Indian Americans Increasingly Pursuing Creative Jobs

Indians comprise the largest Asian group in the D.C.-area, and although many are working professional jobs, not all are. But another interesting trend has taken hold in the Indian-American community: the number of Indian Americans who have taken up jobs in the arts, entertainment and food industries has doubled in the past decade from 2.9 percent to 6.1. percent, reports Chicago Business. This video the network produced features Indian Americans who have taken up jobs as chefs and comedians:

This is similar to what I’m witnessing, at least anecdotally, among my fellow Iranian Americans. Members of my parents’ generation have traditionally viewed doctor, dentist or engineer as the predestined careers for their children. It makes sense — they’re relatively stable jobs, and if you’re a new arrival to this country, particularly without a network of friends and family, you may not feel secure enough to go after a “risky” career.

But those of us who were born here may have more stable-footing than our parents did — we have families, institutions and communities here that raised us and that we can rely upon.  We may even have a measure of accumulated family wealth, thanks to the hard work of our parents. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I felt comfortable with pursuing journalism (not the most stable or well-paid of professions), and my brother, who once seriously considered medical school, is now an aspiring film-maker.

I’m curious — are others experiencing something similar, or is the pressure to follow a more traditional career paths still strong?

  • Anupama Pillalamarri

    There was a lot of pressure on me to pursue a
    traditionally brown person career until I had a meltdown. As I worked my way out of that, my mom
    figured out that I really did need to do what I loved. Fortunately,
    there will be no such pressure on my niece :)

  • Soham Gandhi

    I grew up having my dad tell me from time to time that he wants me to become a doctor. So, I obeyed him out of respect. At the end of sophomore year of high school, I received a D- in Honors Biology and an A in Algebra II. When it came time to apply to colleges, I applied to schools as a Biology major (Biological Sciences at University of Delaware). My high school counselor said I should apply as an Undeclared major because I did not do so well in Biology. As I graduated high school, I entered the University of Delaware taking Intro to Biology, Chemistry, and Calculus both Fall and Spring semesters of my freshman year. That summer (after freshman year) I finished up the Organic Chemistries I and II. I did well.  Then came sophomore year of college, more difficult courses: Microbiology, Genetics, and Human Physiology oh my! I struggled in these classes remaining intact with my goal to becoming a doctor. The grades I earned hurt my self-esteem, and I constantly took upper-level math classes to buffer this misery. It helped. Junior year was a complete waste of time. I finished the requirements to enter into the Medical Technology major at University of Delaware, so that was my new major in the Fall semester of my junior year. I got test scores like 59, 38, etc. I just couldn’t memorize the information. It just wouldn’t sink in. So I audited all my medical technology classes that semester and never showed up to any of them ever again. Thank God. I was out of this pre-med world with my pre-med classes in my pocket. Now what? I wanted to pursue something with MATH. So I gave Mechanical Engineering a shot. That was a waste of time because in Statics class I got scores like 37. Lesson learned here? Advanced math is not my forte. So now I am a Math Education K-8 major and love it. My goal is to become a teacher. My dad doesn’t mind me doing this. But, he always says that he would love for me to become a doctor. I mean, which Indian American parent doesn’t?

  • Elahe Izadi

    What an odyssey! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Abhijit Ghosh

    I wanted to contribute my 2 cents. I am an Indian , yet to become an American (meaning naturalized an an American Citizen) and came here 10 years ago on a work visa. Some of us do not venture into professions other than which we were into at the time of our arrival into this country even if we want to because of the broken legal immigration system here. 

    Being born in a country like China or India and trying for gain permanent residence in this country via the employment path is a daunting experience. I am on temporary work visa and waiting in line for permanent residency for 8 years now and still nowhere close to it. With such uncertainty, people like me who would like to move towards a different career in business or profession are unable to do so as the law does not allow without paying a huge penalty. Now lets see whether I get the much awaited Green Card via my employment first or my son who was born here and still in elementary school, grows up and has to sponsor me a family based visa. Till I get the much awaited document, lives of people like me are on hold. Hope it is not latter option else it will be too late to venture into something new.

  • Shawna

    I also grew up being told that there are only three jobs available – engineer, doctor, and attorney.  After taking a leap of faith I started and made my dream job into a reality.  I encourage more Indians to do what they love instead of falling into cookie cutter jobs.  Life is too short!

  • Anonymous

    Anupama, is performing standup comedy what you’re referring to here? And are you encouraging your niece to disregard that pressure?

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure many others are in the same predicament as you. Thanks for contributing your thoughts to the discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Did you have support when taking your leap of faith, or was that expectation of the “three jobs” still there?

  • Anupama Pillalamarri

    I don’t have professional aspirations in standup. I work in politics :) .

    And the cool thing is that no one in the family is putting such pressure on her – in fact she’s home-schooled and learns pretty much what she wants to learn (which is everything!)