When I speak to some of my friends who graduated recently from IIT Madras, often they seem not so satisfied about their work. While most of the reasons they told me were related to deciding on the one thing that they really wanted to do, the root cause of the problem I think lies in the way the system is setup. Precisely, CAPITALISM, very well criticized by Karl Marx. I’m really surprised to witness these things happening. If we look at the reasons that my friends give for not being satisfied:
The job is boring:
As this system is setup on fundamentals of capitalism, it tries to become more and more productive. And that requires humans to do the chunks of tasks that they are doing in companies more and more effectively. One of the most profound drawbacks of capitalism presented by Marx was that the modern work is alienated. That is exactly what is happening again. We see our work more like attaining mastery at something (Specialization) than delivering something that will contribute to the final product the company is making. Marx suggested that, to be fulfilled at work you need to see yourself in the object that you produce. But that’s not how today’s companies operate. They want you to be efficient at a specific task. And inevitably it becomes boring because it’s repetitive.
There will always be alternative choice which is ideal for what you can do in life. To be satisfied about what we are doing right now, we have to imagine our career in the field we work in. Making our brain believe that this is the one thing that we always wanted to do in life, is very crucial. To feel achieved about our work in any company, we should try to get an overview as to how much our work has contributed to the final deliverable.
Finally after contributing so much, if you are looking for credit and applause, well most of the times you won’t be happy. Steve Wozniak was unhappy that people were praising Steve Jobs, while apple computers were created by him. But did you ever hear that? Every great company is built on integrity and collaborative work of all the team members.
Focus on your learning. You can do a lot better.
This is not my passion and I don’t know what is:
We can never find our passion if we keep looking for it and stay unhappy about what we do today. We have to dedicate our time to whatever we are doing completely to find that one thing that we would do regardless. But being the victims of this capitalist economy, we go to work for money and we don’t care about the company that we work for. And this is not something to be ashamed of when all our community values is how much we are earning.
Just forget for a moment that you are working for the company. Think about the future of the company and your role in shaping it. And do you need to be a stakeholder to do that? I don’t think so. Try to be best at what you do there and let’s see how that turns out.
I had worked in IIT Madras placement team for three years and I can say that more than half of people who graduate from IIT Madras won’t choose a career in their core field of study. After placements they would get trained in a new field and eventually put to work. Placements in the college are not a place where you sell your very capable brain for performing in some field that is not connected to you study at IIT. The main purpose of engineering is for us to choose one thing that we can dedicate ourselves to and make our career in that which ideally should be the core field of study. The level of exposure that we get at IIT will enable us to stumble upon different fields to choose one as our passion. But what happens to the four years of effort you’ve put in? Should you just dropout as soon as you find your passion and realize that it is not your core field of study? Should you still finish what you are doing and then focus on your interested area? But what happens to four years of productive life that you’ve spent? All these questions sound very difficult to answer. But one best answer still exists, which is pursuing a career in your core field of study. I can clearly say one thing about academics — That is the only place where your knowledge is respected the most.
This is when, people think about startups. IIT Madras is promoting entrepreneurship. But the question is should it? I personally don’t think it should. If the educational system cannot make individuals love the subject they are studying in, I don’t see a point in their existence. This may be good for people who realize that they are really interested in something else other than the core field but, again what happens to the core knowledge that students gain at IIT? Are they never going to use it again? In that case allowing students to pursue their area of interest in academics sounds better than asking students to take a break for starting up.
You choose what you want to be early on in life. Fixate on something and call it your passion, if you haven’t yet found the one thing that might be your passion.
The work is not so challenging:
The routine work is never challenging if you keep doing it the same way. How about doing it in a more efficient way the next time you do it? Most people working in corporate companies think the work in startups is much more challenging than their work. The grass is always greener on the other side. Currently I work on my own startup and the amount of pressure on me is insane. There is an advantage in working for corporates, the level of clarity that you will have about your work is very high in any corporate company, everything is figured out for you. In startups most of the times you will have to figure out things for yourself, there is huge responsibility associated with it which is again a good thing. If you are a person who wants to forget everything about work life once you get out of the office in the evening, then startup might not be a good choice for you.
Pacing yourself well in this competitive world is very important. Surround yourself with people who evolve quickly. Move fast. Learn fast. You can make it challenging.
Finally I’ll conclude with one of my greatest learnings during my stay at IITM — Love what you learn. Love what you do. Know why you do what you do.
Do not study for monetary benefits. Choose the company you wish to work in, rather than giving them a choice to choose you in placements. This way there is sure shot chance that the company that you wish to work in, will select you.
These are all my observations and perspectives. Need not be true for everyone. Please do share in comments if you have alternate thoughts.