Wednesday, February 4, 2015


The Armed Forces as a Career Option – Then and Now
Musings of a Retired Military Veteran


I am often asked the quintessential question:

“If you had to live your life all over again – then will you still join the Navy?”

I answer: “Yes and No.”

Let me explain.

If I could go back in time and turn the clock back to the 1970’s then Yes  I will certainly join the Navy.

Yes  If I can reverse the clock 40 years back in time to the 1970’s – then I will join the Navy.

But if I cannot turn the clock back  then I will not join the Navy.

If I possessed the same qualifications as I did way back then in the 1970’s when I joined the Navy (B. Tech. in Electronics and Communications Engineering from a premier IIT) – then in present day circumstances the Navy is certainly not an attractive career option for me.


Things have changed drastically since the 1970’s and nowadays there are so many attractive, exciting, lucrative and prestigious career options available for a bright young engineer – both in India and abroad.

I think the turning point was the advent of liberalization and globalization in 1991 and the consequent paradigm shift in the economic policy of India.

In the 1970’s  and in the pre-liberalization days there was no great disparity in pay and career prospects between the defence services and civilian jobs in the industry. 

Those days  I remember that the salaries and career prospects in the defence services were comparable to the career prospects and salary/perks offered by the industry. 

In fact  there was a glamour attached to uniform which gave us navy officers a sense of pride which outweighed the slight salary advantage that our counterparts in the civvy street enjoyed.

Post 1991  as liberalization progressed  the economy and scenario began to rapidly change  and now the flow of liberalization is unstoppable, inescapable and irreversible.

With increasing liberalization and globalization – soon there was an investment boom, a financial boom, an industry boom and an IT boom  so many booms  the “growth story”  and everything changed in India.

As India shed its socialist ways and became more capitalist and “businesslike” – citizens values also changed accordingly in sync with the new liberalized and globalized environment.

Today there is no glamour attached to uniform – and, in fact – it is the corporate sector and jobs in Business, Finance and Information Technology that have become glamorous.

Today everyone knows the names of the Corporate Czars and successful Businessmen and bright young Entrepreneurs – they are the much venerated toast of society.

In contrast  if you talk to the youngsters of today – you will realize that hardly anyone knows the names of our Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs, and other Military Leaders (unless they get embroiled in some controversy or scam which is given publicity by the media).

Yes – Corporate Czars are the new youth icons – they are the idols and role models everyone wants to emulate.

Military Leaders are no longer admired as they once were.

Change in inevitable.

And things have indeed changed with the rapid progress of liberalisation and globalisation.

Unfortunately the “steeped in tradition” Navy seems to have been caught in a time warp – because of its resistance to change  owing to the deeply entrenched Auld Lang Syne Complex.

It is the same story with the Army and Air Force too.

The Defence Services have lagged behind in these fast moving times and not been as progressive as they should have been.

The archaic regimented colonial service culture and antiquated feudal style human resource management system seem to be out of sync with the aspirations of the bright young people of today  who are highly educated, knowledgeable, smart, well-informed, career-focussed, success-oriented and ambitious individuals.  

So if I were a well-qualified engineer from a premier institution in today’s world – rather than join the military – I would certainly like to explore better career options.

As compared to the modest career prospects in the defence services  in today’s world  there are so many opportunities with excellent career prospects which are more likely to fulfill my aspirations and enable me to grow intellectually, realize my maximum potential by allowing me to make full use of my talents, earn money, create wealth and achieve material success to have a good standard of living and quality of life and accomplish something significant in life.

In the 1970’s the Navy was a great place to be in – and in those days we genuinely felt with pride that  the Navy was not a mere job  the Navy was a way of life.

I am sure that way back then – it was the same in the other two defence services as well.

In the 1970’s – the defence services were certainly an attractive career option.


You tell me.

I am sure you will agree with me that – in today’s world – the defence services are certainly not a preferred career option – especially for well qualified engineers from premier institutions.

That is why when someone asks me:

“If you had to live your life all over again – then will you still join the Navy?”

I reply: 

Yes  if I can reverse the clock 40 years back in time to the 1970’s – then I will join the Navy. But if I am a fresh IIT Engineering Graduate of today – then I would certainly explore some other much more attractive career options.


Let me end on a lighter note.

When I joined the Navy almost 40 years ago (in the 1970’s) there was a recruitment slogan:


Things have turned topsy-turvy  haven’t they?

Today you have a better chance of seeing the world in a civilian job  especially if you are in the IT Software Industry or join a MNC.

In fact – with increasing liberalization and globalization  many civilian jobs offer you a great opportunity to globetrot and see the world much more than a job in the Defence Services where you will spend your entire life being posted all over India  including to the remotest parts of India.

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1. These are my personal views and are not to be taken as career guidance advice. You must do your own due diligence in selecting your career.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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