Is it better to have 15 minutes of fame (Andy Warhol), an hour upon the stage (William Shakespeare) or life piled on life (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)? When it comes to careers, there are no easy answers.
It normally wouldnt matter. The tradition has been that people take up jobs and stick to them for life. Even if one did change jobs, the question of a career shift hardly ever arose. Why would a doctor with eight years of experience want to become a journalist?
But the economic crisis has led to a situation, at least in the West, in which you have to take what you get. The Wall Street banker has become a primary school teacher; the foreman in an automobile major is now a pizza delivery boy.
Others are making shifts because they can do so. There is an increasing realisation — in India at least — that your formal education does not really matter. The software firms, for instance, are taking in everybody — from overqualified IIT engineers to under-qualified diploma holders. They are providing both these categories in-house training to mould them to their requirements. If you have the native intelligence, you can be taught to do any job.
Of course, you cant stretch this too far, says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. A dustman cannot become a brain surgeon though the reverse is possible. Just clear the cobwebs of your mind.
There is another set of career changes which depends a lot on your original job. There are certain careers that are of short duration. Anything that requires physical effort could be. A sportsman cannot carry on forever (though some of our cricketers would like to). Many careers have a short fuse, says Investopedia (see box).
There is a good chance that you will make a lot of money in these short careers. US basketball players are the richest sportsmen in the world. Indian cricketers are the envy of every other sporting fraternity. (In the days when cricket was a second career, test players used to get nominal fees and had to pay their own hotel bills.) Most actors have only a few years in the sun. A study shows that James Bond babes — Pussy Galore, Plenty Toole, Holly Goodhead — have had a limited future after cavorting on screen with 007; short skirts and short careers go hand in hand.
For some reason, most ordinary people look askance at short careers. At the website girlsaskguys.com the question Does anyone know what career you can do that takes a shortest amount of time to complete but can give you the most amount of money? drew some odd answers. Professional hit man, said one. Corrupt politician, famous author, mafia boss… Said another: Porn star.
Foreign exchange traders also burn out very fast. Many CEOs face high stress levels. There is a very clear correlation between the length of your career and how much you earn.
Even though this is well known, most people dont prepare for it. Top cricketers in India have lavish lifestyles. They want to continue that way even after they have retired. But many dont save enough for a simpler existence. They need a career shift. But there can be just so many coaches, commentators and administrators. The ad world that used to fawn over them is no longer interested.
A physical trainer is another career that has a short lifespan. In this case it is difficult to figure out what you can switch to, says Singh.
Stars always fade, he continues. But both Mr Muscles and Miss Model convince themselves that the good times will continue. They wont. Even if these high-fliers are comfortably off financially (most arent), they need another career to keep themselves occupied. Dont envy the hotshots and heroes. Your humdrum life is often far more fulfilling.
SHORT AND SWEET
Six careers that dont last a lifetime
Investment banking: The risk of failure is great, but so are the rewards. Only a few survive beyond the thirties.
Acting: Actresses are at particular risk of a forced early retirement, since the big screen isnt kind to wrinkles, and the industry likes its female talent under 40 and wrinkle free.
Military: The training is brutal, the hours long, and the deployments wrenching, but a career in the military can be a great way to ensure an early retirement.
Sports: Athletes can be paid millions for their talent. These kinds of pay checks require great commitment, however, and end when the athlete's body no longer performs at optimum — which is most certainly a few decades before the standard retirement age of 65.
Modelling: Their beauty is dazzling, but it also fades faster than any other job attribute.
Dancing: It sounds so romantic to be a ballet dancer, but to dance professionally does mean to be young. Often said to be harder than any sport, dancing requires you to be in top physical condition (and keep your weight down), practice, travel and generally be devoted to your profession beyond your average career.