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“A dream job is like the dream man. It doesn’t exist.” Rising Sideways Lessons from Rahat Kapur



Rahat and I became friends under unusual conditions. A tale of two people with different backgrounds thrust together to create a new service offering. Not only did we bond over our love of storytelling, but our shared struggle as hybrid professionals with an unconventional career path.


When she was a teenager Rahat wanted to be a journalist, but alas she strayed from her path, entered into business school and started her career as a consultant at Accenture instead. Many years and jobs later, she landed in Singapore to be a consultant in advertising, which is miles away from the consulting world. But the Universe had other plans for her. Hardly a year after she started, now she’s heading up PR, writes a column and hosts a podcast and comedy gigs in her spare time. Is where she is now what she envisioned for herself when she moved to Singapore? Nope. Is she any less happy? Nope.


Read our conversation below to see how taking the non-obvious path doesn’t mean that you are not growing and achieving your dreams in the long run.



Rica:

You’ve had a lot of career turns in your life. At each point in your journey did you see yourself differently? If you did, could you paint me a picture of the ‘different versions of Rahat’ that you had.


Rahat:

100% there were different versions of me. There was the Rahat that was dogged about being a journalist. She was a lot more optimistic, but she ended up taking a degree that wasn’t journalism.


Then there’s the Rahat that got into business school and realised that there was a whole other side of her brain where her intellectual capacity in business got unlocked.


But somehow the corporate Rahat and creative Rahat have always been at conflict with each other. They feel like 2 separate people. They have elements that tie them together. But they want very different things out of each other.


Rica:

You said that these two sides of yourself are in conflict with each other. Does it mean that one is true and one is false?


Rahat:

I used to think that. I used to think that corporate Rahat is who I’ve become but creative Rahat is who I am. I’ve realised over the years that people and careers are multidimensional. We don’t live in a time when you can box your career in one word anymore. I used to think the 2 versions fighting against each other was a negative thing. Whereas now I think that all the knowledge I've gained from the corporate side of things is what helps me become a better creative. The fact that I can bring creativity to a corporate environment is what makes me a good corporate because I'm not run of the mill. I think over time you find a way to balance both. And now my outlet for creativity is by pursuing passion projects on the side. Now I realised that you don’t have to get everything from the same role.



If i could compare it to anything, it’s like a checklist of when you’re looking for the perfect partner. You want someone who’s tall, interesting, humorous, built, chivalrous, intellectual. You’re not going to get everything from the same person so you need to understand what your family, friends, etc can give you. And what are the most important things that your partner can give you. So your work is like your partner and your passion projects is like your friends and family. Maybe that’s why I’m single. Lol.


Rica:

How does that realisation influence how you feel about pursuing the ‘dream job’ today?


Rahat:

I think now I see my dream job through the attributes of what I’m looking for rather than the job title itself. If I strip away why I want to be a CNN talk show host it’s because I feel like I have a good ability to voice opinions that are topical (if I say so myself). I love talking to people. I’m naturally an extroverted and creative person. So I look for jobs that allow me to bring out the attributes of myself in my role rather than looking for a particular job in my head.


Rica:

So are titles important to you?


Rahat:

When I was younger it used to matter so much to me. Now I realise that the validation from a title is very temporary. Whereas a validation from a skill is not. A role is something you do in a period of time but a skill is something that you carry with you forever. A role does not define how skilled you are. If anything a role gives you an opportunity to utilise those skills. That’s all.


I see roles all the time where I think I would be wonderful because of my passion and applied experience. And then the job description has something stupid like “15 years experience needed.” Who are you going to hire with all of these skills that has 15 years of experience? Organisations also hire as if they’re looking for the one. And it’s fantasy killing fantasy. Even they’re like - we want the perfect candidate who’s this unicorn who’s going to be intellectual, funny, smart, interesting, impressive, not want a lot of money.



Rica:

What about recruiting needs to be changed?


Rahat:

Recruiters and companies need to be open minded about the background. For example, what if you are hiring someone for a PR role. Ideally you want someone who has a comms/ PR background. But maybe that person spent 3 years working in corporate and 1 year working in sales. That person fundamentally might have a lot of the core skills you are looking for. They can hustle, talk to clients, write well. Just because they haven't come from agency land for 6 years doesn't mean they can't do the job.


Rica:

Why is it important for hiring managers and companies to be less rigid about their criteria?


Rahat:

Nowadays with unconventional work paths and entrepreneurialism becoming pertinent, you want people who don’t fit in the mold because those are the ones who can go across different areas of the business and add value. If you pick someone who’s going to be good at one thing you better be prepared for them doing that one thing.



Rica:

What does moving sideways mean to you?


Rahat:

I think that moving sideways gets a bad rep because it’s not moving forward. But you can move forward even if you’re moving sideways.


Moving sideways is like a game of chess. I’m not afraid to go up and down, to move side and up as long as I'm playing the game to win. I’m a long term vision kind of person. In the short term I'm willing to take the hit.


Taking a sideways step is sometimes better because you don't know what piano is falling from the top that’s going to hit you. Sometimes taking a step sideways is saving your life.


Rahat Kapur is a PR Director by day and writer, comedian and media personality by night, based in Singapore. She currently writes about her trials and tribulations as a young, single expat in her weekly column ‘The Brunch Download’ with Buro Singapore and performs monthly with other local comedians at leading venues around Singapore.


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