Some Things to Consider When Choosing Off-Beat or Non-Mainstream Careers

Career Options in Our Parents and Grandparents Generations

In our grandparents and parents generations, it was the norm to choose careers that offer job security, preferably life-long employment, and those that provided pension and other benefits. Indeed, such was the lure of these aspects that many among those generations chose to work for the government or Blue Chip private sector companies.

The key concern during those times was to choose a career that would provide not only income but also stability and safety nets. Things started changing with the globalization of the world economy and the consequent increase in the menu of career choices with a liberalization of hitherto closed economies opening up possibilities for nonmainstream careers.

What are Mainstream Careers and Why are They so Attractive?

When we talk about mainstream careers, we usually mean those careers in Engineering or Medicine, Commerce or Science, Finance or Management, and the rest of the choices such as legal and other professions.

In this context, it was understood by many that choosing a career among these choices was a “Safe Bet” and moreover, provided the much needed social status and upward mobility.

Further, with the burgeoning liberalization of many developing countries such as China and India, these careers also were glamorous and not to leave out lucrative with some foreign assignments as well as permanent migration to the developed West being assured.

Post Millennium Career Options for the Millennials

No wonder that until the turn of the Millennium, many middle class parents and their children swore by these career choices and ignored other offbeat and non-mainstream careers such as Fashion Designing, Hotel Management, and Aviation and Hospitality sectors.

Indeed, such was the appeal of Engineering and Medicine as well as Commerce and Science that there were hardly any colleges or universities that offered broader choices other than these and moreover, with the prospect of going abroad being offered in these careers, they became the de facto choice for Millions of graduates.

However, in recent years, there has been a trend towards broadening the career choices for the graduates emerging from colleges and universities to include a wide array of options in the Transport and Logistics, Hospitality and Service, Entertainment and Media, and allied sectors. Indeed, these days, it is considered “cool” to work in these sectors, and with high pay and the attendant glamour associated with these sectors, it is no wonder that many aspiring graduates choose these careers.

In addition, there has been a liberalization of the mindsets of the older generations as well which means that parents are less likely to thwart the ambitions of their children when they choose these careers.

Look before You Leap: Downsides to Offbeat and Nonmainstream Careers

Having said that, there are several downsides to choosing the offbeat or nonmainstream careers and those are to do with the location or the place where one is based, the initial start or the importance of the first few years of the career to the subsequent growth, the criticality of networking and the need to have a wide range of contacts, and most importantly, the fact that offbeat careers and nonmainstream jobs are fraught with risks and the possibility of being left behind with no chance of taking up other careers midway or after being laid off.

Moreover, with many of the Offbeat and nonmainstream careers being somewhat of an “Old Boys Club” where whom you know matters more than what you are in addition to being restricted to the Metros, any aspiring graduates must first focus on how to land a good job before seeing stars in their eyes that can easily turn to dust if the career does not work out as anticipated.

In addition, one has to be prepared to freelance for significant durations of one’s career in these professions not to mention being prepared to work longer hours and more importantly, irregular hours with the prospect of being called to work anytime of the day and which can lead to stress and fatigue.

Fall Back Options and Alternatives Lest your Choice Turns out Otherwise

Having said that, it is not our intention to discourage anybody from taking up these careers and instead, what we are trying to say is that one must look before one leap and do the necessary due diligence before choosing these careers.

In addition, it would be a good idea to have a fallback option in place in case your career does not pan out as expected and the fallback option can be in the form of having an additional degree as well as a specialization in another sector such as Commerce or Management or Law or Science.

In other words, you must first graduate with a broad range of subjects and then specialize in the option of your dreams so that even if your career needs a reboot, you can always fall back on the other subjects that you graduated in.

Conclusion: Dream with Your Eyes Wide Open

Lastly, do remember that Offbeat and nonmainstream careers are all about perception management as well as building a personal brand or profile, and hence, you must choose a reputed or an established college or university to graduate from in addition to being in a Metro since you would be “close to the action” so to speak and hence, would be “in the loop” as they say in corporate jargon and lingo.

To conclude, there is nothing wrong in dreaming big or going offbeat as long as the basics are in place and you have a clear idea of your priorities and ambitions and remain focused on the goal.


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Career Development