Making the right career choices

Posted by Ranjeet Menon
June 3, 2017

There is an ongoing debate in my head about whether life is based on destiny or life unravels based on the choices we make. Well, looks like it is a combination of both. I believe destiny plays its role only based on the choices we make. In the timeline of our lives, there are many milestones, like what we choose to study after high school, the first job we take up, the woman we choose to marry, etc. I do not think these are controlled by destiny. Rather, as we make those decisions, destiny decides how many curves and bumps we have to drive through.

Ancient Indian society was broadly divided into four categories or clans: priest, warrior, trader and the worker. Ancient Indian texts also say everyone is born into the worker category; it is each individual’s deeds that decide which category he and his family will fit into eventually. Cut to today and things haven’t changed much except that the trader and worker classes have burgeoned into lot more sub categories and warrior class has become more sophisticated. One significant change that has happened though is, barrier of entry for people from one class to enter into a profession in another class has eased out considerably. But as the choices and options grow, so does the confusion of choice.

High school is sort of a pivot in everyone’s life in these times. In India, it’s a boiling point. Kids are confused as to where to go after high school and parents, friends, relatives, neighbors, everyone gets involved in the decision making process. In a society where everyone aspires to either be an engineer or a doctor, choosing any other path is considered scary and lowly for the fear of being looked down upon. This has resulted in the rise of an infinite number of management colleges across the country where admission can easily be obtained through influence and money, with the consequence that value of engineering and medical courses have diminished considerably unless done from the premier institutes of the country. The situation has reached a point where parents and kids alike are looking at alternate options, the most likely ones being arts and commerce. Both lead to their own areas of professional job markets but then there is another choice waiting to be made at the end of bachelor’s degree: enter the public or private sector. Entering both sectors most probably require further education, either master’s degree or taking up professional courses/programs.

So what are the best options? I believe every one of us is born with innate talents, be it in arts or sports or in some other field. Nurture these natural talents along with formal education. It helps in making decisions on those milestone points. Further, formal education provides one source of income. Inherent talents provide an additional source of income and also a good reason to break away and relax from the rigors of our primary source of income. Skilled people, be it in arts, music or be it blacksmiths, tailors, farmers, etc., will always be in demand. I have come to realize that we suffer only when we start depending solely on our formal education and jobs as our only source of income which becomes a single point of failure. We give the control of our lives to the corporate sector and the decisions on how to lead our lives ahead no longer remain with us. Having a secondary or even multiple sources of income as fallback have become critical in these times.

Now how do kids who are just out of high school going to comprehend all of this or think through this on their own? In India they mostly don’t that’s where the ecosystem of people around them comes into the picture. I was one of those kids who knew what I wanted to study further and why but 90% kids may not be having any targets before them. When people come together to make this decision for the kids, ideas and choices fly all over the place, but it should be taken care that choices should be evaluated only based on the interests and abilities of the kids and not on what the people’s aspirations about the kids are. There is a popular saying that kids are butterflies and butterflies cannot lift stones. So thrusting something on a kid and expecting him/her to excel in it is only going to keep the kid inside the pressure cooker and ultimately destroy his/her self-confidence. Helping kids take decisions on their milestones should be complemented by listening to Pink Floyd’s “Another brick in the wall”. They say “leave ’em kids alone” and they have been spot on.