Work: the purpose for many people in India is to survive, not to climb on any career ladder

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Ask 10 people to share their definition of the word ‘work’, and you will probably get more then 11 answers. The meaning of work differs very much, from person to person. A substantial part of the population in my home country, the Netherlands, will probably talk about work as a way to give extra meaning to life. It gives status, a purpose and it also activates them to enhance their performance. Having an exciting and appealing position at a well-known company and even climbing the career ladder is – for some people –  more important than having a good relationship or wanting to see your children grow up well. Work gives people an identity. It motivates, inspires and it tells other people more about who you are. Ask any unknown person at a birthday party to tell a bit more about themselves and they will definitely respond with a broad description of their role and responsibilities; ‘Hi, my name is John. I like cats and believe that we can achieve world peace’ is not an answer that you would expect after asking the simple question of  ‘what do you do?’ Things in India are different. Much different. For approximately 700 million plus people, work has only one purpose: to bring some money back home to feed the family. Farmers, security guards, cleaners, waiters, auto rickshaw drivers and other people with low-wage jobs spend their days with only one objective: to bring back bucks. They do have dreams, without any doubt! But these dreams are limited, assumable focusing on basic needs in human life: getting married, establishing a family, learning the tricks of preparing your mothers evergreen recipes. After living in this very special country for more than 12 month, I have observed a very limited ‘horizon’ within this group. While western people (with a high income) tend to be busy with long term plans (where do we spend our next year’s holiday, what is my desirable professional position after five years), the hundreds of millions of Indians are mainly focusing on todays tasks: cooking, getting the children to school in time and keeping aside enough money to pay the electricity bill at the end of the month. If you take a closer look at the sociodemographic map of India, you will definitely see millions of high paid jobs in IT, Telecom, Marketing & Consultancy. And what about the people who own property and/or businesses? Or people who work as a doctors, journalists or other positions which requires a higher education or a bright mind? I assume that these people will look at the ‘work’ concept in a similar way as the well-educated western workers. Some of them will do a similar kind of a ‘career planning’, defining a desirable path of personal growth. Or they assign themselves with hard to achieve tasks for the upcoming period; push the limits of their knowledge or personal assets. The corporate world, large companies in banking, insurance, travel or food, is slowly changing. The old-fashioned structures with managers, directors, presidents, vice presidents and various divisions, managed by KPI-driven control freaks is slowly breaking down. Also at KPN, my current employer, things are moving. This beautiful corporate company, slowly transforms into a modern-led organization with leaders and coaches instead of managers, with focus on teams and individuals rather than the old-fashioned focus on management and control mechanisms. It’s all about empowering art & craftsmanship and a lot of companies will follow, with less managers as a result. It will create a more collaborative atmosphere, with more fun on the work floor; work hard, play hard. Although I’m not proud about it, part of who I am is formed by my work. Having a cool job gives me status, it makes me feel good. Nothing wrong with that, but I would love to build up my identity a bit more with personal beliefs. What inspires me on a personal level? What do I enjoy, besides working? I feel privileged to have an ability to think like this. At the same time, I feel sorry for the struggling people in India. Yes, they are in a more meditative state, being in the now-moment. But the concept of work doesn’t give them any other benefits, besides some money and something to do during the daytime (or night time, if worse).

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