A Tête-à-tête` With Pervin Malhotra
From a nervous young girl who did not know one career from another, Pervin Malhotra has indeed come a very long way. Today she has carved a niche for herself as a career consultant, guiding thousands of youth to lucrative and fruitful careers. Hers is a familiar face in the newspaper career columns and chat shows on television channels. Young aspirants eagerly lap up the books on career advice, which she took nearly a decade to write. Day in and day out she offers personal guidance to the hungry hearts and minds, directing them onto suitable careers. She is thus a living encyclopedia, so far as the diverse professions are concerned.Excerpts from the interview: Tell us about your background. How did you become a career consultant?
I did my schooling from Mount Carmel and B.A. (English Honours) from Ahmedabad. At that point of time there were no clear-cut career options before me. Accidentally I stumbled upon a vacancy in an ad agency. I applied and was taken in. The second day in office, I saw my hastily done ad in print! I spent a glorious year there and then moved on to Mumbai. Thereafter, I decided to apply to FTII Pune, because I had always wanted to be a film director. But, fortunately for me, one of the faculty members enumerated to me the hardships of the profession. This was an 'escape hatch' for me and I returned to advertising. Since, I was so young, nobody wanted to hire me, even though they appreciated my work.
After marriage, I shifted to Delhi and opened the branch office of a Mumbai based ad agency and worked there as the creative director for ten years. I was quite successful at it. But I wanted to do something related to careers. My husband's family owns a publication house. They had about 5000 books in print, but there were hardly any books on careers and professional guidance. I also explored the bookshops and found a very few books on career. Whatever books were there were rather dull and outdated. I therefore, decided to write a user-friendly book, which would be interesting to read. Thereafter ensued a period of hard work, liaisoning with schools colleges and educational institutions. Fortunately, for me the infrastructure and marketing were all available. My first book was revised in-house, four times, as I felt the information was not quite adequate.
Would you believe, it took ten years for the first book to appear? Actually there were nine other books which were published simultaneously. That was four years back. The books were very well received and got good reviews.Looking back, how do you feel about your work?
I feel I have been very fortunate. It is rarely that you get a chance to be useful to the people around you, that you are able to bring cheer and light into the lives of the people.Tell us about some of your work at present?
I write columns for about 16 newspapers. But each one is distinct from the others, in the sense there are no repetitions. I also work with the BBC, AIR FM (this is a phone-in programme), DD, Zee morning show, ETV(this is a weekly programme) etc. I also conduct programmes for CII, FICCI, polytechnics and colleges including SRCC, LSR, St Stephens and even some schools. I have been working hard at developing a website of my own. It is going to be launched shortly.Which are the most sought after careers in India today?
Information technology and management. In the smaller towns and cities, people still prefer government jobs because of the element of security that comes with them.Don't you think overpopulation has led to stiff competition and indirectly to limited career options?
That's true. Of course, the fact that you are literate does not make you job worthy. You need to do a professional or vocational course alongside, in order to procure a good placement.Isn't it pathetic that some brilliant students are unable to find suitable jobs?
That is quite true. Which is all the more reason why people need to adopt a flexible attitude. Not getting a job of your choice does not in any way reflect upon your accomplishments or abilities. What do you do when people are so many and the cake is so small? You must understand that employment is not the end but a means to self-actualisation, self-satisfaction, social status etc. It is therefore, best to avail of the opportunities that come your way. It is advisable to take two small steps rather than a single big one. That is the best way to tackle the problem facing our country todayWhat would be your advice to the career aspirants of today?
My advice to them would be: Never look at how lucrative the job is. Also do not seek only name fame position and prestige. Instead take up something that is of interest to you. Before you take up a particular job, profession, or career make sure it is something that you are going to enjoy throughout. If you are good at your work, money name and fame will all come to you. Also don't base your decision on what is 'hot' or 'cold' at a particular point of time. This may vary according to the economic condition of the country. Remember that boom or bust, the good people always manage to get jobs. It is only the so-so people who are left hanging. Therefore, it is best to go in for full time courses, which will help to strengthen your fundamentals. How can one become a career consultant? What does it entail?
My advice is don't become one (laughs). You miss out on your personal and social life totally. It is a new field and indeed a tough profession, which is why you won't find many people becoming career consultants. You are playing with the lives of people. One faux pas on your part, and a person will be an utter misfit for his career. Also this profession involves a lot of hard work. You have to be well read, keep abreast of what is happening in each sphere, possess a vast fund of patience; you must develop an empathy with people you talk to and be able to give them enough time and so forth. On an average, I scan at least 12 newspapers per day, apart from the clippings, which are dispatched to me. Day in and day out, I meet people, listen to them, answer their questions, which become repetitive after a point of time, advice and guide them on what is the best for them. It suits a personality like mine (laughs). The word career has very broad connotations. There are so many smaller fields divisions and subdivisions within each field, and you have got to understand each of them properly. That you don't know something is no valid excuse. Whatever you do you must do with sincerity and devotion.What do you think about the Indian students' craze for studying abroad?
I think it is a good idea. As it is, college education in India on the whole, is lousy. So if you can afford it, why not go ahead? Studying abroad will provide you exposure to the outside world, and help you develop an international perspective and a wide networking. The quality of education in developed countries is much better than in India. However, beware of hawkers who try to project obscure universities as among the best. Go ahead with your eyes and ears open. Nowadays, even the poor, not- so-affluent youth can hope to study abroad. Nationalised banks, corporate houses and institutions offer a range of funding (educational loans, scholarships and fellowships). People can avail of them and fulfill their dreams. If you are planning to undertake courses like MBA, Biotechnology, and Research et al, going abroad is definitely worth it. However, a word of caution, reality is very different from what you hear or read. It is advisable to assess a university properly, before seeking admission therein.