Quitting an unfulfilling corporate job to pursue a passion may sound rosy but it’s far from a practical option—after all, there are bills to pay. However, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job to do what you love.

Delhi-based Jyotika Raisinghani Dhawan, 42, and her husband Nitin Dhawan, 44, discovered in their late 30s that while their careers were important, it made them happy to find time and ways to give back to society. “Maybe it was a mid-life crisis or just an eye-opener, but Nitin and I had been discussing over the years about what else we can do with ourselves," says Jyotika. “We even discussed this with friends but would often hit a roadblock because we didn’t know how to answer the question, ‘what should we do?’"

Jyotika and Nitin were an example of the perfect corporate couple. Jyotika, who has an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur, worked with Bharti Airtel for nine years before becoming an entrepreneur, starting the placements and coaching company Helix, in 2007. Nitin, who has a bachelor’s in engineering and an MBA from the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, worked as a business consultant for American Express and Microland and then set up a start-up—an e-learning company, ITpreneurs—which he sold in 2008. He established another start-up, IMA-imarketingadvantage, in 2009 before joining his family business, both of which he exited in 2017.

While running Helix, Jyotika went through a downward spiral: “Over a period of time, I realized that this (Helix) is just bread and butter. This is just to get the fan, the table, and the sofa. I was having these thoughts: ‘Where will this recruitment agency lead me?’ And, most importantly, I realized that there was no new learning."

Trying to find answers to these questions, Jyotika decided to volunteer at hospitals and old-age homes in 2012. “I just knew I had to do something. And so I reached out to the Panchvati Old Age Home near my place. They asked me to come and spend time playing chess, carrom, or even have conversations with some of the people living there."

It’s through these visits that the idea of Orion, an organization fostering philanthropy in teenagers, was born. “Earlier, I used to go alone, but, over time, when I started taking my daughter with me, I realized that if we don’t involve the next generation in our efforts, change will never happen," she says. Orion works as a connector to help interested children in the 13-17 age group volunteer in places such as old- age homes, slums, and hospitals. It also conducts workshops on concepts such as upcycling, minimalism and unwaste.

“We have always felt that education is something that is supposed to be absorbed," says Nitin, explaining that he was always keen to be part of a social entrepreneurship project. “With my experience as an entrepreneur in e-learning, I am looking forward now to expand Orion’s activities online too. This is not just a hobby for me."

Some initiatives undertaken by the children include creating awareness about malnutrition in slums, and teaching the use of digital platforms like Uber and Paytm at old-age homes. “The children go through a two-day workshop. After that they approach us with ideas and we mentor them," says Nitin. “In the initial years of Orion, we used to get our friends’ children, and these workshops were free. Now we charge between 500-1,000 per day per workshop,"says Jyotika. Around 15 children attend each session.

But how do they find the time for all the initiatives with their consultancy firm and a family? After all, Jyotika works on both Orion and Helix, while Nitin works in Orion full-time. “I am good at multitasking I guess," she says. Moreover, she has the flexibility of working from home, which saves time. “So mentally there is not too much overlapping happening over there," she says.

Even then, things are not always smooth. “For me, it was never either a Helix or an Orion situation. I have to do both because I love both. And there is also the matter of the cost of living. In fact, Nitin and I spent time assessing the amount we would need regularly to live the lifestyle we do. We minimized our lifestyle and stuck with what we need rather than what we want. Even now, I cannot have fixed hours at Orion because if I am needed at Helix, I will attend to that," explains Jyotika.

“Following your passion is not about renouncing life and giving up on everything. It’s about learning and planning to make your venture sustainable and that’s what we are doing," adds Nitin.

While things at Helix seem to be working fine, there would appear to be a few challenges with Orion. “The biggest challenge we face is that the adults who are sending these children are more interested in the fact that okay, my child has done this and now he/she is sensitized. There is no continuation, there is no sustenance," says Jyotika.

Time is a big challenge too since most children have to tackle school work, hobby classes, and sports. “We do not force the kids to commit more time because essentially what they are doing cannot be forced," says Nitin. In fact, children often do not return to participate in other initiatives.

Jyotika and Nitin say giving back to society is a choice. “What we want people to realize is that we are born into this society and whatever we have is because of society. So it is important to give back to them," says Nitin.

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Prep before you quit

If you have decided to follow a path that enables you to work on what you love, there are a few things you need to do before and during the radical shift.

Ignore pessimistic advice

Not everyone will agree with you, but if you are convinced about what you are doing, then go ahead and take the plunge.

Be ready for hardships

It doesn’t really matter what the self-help books say. Making a drastic career change always comes with challenges: people, money, even success. So, it is best to be mentally prepared.

Get out of your safe space

If you have taken the risk of switching careers, learn to do things in a new way.

Figure out your finances

Before taking the plunge, make sure you know how much money you have got for contingencies.

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