Career Alchemy – The Back Story
I can still vividly remember the time when I set out to explore the relationship between human beings and their ‘work’. I was young, in my early twenties, with two covetable degrees (electrical engineering from IIT Madras and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad), and a heart as disillusioned as ever. I had experienced relatively short unsatisfying stints in 3 companies (all good well paying MNCs) and was left with a sense of dejection that extended beyond the common Monday morning blues into a deep existential void where I was questioning the purpose of my life itself.
Why did I need to work, if it was not for the money? Was I condemned to work at jobs I did not resonate with just to do justice to my degrees and the time and money and sacrifices I had made to accumulate them? Was I actually the real owner of my time and my life? Was I allowed to make choices for myself? Who did I need permission from? What exactly was this monster called ‘work’ that was suddenly supposed to play a key role in my existence – and could I decide what role it could and would play?
Fast forward a few years and I took the exploration of these questions as my own personal quest, little knowing that this very quest would actually grow into my life’s work. I explored these questions as a scientist (getting a PhD in Organizational Behaviour from London Business School en route), as a philosopher (immersing myself in the study and understanding of the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist Philosophy), and as an artist (painting and sculpting on the canvas of my life itself).
What I discovered through my research, studies and experimentations was something that would transform not just my work life but the work life of thousands in the coming years. I discovered that work as an activity contains within it elements that can make it either our greatest problem or our greatest blessing. You can observe the evidence of this for yourself – just look around and the people in your life. For some people work feels and shows up like an immensely stressful experience. Something they have to do in order to earn the money, to then live the rest of their lives. For other people work shows up as something joyful and meaningful, something that is a natural expression and extension of who they are and how they want to live their life.
I continued to study and research on what creates this huge variance that is possible in terms of how people experience their work. I was curious to see if there was something that we can do consciously to craft our work experience into what we would like it to be – rather than just leave it to chance. Can we create a structured process through which we can start experiencing our work in a more joyful and happy way? Can we begin to start experiencing work, more like we experience sport? Think of how you feel when you wear your sports shoes and are getting ready to go out to play a game. Is it possible to feel that way when you are getting ready to work?
The more I researched, I began to realize that in order to help us re-craft our external work experience we first had to do some internal work on our own brains. We had to start changing the programming and mental models that we have been conditioned with about things like success, failure, work, leisure,money, freedom, choice, happiness, strengths, weaknesses, and a few other things. I realized that this inner re-programming is as essential (if not more) than the external nuances of career selection and fit.
I realized that all the career coaching programs out there were mostly only looking at the outer work of choosing work that aligns with our strengths and interests. Some will also help us find alignment with our core values and purpose. While these are all undoubtedly key components, and components I include in my career coaching as well, they are incomplete without doing the inner work on our own existing mental models and beliefs. In fact when you combine the outer work with the inner work – they both increase the efficacy of the other in what can appear almost magical and transformational in terms of results. So I started to put together a career crafting process that included elements of both inner work and outer work.
My first program in this space was a course called ‘Personal Values, Goals and Career Options’ which landed up becoming one of the most popular courses at IIM Bangalore for fourteen years and also got recognized being one of the top 15 innovations in higher education in India by the MHRD. In fact I still teach this course at IIM Bangalore. I then offered another workshop titled ‘Leading with Joy’ for working professionals at IIM Bangalore. This program was a success as well and I began to conduct subsets of this program as customized corporate workshops – training over 50,000 people over the course of 10 years. I realized that the elements of this program were as useful to transform one’s work experience in an existing job, and alchemize their individual career within the organization itself.
I also created an online course called Çrafting Realities – Work, Happiness and Meaning’ which was offered to a global audience across 16 countries on EdX and another online version titled ‘Crafting Happy and Meaningful Careers’ on Swayam which was taken by students and teaching professionals across India.
I kept continuously learning and improving the inside-out career crafting process that I had created based on the various student and participant experiences and journeys over the years. I started private one on one coaching with individuals who wanted to craft their careers to support them better, and learning from their journeys I then started offering online cohort-based program to help people re-design their careers. The online cohort-based program has gone through a few different iterations and the most updated and upgraded version is what I am now launching as the ‘Career Alchemy’ program. I have tried to make it as streamlined and impactful and potent for you to get the highest level of transformation by investing the minimum amount of time needed. However, in each module, I also give you access to bonus extra content with videos and exercises that were part of earlier versions of my programs.
Based on my experience with all of my past participants and clients, I can assert this much to you with confidence – no matter who you are, and no matter what your current ‘job’ or ‘work’ or ‘life situation’ it is never too late to recraft and alchemize your career. In fact the older you are and the richer the portfolio of your experiences so far, the more colours and shades you have to paint and sculpt your future with. I have had people over 60 in my workshops and they have also found absolutely new career possibilities opening up for them by following this inside-out approach.
I now insist on a strong foundation of inner sovereignty before I take my clients on the more conventional parts of the career crafting journey. Why? Because I want you to get alchemic results from this journey – not incremental results. And the secret to that magic lies in the inner work – the inner mastery – the inner world management of our own thoughts and emotions and the recrafting of our mental models and inner beliefs and assumptions.
I have created 3 ways in which you can embark on the career alchemy journey with me. The first option is an individual self-paced journey with pre-recorded videos, exercises and community engagement. The second option is a cohort-based journey (with start dates twice a year), and live group coaching. The third option is private coaching.
The journey of recrafting your career can be a fun and collaborative one. While you can do this alone by yourself, or privately with the help of a career coach, I have found that it is way more enjoyable and impactful when you do this with a group of people – who are all engaging on a similar quest. While your quest is similar, your experiences, perspectives, networks, contacts and ideas are diverse – and this can be a huge contribution to your experience of redesign. So if you would like to join the next batch of brave-hearted adventurers who will be embarking on a quest to alchemize their careers then I would recommend joining the cohort option with live group coaching.