Last year, around this time I was desperately looking for a job in the waste management sector.
I had received a campus placement offer in Ola in December 2015 and was set to join on 4th July along with over 15 students from my Institute. My parents and friends were super-excited about it as it was a high paying job and was a great start for my professional career.
I reached home in Chennai from Banaras on 1st of June 2016 thinking that I was set to join my first job in a months time. Over the next two weeks, as I was inching closer to the joining date, I started wondering about what I really wanted to do with my career (apart from earning money of course).
Over 5 years in college, I had developed an interest for waste management but had always had doubts in my mind if I should explore a career in this field of interest or should I look for a high paying job for financial stability first. I remember reading the E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016 in March 2016 and thinking that it had great business potential. I was very clear in my head that I wanted to make a sustainable business case to solve this ever growing problem. But had no clue how.
As I started thinking about beginning my professional career in more detail, I realized the following
- There is no good time to take the leap of faith as we are never really prepared for it
- As a Marwadi Jain, there are family pressures to get married early.
- My interest in the sector was not strong enough for me to be 100% sure that this is what I wanted to do.
- I was not confident that I would be able to come out of my comfort zone of high paying jobs to explore this interest in the future
- There were not many waste management companies in India.
- My salary was going to be significantly lower than what I would earn at Ola
So many other thoughts came to my head, but I just asked myself a simple question – What is the worst that could happen if I took up a job in the waste management sector instead of Ola?
Well I would not have liked the job or the pay would have been unsustainable and I would have realized that this particular interest was not my passion. I would have then looked for a job in the corporate sector again and I had confidence in myself that no matter what I would find a decent paying job and then build my career from there.
So with this confidence, without discussing with my parents or friends, without a back up plan, without another job in hand, on June 17th I wrote an email to Ola saying that I did not want to join as I had other plans.
I took this rather rash decision because I knew this was the only way. The offer of the high paying comfortable job was too tempting compared to the pain of looking for a job in the waste management sector. I would have been easily convinced by my parents and friends to work for a year in Ola and then decide to explore as I would have something to show on my resume if things went south!
As the days went by, I did not know how to break the news to my parents. I had started actively looking for waste management start ups in India. I hoped to get a job before July 4th (joining date of Ola) so that I would have something to show to my parents.
But well things did not go as per plan so by 1st or 2nd of July I told my parents I’m not joining Ola. They thought I was just kidding! It gave them a real shock when they actually realized what I had done. As expected I had a difficult time convincing them about my decision and as expected they eventually convinced me to try to join Ola again. So with much reluctance I wrote to Ola asking them to accept me again that I made a rash decision in the heat of the moment.
This was such a difficult period. Ola representatives said they would be able to decide after two weeks but there was not much hope of accepting me again. So now I started applying not only to waste management companies but to any company I could possibly find online. This was the withdrawal mode where I started questioning myself if I had made the right decision!
There were so many thoughts about how I did not HAVE to pursue a career of interest, how I was willing to accept a normal mediocre life without having to take risks in life.
Fortunately or unfortunately Ola did not accept me again and I was not able to find a job in any other sector. A couple of waste management start ups offered me jobs but somehow the idea of working in those companies did not create a good picture in my head. They were not working towards solving the root cause of the actual problem.
The entire month of July was so stressful sitting at home while most of my friends had already joined their jobs in different cities. I was starting to feel I had made a HUGE mistake that I would regret all my life.
But ultimately, on July 25th I decided to join Saahas Zero Waste in Bangalore as an intern as I could not sit at home any longer and also I would get an exposure into the sector.
In less than a week, I knew that this is EXACTLY what I wanted to do. Looking back I think this was one of the best decision I had taken in my life. It seems so obvious now that this was the only right way for me. My parents have also gradually come to accept my decision.
I feel perfectly at home at Saahas Zero Waste. The work, the core ideology exactly matches with my philosophy and the team that feels like family. There not much more I could have asked for.
Over the last year of working I have learnt more about the sector and about myself but I feel there is a long way to go. There is tremendous scope for business interventions while creating environmental and social impact at various levels in this sector.
As I wrote over two years ago in my blog post My Inner Journey ,my story has finally begun. Yes there are challenges I still face (about which I will write some other time) but I am excited to go to work everyday.
I sometimes wonder how life would have been had I joined Ola instead of exploring my interest. But that is something I will never be able to know for sure.
This is a path I chose for myself. I don’t know where the destination is but I’m enjoying the journey and that is what matters to me!