Monday, June 12, 2006

Job satisfaction or money?

Suppose you have to choose between your favourite profession which pays less and an uninteresting job that pays a lot more, which one would you choose?

The provocation for this blog posting is not the extravagant nouveau riche youth. But the large number of youngsters, who are torn between their life's professional ambition and a quiet societal pressure to make money.

But before we discuss this, let me just go back in time to my home state of Kerala. When I see Bangalore's milling crowds, mostly youth, looking desperately for more ways to lighten their swelling purses, I am reminded of Kerala's tryst with Dubai wealth. The sudden rush of money, in the late 1970s, in fact altered the social landscape of the state.

On one side were the laments of those who missed their flight to Dubai. On the other side were families who were catapulted into a surreal world of riches from their daily grind of making both ends meet. The intelligent few invested the new-found wealth in pursuit of long-lasting, worthwhile assets like education, nutrition; and spent the rest in making their lives more comfortable.

Many people, who couldn't make sense of what it means to have more expendable income, went into an uncontrolled, indiscriminate spending spree, fully blind to the needs of their children's education, and other essential comforts at home. Needless to say, bars and gambling dens thrived.

This is one aspect. The other, perhaps more important, was the psychological one. When "a Dubai" (a person working in the Gulf) returned to Kerala on holiday, no one asked him what he did there to earn a living. The lure of the lucre was such, that many well-qualified people did menial and unskilled jobs in harsh conditions. Many of them, if asked, would avoid a direct reply. "Don't I look like a man of class, then why do you want to know what I do there," was the unstated answer.

There were many uncharitable jokes doing the rounds then. Behind the Gulf employees' backs, others muttered: "O, he must be washing cars or vessels or must be a labourer in some construction site.." For whatever reason, labour had no dignity, only money. At least it was made to appear that way.

The palatial facade of, for example, a plumber's house that overflowed with Japanese electronic gadgets, did quite a bit to stoke the angst of, say, a principal who stayed nearby in a modest house, the intellect for whom riches meant something different. Today, not much has changed, but the shock element has disappeared.

Bangalore today may not be an exact parallel. But there is an unmistakable similitude. The social transformation of the city from a laid-back Pensioners' Paradise to a 24/7 vibrant Knowledge Hub has been much written about. The IT boom has, no doubt, done the city a world of good. Businesses in everything from catering and construction to tourism and technology are booming. Lakhs are getting employed. So much is the job opportunity, I am told, every sector faces a shortage of competent manpower.

While the living standard of people has improved, the flipside of the boom is real. One aspect is the inferiority-superiority complex this has given rise to among the youth. Many feel that one has "reached" some place in life only if there is enough wealth to talk about and flaunt around. Let it be clear that "acquiring wealth" per se is not the issue here; the priority and importance one attaches to it, is.

Secondly, I have been seeing many youngsters -- all talented in their chosen professions like engineering, medicine, copy writing, journalism, accountancy etc -- floundering in a whirlpool of job offers from foreign IT companies.

"I don't know what to do," cried Amrit, who till the other day was so happy with his dream job being an ad copywriter, and was aiming to strike big in the world of advertising. It all changed after vague, unheard of portals began offering him loads of cash to stare into computer screens and write a few lines of captions for photos or catchy blurbs for articles or write 200 words on a tourist spot which he hadn't visited!

"When I checked the job profile, I knew that it was not at all the sort of work that would give me a kick. For that extra cash, should I sacrifice the love of my job?"

Lakshmi is a nurse. She loves being in the hospital and helping out patients. But "the sort of money" her batchmates have been making, has slowly begun to affect her. "After my friends forced me, I sent my resume to some companies related to health and bioinformatics. And, now they have been contacting me. Money is the big attraction, double to triple of what I am getting now. But when I ask those guys, what I have to do, it is so disappointing. It’s not the hospital and patients… Friends say money matters. I don't know, what to do ..."

Amrit and Lakshmi are just two from a large number of youngsters who have a real problem on hand. They are totally confused.

Should they stick on to, and grow in their favourite profession, which gives them immense job satisfaction or, should they quit to join BPO firms just for a fat pay packet? How do they decide?

Part two of this article


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nice article. But here is my take to it.

    "Make hay while sun shines".

    20-somethings should be ready to do any crap as long as they can make money legally.
    The BPO industry is not going to mint millions for ever. So whosoever has the opportunity should move, make money and save for a rainy day. Later they can go back to a profession of choice ala all those Dot com IPO millionaires.

