Fulfilment Beyond Finish Lines: My Journey from a UPSC Aspirant to Public Policy Aspirant - Indian School of Public Policy Fulfilment Beyond Finish Lines: My Journey from a UPSC Aspirant to Public Policy Aspirant | Indian School of Public Policy Humane ClubMade with Humane Club
table of contents

Fulfilment Beyond Finish Lines: My Journey from a UPSC Aspirant to Public Policy Aspirant

Fulfilment Beyond Finish Lines My Journey From A Upsc Aspirant To Public Policy Aspirant

The Moment of Reckoning 

After nearly half a decade of subsuming my entire identity towards becoming an administrative services officer, it was in oct 2022 when I made the difficult decision to redirect my efforts. While I saw most of my age settling into their jobs by now. I found myself standing at a crossover, reflecting on my unusual journey while feeling profoundly lost about what lies ahead. As memories of extensive general studies notes, newspaper article archives, and quirky acronyms shared affectionately with fellow aspirants flooded my mind, the sheer amount of time invested into a singular holy grail objective fully hit me. UPSC preparation demands rigorous academic immersion alongside surviving emotional rollercoasters. From the high of cracking a top rank in mock test scorecards to the soul-crushing low of falling short at final hurdles year after year. 

Despite not crossing the finish line, if I look back objectively at my UPSC period without the taint of self-judgment, the extensive competencies I have managed to develop through self-study become evident. From sharpening my focus over 8 hours a day to not lose steam across diverse topics to synthesizing interdisciplinary areas during exams—the mental muscle built is undeniably vast. The pattern recognition across previous years’ papers, ability to achieve relative mastery over niche optional subjects, and remaining abreast of current national issues while balancing foundational textbook concepts—all enhanced my information processing and analytical evaluative abilities remarkably. These years also etched onto me the often-neglected skills set crucial to public services. These ranged from displaying empathy and compassion while working with marginalized communities during field visits to harnessing leadership, collaboration, communication when heading an initiative mobilizing the young citizens towards participative community development. 

Why Pivoting Required Developing a Plan B

Despite this exponential competence boost, as most UPSC survivors learn the hard way, corporate human resource metrics do not value “CSE preparation” as credible work experience regardless of demonstrable skill-building evident through the unique demands of this exam.  Hence pivoting tracks mid-way through your civil services attempts requires having a Plan B option aligned well to direction demonstrated through UPSC journeys themselves—that of enhancing national, social and community progress. As Olympics coach legend Sandeep Singh points out frequently, trapeze artists master the technique of timed safety net release allowing daring feats. Similarly having a practical Plan B as backup becomes key so that the free fall of uncertainty post the toxic emotional rollercoaster does not derail you permanently.

Finding The Middle Path with Public Policy

When looking for viable long term Plan B career trajectories, fields that allowed contributing to governance issues without being part of administrative machinery directly appealed strongly, given my intimate understanding of this machinery’s functioning. That is when a specialized public policy education emerged as the ideal middle path between the cogitation heavy UPSC route versus corporate management roles that risked minimizing hard won competencies built over years. As experts outline, beyond obvious overlaps in syllabus covering political science, law, economics sociology, environment etc. the core skills needed by officers and policy professionals also align remarkably – whether it is research analysis, dynamic solution design or sharp yet balanced thinking.

However, more vitally, subconscious introspection also revealed that my tireless UPSC marathon was less the pursuit of power, privilege or social validation but more so an innate drive towards national reconstruction and grassroots community upliftment through selfless public service. Specialized public policy education hence seemed the best way to continue channelling my inherent reformist bend of mind developed via UPSC dreams towards positive systemic change through evidence-based, equitable policy formulations and data-backed government consulting roles.

Leveraging UPSC Lessons For Impactful Policy Work

Fast forward months after enrolling into, I now find myself in Indian School of Public Policy or ISPP leveraging UPSC lessons daily to enhance policy research. I navigate complex priority conflicts across health, environment, technology etc. considering reasonable perspectives across spectra—much like the balancing ability tested in UPSC essays. I synthesize interdisciplinary sources—similar to examinations needing holistic connections between current affairs, history, geography concepts. 

Each policy memo prepared on multidimensional issues echoes UPSC interview boards gauging analytical sharpness despite limited preparation time and finite information availability. And collaborative group work needed for policy briefs builds relationships, team coordination—not too divergent from the allied services aspirational camaraderie I have cherished despite competitive backdrop.

When I first contemplated a career in the policy domain, my sights were rigidly fixed on qualifying for the civil services and serving within government. I believed the apex of impact lay in bureaucratic roles shaping national policies. However, my perspective dramatically expanded when I stepped into ISPP. ISPP opened my eyes to the myriad avenues to drive change – spanning corporations, think tanks, non-profits and beyond. From never wishing to join a private consulting role to landing up my first job in consulting with a big 4 sums up my journey at ISPP.

Cultivating Purpose Beyond Titles

 As leading voices from Gandhi to Savitribai Phule have highlighted, real social progress lies beyond single acts of glory in fighting oppressive structures but through long-drawn everyday battles demanding immense resilience. While prestige remains the primary driver for many appearances for such exams, gradually maturing aspirants would concur that sustainable nation building permeates beyond office walls, administrative authority alone but through collective action rooted in humility. With this breadth of vision, personal purpose can get uncoupled from aspirational Civil Services titles towards upholding constitutional values within ecosystem roles best suited for individual innate strengths. Therein lies freedom through embracing one’s unique sense of purpose.

Life’s essential purpose transcends titles, through legacy left behind. As ups and downs have taught me, impact springs not from credentials earned alone but mindsets owned. Our humanity matters more than hollow hierarchies. Hence define your success by value generated and lives enabled, not trophies accumulated. A heart always seeking to expand its capacity for compassion leaves behind richness far beyond material wealth. The light in one’s eyes reflects inner wealth amassed through perseverance, courage, wisdom and grace practiced every new day. That becomes the unwavering torch lighting up new paths, even after UPSC’s all-consuming fire changes forms. And as I always say “My failures are more glorious than the victories of many”.


Prakhyat Mathur
PDM Scholar, Class of 2024

As a Research and Communication Associate at the Office of Dr. Fauzia Khan, a Hon’ble Rajya Sabha Member, Prakhyat Mathur conducts policy research and analysis on various issues, such as education, health, environment, and international relations. He also assists in drafting speeches, articles, and reports, and liaises with stakeholders and media. Prakhyat is passionate about policy formulation and development, and aims to contribute to the policy landscape with evidence-based and impactful solutions.

Prakhyat is also a postgraduate student at the Indian School of Public Policy, where he is learning the principles and practices of public policy design thinking and management. He has a diploma in Governance and Government Studies from the Indian Institute of Leadership and Governance. He is preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination, which has given him theoretical insights into global issues and challenges. Prakhyat has a keen interest in governance, international relations, and environmental policy, and hopes to shape a career at the intersection of these fields.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/prakhyat-mathur-bb2b59129/