"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." - Robert Frost
Most of us know what Mr. Frost did next. As a student, I had always wondered when I would get a chance to tread such a path. Like most Indian kids, I had a pretty sheltered life, thanks to CBSE, and had played safe when it came to taking career decisions. Today I bring to you, my story. A very normal story. In this story, I don't land a plane on the Hudson or jump into a well to save lives. But I promise you that it is honest. And maybe, just maybe, this story will help you find the courage that has always been deep inside you.
Why quitting is usually not a good idea?
As a working professional, any person you seek advice from always gives the same answer - "don't risk it!". And they are right. A lot of variables come into play when you become financially self-sufficient.
You become used to the leisurely comforts of life. Once you have had a taste of money, it is difficult to give up that sense of independence and financial security. Especially when you have to go back to college with a mammoth loan amount of 20-25 lakhs INR hanging on your head like a merciless guillotine.
Everyone you know (pronounced as: "parents and relatives") suddenly becomes against the idea of you preparing for CAT by giving up a steady income. They want you to pursue your dreams after you are done being a corporate slave from 9-to-5. And their concerns are valid. CAT is a highly unpredictable exam. And B-Schools even more so.
No matter how intelligent and smart one might be, there's no guarantee that you will do well in CAT.
If you do well, there's no guarantee you will get a call from your dream B-Schools because their filters are so damn stringent.
And even if you manage to get a call despite everything, there's a chance that you might not convert it!!!!
(I am talking about normal people here. No offense to the tribe of overachievers.)
My predicament was no different. I finished my B.Tech, much to the delight of my family and my extended family. I got a job in Cavium (now a part of Marvell Semiconductors) and was getting paid around 10 lakhs per annum at the end of 2 years. I was living the perfect Indian middle-class dream. The next logical step in the Great Indian Dream was to make a profile on shaadi.com.
But by now, I had figured out that a desk job behind a computer all day was not my cup of tea. I thought I would start preparing for CAT 2018 with CAT 2017 being my dry run. However, my work hours started getting longer, touching almost 12-14 hours a day on an average and the work started getting tougher. I couldn't go for any weekend prep classes or devote much time to self-study because I was brain dead by the time I returned home every day.
The first time I told my parents that I feel like quitting my job, they were shell-shocked! Much like a scene from an Ekta Kapoor serial, they said it was an absolute no-no. I could quit my job only if I prepared for UPSC. MBA wasn't good enough for them.
I relented and continued to work till the day I couldn't do it anymore. One fine Monday morning in October 2017, I put in my papers. I informed my parents and after a glass of cold water and some false assurances, they understood why I was doing it. My notice period was ending on November 11 and CAT was on 26th November. Realizing what a lost cause it was, I signed up for the 2 next best exams whose applications were open. GMAT and XAT.
So I had managed to apply to 8 colleges in total - IIM-BLACK, ISB, SPJIMR and XLRI on paper. But like a demo over in gully cricket, the first five didn't count.
I had 2-3 weeks for each exam. CAT was a resounding disaster, thanks to the DILR section and the lack of practice. I later went on to secure 95.3 %ile in CAT 2017 and being a GEM I received a total of 0 calls. I was surprised for a total of 3 nanoseconds and moved on at the speed of light. I spent the next 6 weeks after CAT'17 preparing day in and day out and with 97.46 %ile in XAT, got a call from XLRI. I subjected myself to a harrowing interview that made me feel like I was not fit for MBA. But one-month later, thankfully I got an admit!
Should you quit your job?
Ask yourself these questions:
‣ Do I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life?
‣ Can I live with the consequences of not having a job for the next 4 months?
‣ Do I believe enough in myself to pull this off?
‣ Will I be okay searching for a job again if my luck plays the devil and I don't get through this time?
If you can answer all of this as yes, then go ahead! You are talented. You are skilled. You can always find a job again, especially if you have worked before. But that won't hurt as much as the regret you will live with if you don't give yourself the chance to excel in life. Yes, there was a chance that I may not have cleared the interview. To be very honest, my XL interview was so stressful that I was sure that I wouldn't clear it. By the time the admit came, I had already started applying to various companies and was having interviews lined up. Yes, it is definitely risky. But then it's a High Risk and High Payoff game.
As I close off this article, I remember the words of American journalist and author Sydney J. Harris -
"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."