  3. "Time is Money" is something they taught me. But what I learned from life is "Time is death and Knowledge is money". IT is a cyclic industry. When people talk about dotcom millionaires, they forget about the big bust that happened in 2001. I have seen the same B'lore with thousands of unemployed youth and hundreds of half-finished buildings. Peoples memory is short. One man with a long beard sitting in Afghan can screw-up the lives of all these peoples. But knowledge remains and remains forever too.

  4. The choice also depends on ones personal situation I think. It is much easier for a person who does not have to work for the money ( in the sense if the family is better off) to pursue his/her passion and work for satisfaction. But if you have responsibilities and are starting up in life, the lure of money is stronger. The consumerist culture is another strong force which makes the youngsters make a choice towards money. There are more avenues to spend money and there is more need for it. I feel that if there was not such a disparity in the income levels in different industries, youngsters would not be faced with such a dilemma. This is precisely the reason that most of the bright students want to opt for engineering and hardly any takers for science subjects. I sometimes worry about who is going to teach the next generation in schools.

  5. Lets ask this basic question to the youth today -- Do they take up courses in college according to what they want their vocation to be? In fact, lets forget even this for now. Rather, lets ask, on what basis, exactly, does the average youth decide his/her future profession. Is it the interest or is it the money.

    A good percentage of people decide their profession on the basis of the "in-thing" in the market. It is automatic for these people then, to make their career thrive on pay-packages.

    another effect of this situation is that we have wrong people for the job. More than half of the people that I have worked with in IT, dont have the aptitude/attitude for it. We have programmers, alright, but do we have good programmers? I doubt it.

    My experience is (and that is not much, I must warn you :), keep working in what your heart is in and the rest of the things fall in place.

  6. The lure of the moolah is more than anything else. Yes, one puts the question to oneself before opting for a job/career what is the her/his real passion. But in the rat race and way education is becoming more and more competitive, I think there is little scope for youth today to think and opt for a career they love to be part of.
    Youngsters are caught up between making a mark in the world __ which grades success with the money you earn, though here I am not generalising __ and proving themselves to their family.
    They are pushed to a corner and end up making the wrong decisions.
    Gone are the days when people would work in the same job for years together and be satisfied, accomplished, today's youth is not wrong in making money in the prime of their youth. But there must be a judicious discreetion of what one would want to do with it. The money might be for a family or personal need (say funding education) then working in a high aying job without satisfaction (there is no time to think about satisfaction and following one's heart when there are compulsions and resposibilities) does help.
    May be with youngsters getting into jobs early,there is always a second chance to do the job that you love to be in.

  7. Parents have a lot to do with setting the offspring on the path of 'Right Attitude' towards life: Simple Living, High Thinking and Contentment, happiness with one's lot. (pun intended - BTW do we ever say one's few?!)

  8. Well, Pradeep, you answered your own question when you wrote ``Should they stick on to, and grow in their favourite profession, which gives them immense job satisfaction or, should they quit to join BPO firms just for a fat pay packet?''. The answer lies in each of them, and there couldn't be anything wrong whichever of the two options they choose. Because each has, or must have, his own trajectory of satisfaction _ some hope to get a lot more of it earning a lot more money than they would even if that means deviating from or compromising with their career path. Others hope to achieve it from sticking to the security, contentment and even joy offered by their familiar professional furrows, no matter if it means earning less. Nothing wrong in doing either, as long as one wouldn't need to regret it afterwards.

    Earning money per se, is no crime. Neither is splurging or flaunting it harmlessly if it gives him or her the satisfaction sought. Especially if he or she thinks it makes his/her life happier or fuller.

    High thinking and simple living is perfectly fine for those who think that is what would make them happy. But pursuing its opposite philosophy too need not be sneered at, as long as its practice doesn't intrude into other people's happiness. After all, enjoying life to the hilt is no crime. See below what our seers wrote about some 5000 years ago:

    Yavat Jivet: Sukham jivet
    Rinam Kritva Ghritam Pibet
    Bhasmi Bhutasya Dehasya
    Puna Agamanam Kudah?

    (Live Joyously as long as you live
    None can escape death's searching eyes
    When once this body of ours they burn
    How can it ever return?)

  9. Good to see a lot of reaction coming in. Some friends, to whom I had sent the link, chose to comment by replying to me on email, rather than post a comment on the blog. Only that bloggers missed reading those intersting points.

    Thanks a lot, each of you, for putting down all those lengthy, very interesting comments. All of them are so insightful... I think it'll lead me to another blog posting based on these comments.