Free Advice

I turned 30 about two weeks ago. If I am to be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never really visualized myself being thirty you know what I mean? My thirties, at least in my own mind, was a lot like Marudanayagam. Something that you anticipate, but also feel will never really happen.

Except my thirties did happen.

The last decade was definitive for me in every sphere of my life. I am not the person I was ten years ago, but twenty-year-old me did play a major role in making sure my thirties were set. One of the biggest spheres that my anal, Type-A-to-the-max, no-chill twenty-year-old self-influenced was my career. I’d been a fairly laidback student through school, but something snapped when I entered my twenties and all of a sudden I wanted to be like, this achiever. I don’t think I achieved anything substantial, but I have achieved enough to make my own efforts feel validated. I learned a lot of lessons – the hard way, of course – these ten years with respect to work and career, so I thought I would share them here (in the hope that you find it useful).

lavanya mohan blog, lavsmohan blog, pennmoney blog

It’s Never Too Late To Start Over

If you’re evaluating opportunities and you’re scared to take a leap because you don’t want to throw away experience, ask yourself – will this be something I will look forward to, every day?

I literally switched career paths 4 months ago from accounts and finance to marketing. Granted, it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do since I was like, 15 years old, but making the switch after working in finance for practically 12 years (I started my CA articleship at the age of 18) was daunting. I had to shelve 10 years of experience in a field in which I’d shed blood, sweat and copious tears. I was good at what I did, but I didn’t enjoy it and the environment I worked in was very tough. I was being stepped on by clients because I was young (and a woman!) and undermined by peers because I was in a family practice. Basically, I was miserable at work. So when I was presented with an opportunity to jump this burning ship six months ago, I took it. What I do today is so far removed from my previous life as a CA that it’s hilarious – and humbling. I am a rookie at work but I love it. If you’re evaluating opportunities and you’re scared to take a leap because you don’t want to throw away experience, ask yourself – will this be something I will look forward to, every day? If yes, go for it. Doing what you love is the best thing ever, BUT –

Doing What You Love Is A F’ing Privilege

Doing what you love, on most days, will be very expensive.

Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of support. If I am doing what I love today, it’s because I don’t have to support my family while in turn, they do all they can to support my work dreams. I have social mobility and an upper-middle-class background. I can afford childcare. These are things people don’t acknowledge when they ask you to quit your job and ‘find yourself’. Everyone’s circumstances are different and the idea is to do your best within the ambit of whatever life has thrown at you. If you are lucky enough to have the support to pursue your dreams, then work towards –

Giving Your Dreams A Solid Foundation

Sweat will take you places that luck won’t.

When I say solid foundation, I don’t mean go and study CA. I thought my doing this course would give me the opportunity to shut people up in case they asked me why I wanted to write for a living. See, I cleared CA, please leave me alone. I thought I was having a backup. But here’s the thing – people are never going to be happy. After I cleared, I was told not to ‘waste my qualification’ by pursuing alternate careers. Having a conventional degree was helpful, yes, but it was actively running my blog for the 8 odd years I did that really enabled me to become a freelance writer. I was shit at writing to begin with, but writing on my blog regularly and taking that process seriously helped me hone my skills into something that eventually became publishable. Point being: If you have a passion that you want to convert into a living, invest in it. Want to write? Start a blog and write like every post is something worthy of being in your favourite magazine. Want to bake? Learn food styling and start a separate Instagram for your baking adventures. Sweat will take you places that luck won’t. And while you’re sweating, don’t forget to –

Ask for Help

I cannot have a career and have my child at home without help.

Until I had my baby, I was terrible at asking for help. I micro-managed at work, didn’t know how to delegate tasks at work and was of the mistaken opinion that asking for help denoted incapability and weakness. It doesn’t. Asking for help means you’re strong enough to acknowledge that you cannot go at life alone. I cannot have a career and have my child at home without help. I cannot keep an eye on my diet and exercise routine without asking for help. Every single day I ask for help – from my partner, from my boss, from my colleagues, from my parents and in-laws, from my nanny and from my child. They are my support system and the reason why I am actually able to do everything that I have ever dreamed of doing. Learn to ask for help without hesitation. And while you’re at it, learn to apologize swiftly and meaningfully. Learn to say no frankly, but tactfully. Most importantly –

Define Success and Happiness Separately

Happiness as a whole, consists many parts

For the bulk of my twenties, I’d been of the opinion that I would be happy when I was successful. I’d equated my happiness to my “success.” I think it took getting pregnant to realize that success and happiness are not even remotely related. We are like constantly bombarded with this message of ‘hustling’ and how that’s the epitome of a work ethic. I once interviewed with this startup (that was like the pinnacle of cool back in 2015) where the job description required a ‘hustler’. I didn’t make it past the second round. I remember being annoyed about it for a few months, but I found out later that their version of a hustler basically meant that the person had to work, eat, sleep and shower in their office. I have since understood that happiness as a whole, consists of many parts. Working/career ‘success’ is one of those parts, not all of it. Maybe if I worked 16 hours I can move to a senior management role very quickly. But would practically living at work make me happy? Not really. Take time to define what makes you happy – you’ll be surprised at how little it has to do with success.

6 Comments

  1. Very nicely written and great advice for young professionals like us. Please do keep writing more on such topics. 🙂

  2. Dear Lavanya,

    Your post was so raw, real and completely relatable. Thank you for letting us learn from your experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *