Whenever we think about the various career options we have, an image that readily comes to our mind is that of a guy wearing a white overcoat (if that isn’t clear enough, there is a stethoscope round his neck), another guy with a yellow security helmet (and if that too isn’t enough he is shown holding a drafter), and then a guy in a black overcoat (surprisingly ill-fitting, which in a way also shows how common or otherwise they are) and then a well dressed guy with a laptop bag clinging on to his shoulders (and if the depiction isn’t obvious enough, there comes a crisp id card which makes its way to the shirt pocket). So it looks as if in a nation with over thirty official languages and close to thirty demarcated states, when it comes to careers we can readily think of only a single digit.
As a school kid when you had to take the question “What do you want to become?” any answer that deviated from an ‘IIT’ or ‘MBBS’ was frowned upon. As kids the reason behind that answer could be a rehearsal back home or the knowledge of what could make our parents proud. Mind you, most of us had no idea what it took to get into the IITs or how many years it would take to be a successful doctor. So let us accept a few facts, first being, we live in a society where conventions drive a majority of our decisions and the second being, conventions don’t necessarily last forever. So while choosing a career do we give a thought to what we want in life and whether our career would give us the opportunity to satisfy our desires & ambitions? The success of movies that talk about “believe in your capabilities, and success will automatically follow” clearly show our penchant to this idea, but when it comes to making ‘the’ choice, conventions seem to offer a better shelter.
Pretty often, we shy away from making decisions or atleast from making decisions at the right time. The reasons why one dodges a ‘decision making situation’ could be many, to name a few, not having enough awareness about the field concerned, the fear of failing followed by the fear of getting blamed, the need to own the decision once it is made or the comfort of company the conventions offer. All said and done it is a big ask to expect a student to represent the individual and make a decision. So how does one go about evaluating career options?
As a generation that spends an hour trying a dozen clothes before picking one, let us think through and understand what goes behind a good career choice because while talking about careers we are talking about something we could be doing day-in and day-out for around thirty odd years.
The crossroads where we have to make a major career decision occurs at atleast 3 stages – After Class X, after Class XII and after completing Graduation.
Let us evaluate the major factors that go into the making of a good decision.
- Interest – What do I enjoy doing?
- initial; “>Capability – Enjoyment apart, am I actually good at it?
- Market value – Is there a sustained demand in the market for what I wish to offer?
The ideal choice would be at the intersection of all the three points. Different people give different weightage to different factors, but to be happy and to enjoy what you intend to do for rest of your life, any sane guide would assign ‘interest’ a slot above the rest. While talking about capability, a lot of people get confused between talent and skill. Talent I would say is an over-rated phenomenon which is often used to downplay the number of hours one puts into achieving ones skill. Nothing is hardwired by default in our system, then why attribute one’s success to an unknown entity called talent? If you get a chance, ask your grandparents about what were ‘the’ skills that could have ensured them a good job in the 60s and 70s. The answers could be ‘typing’ to ‘note taking’ skills. But today if you look around these requirements are bygones to say the least. This in a way illustrates what a chameleon ‘market value’ could be.
My advice is – Do your homework and analyze yourself. Understand what are the skills you possess, what are you capable of? Study the options available and then choose the career that suits you. Do not blindly take up any career based on what your friends like or your parents prefer, unless you are convinced it is good for you. Do not get trapped in the “herd” mentality. I was recently talking to a bunch of fresh engineers. They were all keen to join a particular company because their seniors are working there. I asked them how many of them actually spoke to their seniors to understand what they are doing. Not one of them had bothered to find out what work they are doing or what are the learning opportunities available. If you do not really understand what you are aiming for, then what are the chances of you being happy after achieving it?
Now, how can you evaluate career options? Well, there are professional career counsellors, internet, your parents, seniors, relatives, acquaintances and who not! All of them must have gone through the same process. You can involve them in the information gathering process to understand different careers, but make sure that the final call is ‘yours’. There is no success without hard work and preparation. So choose your career with your eyes wide open and with a clear vision about what you wish to do and why.
The writer Harish Bhardwaj is a Director with Abhyaas Edu Corp. Follow this space for advice and guidance on “Alternate Career Options” through a weekly column. Abhyaas is an organisation working on a mission to redefine the way teaching and learning happens.