege I want to leave for my kids.


My friend from school dropped out of college to be without a degree and start an adventure sports business. He did the hit and trial for 8 years till it found some significant success. I wonder how comfortable must he, and those around him needed to be with ambiguity to be able to take such plunges. Same goes for startup founders. As for me, I still gloat and slave over the prestige of brand names on my CV. It's like back in school when P would skip class because he found the prof intolerable and I would miss parties and turn in my A+ assignment despite my feelings. We're not the same bro.


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