Every young mind has big dreams – and so they should. But not all dreams are fulfilled – often because of one erroneous decision – that of choosing the career path. Shifting gears is difficult at best and can become the crisis of your life at worse.
So here’s your step-by-step guide on how to choose your career.
Before we dive in, we’d like to say that the importance of taking your family – particularly your parents – into confidence couldn’t be understated. Being with you since birth, they know your strengths and weaknesses best – perhaps better than you do yourself. That said parents should also give their children’s dreams – no matter how fantastic or improbable – a listening ear and serious consideration. It might take a while, but with patience and understanding, you will arrive at a consensus.
Whatever you do, it is important for parents and children to move forward together. That way, you are unlikely to go wrong.
That said here goes ….
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. Some of the main reasons why students fail to choose the right career path include –
A millennium child who has passed his SSC (Grade 10 or high school) is perhaps more knowledgeable than a child of the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s era. Even so, children that age lack clarity about the eventual outcome – indeed they may not be aware of all the options open to them. Even after grade 12, there may not be a clear train of thought or a definite goal in sight. This lack of clarity drives students to seek advice from their peers, parents, friends, and relatives. Often – in countries like India – the parents themselves lack clarity. In this situation, the youth on the threshold of his life is wont to make a random choice.
Traditionally, every doctor wants his (or her) child to become a doctor; and this applies to virtually all professions. Parents endeavour – consciously or unconsciously – to shape their children’s career after their own. Many even hope to live their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Moreover, there is no dearth of well-wishers offering unsolicited advice – often resulting in information overload for the child. Not knowing where to turn, the child is likely to follow his friends into whatever stream or field they choose.
When you have studied, played, and had pyjama parties with friends you are reluctant to let them so. Parents, who are reluctant – and even afraid – to send their ward to a new and unknown place encourage their children to join his friends – only to realize a few years and loads of expense later that their child was not cut out for the stream, course, or career he chose.
India has more than 800 universities and over 39000 colleges with a capacity to teach 2 crore students. The Indian education system is the third largest in the world. Yet, most schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions fail to consider one small fact – does the child have the aptitude for the career he chose? Or to put it another way, consider the aptitude or personality of the child before making a choice. This is a sad state of affairs. The Indian system of education still functions on the principles of 70’s and 80’s. The government has only recently taken steps to rectify the situation by introducing the new National Education Policy – NEP 2020. Unfortunately, its implementation has been delayed because of the COVID 19 pandemic situation. The end result of all this is that students are directionless, rudderless and clueless about career choices. You find students randomly appearing for various exams like banking, UPSC, Railway entrance, CDS, and even IAS in hope of landing a government job. Having landed the job, they find it burdensome, boring, stressful, and even frustrating. By then however, the student is no longer merely a student. He – or she – now has added responsibilities of caring for family and it is perhaps too late to change gears.
To such students we say –
Leverage your Transferable Skills
Another major fallout of making wrong career choices – or not choosing the right stream – is college dropouts. Students who indulge in herd behaviour – following their peers into their chosen stream – often drop out of college once they realize their mistake. Again for many changing gears may not be a viable option because of affordability and the need to begin earning. Even worse is the situation when you have invested loads of time, effort, and money grooming to become a doctor, engineer, lawyer, or whatever it is you chose, – only to realize that it’s not something that you like doing day-in-and-day-out.
Again, before we answer that perhaps it is pertinent to answer the question When to choose your career. Opinions are divided into two schools of thought on this. One school of thought says you should start early so that you may choose the right stream / subjects to study. These makes sense; but consider a child of 15 – 18 who must decide what he wants to do when he is 25-30 – not an easy decision to make. Moreover, the only real and reliable data the child has – from his own experience – is the subject he loves or hates. He has little or no idea where these subjects will lead him let alone whether or not he is going to like what he does and be able to do it consistently with full involvement.
On the other hand, when a student graduates – even Bachelor’s degree – he has a much better idea because undergrads are taught industry dynamics – at least in theory. The trouble with this theory is that a student may end up choosing the wrong subjects.
Take for instance a child who does not like Math and Science but excels in Social Science. In a country like India, he would be wont to choose Commerce or Arts. Unless he definitely knows what he wants to do when he “grows up,” this is a hard choice to make. If he decides to take up Arts he can study the subjects of his choice – but he might find it hard to find a college offering these subjects, as they are not very popular choices. On the other hand, commerce would entail learning completely new subjects, – which he might end up disliking. Parents and society would push him towards commerce as it is considered more socially acceptable and lucrative than commerce.
This sadly, is the dilemma of many students – both in India as well as overseas. In western countries like the USA however, moving in and out of college with frequent breaks is the norm. So, high-school graduates might work on several temporary jobs while the figure out what they want to do with their life. Once decided, they enrol in the course of their choice. Having graduated, they may take another “working break” before deciding to complete their masters.
The new National Education Policy – NEP 2020 – has introduced this type of flexibility. It is now up to the parents to help their parents make this most crucial decision of their life.
Many schools in urban India are now offering career guidance to high-school students. Many private institutions also offer career guidance, tests, and counselling. Students and parents can take advantage of such tests to help choose the right career.
Meanwhile, here is a step-by-step guide to choosing the right career –
The NEP 2020 has not only made college more flexible, it has also introduced vocational subjects and internship in grade 6. This means that Indian students are now likely to have the opportunity to explore career choices at an early age. While many consider grade 6 – age 10 – 12 – to be too early for career choice others are happy about this decision.
By passion, we mean the task or activity that you value most. Do you for instance like caring for people? Are you doing it just for the pocket money or a pat on the back? Or is it something you really value and respect? These questions must be answered before making a choice. What you want to do and what you are cut out to do may be two different things. Look for the commonalities between the two and voila! You know where to go!
Ask yourself –
- What are your strengths? Or what are you good at doing?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Which weaknesses can you improve upon?
- Where do you see yourself in the next 1 year?
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
By answering these questions, you will discover your behaviour, thought pattern, and eventually aptitude.
Ok, so you discovered what you really want to do with your life. But, depending upon your age, your vision of what your career looks like and what it actually is may be starkly different. The way to circumvent this obstacle is to shortlist a few careers depending upon your passion. So say if your passion is technology, there are several paths you can take – from the simplest social media marketing to becoming a coder / developer or even working in unexplored fields like AI, ML, and Robotics. So take stock, make a list of possible options, and then explore each one.
As you go about exploring your options, you are likely to discover that your choice straddles two or more industries. Taking the example of technology once again, you may go into marketing, development, or design – three different industries or segments, each with their own dynamics. It is important to understand which industry you want to enter and then arm yourself with the right knowledge and training.
Finally, come full circle and once again consider the value your role brings. This time, think not only about whether you value the role you are likely to play but also what value others – your peers, seniors, juniors, society, and other stakeholders – are likely to derive from the role you play.
On a final note, no matter we reiterate that it is important to consider the opinion of family and friends as you go about making your career choice.