Career Choices and 3 Realities: Save The Surprises

Career Choices and Realities

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Career is a matter of anxiety for young people. This article tries to declutter the career options available and gives a holistic perspective of the work field. It’s not that education is enough. With education one also needs to know what one will do, where one will end up in the structures created by the society and ones earnings. Different careers have different earnings. And some of the variations are inbuilt in the structure of the career. The earning one has from work has no relation to the kind of education one might be having.

Table of Contents

(A) Career Choices

There are many options in life – but there are only a few choices available – meaning, one can be an astronaut, a physician, a painter etc, but depending on ones situation and aptitude, one has to choose from a limited cluster of options. Thus, there are only a few career choices available in the plethora of career options that one sees floating around oneself. What is ones objective, that is not the questions – the issue here is – what exactly do you want in life?

Do you want to earn money and lead comfortable life – or you want to lead a life of drudgery and be a martyr to certain intangible ideals? The whole thing is also limited by the information that you have and the money that your parents can spend on preparing you for a career. This is apart from some of the self imposed limitations by candidates and their parents on themselves and their thinking.

(B) The Realities

Career can be broken down into three streams:

1. Professional Practice (eg. Doctor, CA, Lawyer etc.)
2. Business / Entrepreneur
3. Employment / Service (eg. Engineer in an organisation etc.)

The rest of the career choices are only a clutter – more aimed at confusing the potential candidate, and making him a potential customer of ones education or training business.

Here one should keep in mind that the various career option that one speaks of are only to make potential workers / employees for business establishments. Much of such options are only non-technical, which has been given the garb of professionalism. Such professionalism is only a brand image.

Professionalism has nothing to do with career option, it is more an attitude of mind and conduct in ones personal and non-personal life. The Dabba-wallahs of Mumbai have got international recognition for their professionalism in quality of service delivery – none of them is MBA, most of them have hardly finished school, and they do not speak english!

Take for instance, you want to be an engineer. Now engineering is only a degree – and there are lakhs of engineering students graduating to the job market every year. An engineer can open his own consultancy and be a professional engineer. Here professional engineer would mean that he is actually doing the work relating to engineering himself and using his training and skill personally. He can start a business – that can be technical or non technical.

Doing a business, even if relating to his field of engineering, would mean he is recruiting other people to do the work, while himself is engaged in management of the business. The third and easiest option is to join some organisation as an employee.

Such a thing is true for nearly all the disciplines and all the career options that one comes across.

(C) Career: Bigger the Better

When it comes to career choices, the basic fundamental reality is – the bigger the better. So if one is employee of a big company – that is much better than running a small business. Similarly if being a professional you can earn more, then that is better than being an employee and earning for someone other while getting little for oneself.

One can be earning more than a lakh every month by doing a successful trading business, than by doing lots of studies and then being employed with some company for thousands.

Of-course, one has to weigh various factors while making such a decision. Such factors can range from personal to external factors as well. You may be fired with patriotism and adventure and thereby you may be interested in joining the army – further if you are technically qualified you may consider air force. But in the end you are being an employee of the government.

You can similarly channelise such sentiments to opening an NGO working in the environment sector – even that is patriotism and adventure. The options are many, the choices few. This is because, you may not have the information or the necessary expertise to do the latter, and may find joining a government service more easier.

(D) Tea or the Cup dilemma

Given a number of cups from which to have tea – what is your choice? Are you too fussy about the cup or you are just interested in the tea? Most of the students and their wards waste unnecessary time, energy and resources searching and finding the right cup. Power, social prestige, high ideals and similar sentiments also influence the choice of cup rather than the tea.

Often such dilemma is seen in terms of what to join – which stream – maths, bio or commerce; which job – private sector or the government sector etc. I would say such squeamish attitude does more harm than good. Such dilemma is often a result of inadequate preparation at earlier stages in ones life whether by oneself or by ones parents.

Most of the jobs advertised now a days calls for little technical skills – they are mostly general jobs in which candidates with any stream can fit – mostly recruiters ask for BSc or a BCom for the low end jobs.

The highest number of technical jobs advertised on the higher end require an engineering degree. The engineers are the highest number of employees if seen in terms of higher education. This is because big organisations are often manufacturing organisations, and they require engineers for their work. Also, the nature of work of engineering is such that they need an organisation to use their skills. Unlike the engineers, most of the doctor can open clinic with little investment, and the patient will find such doctor. And if that doctor is good in his work – then his career is secure.

Some kinds of jobs are not that clear-cut. Take for example a person who is in education line teaching at some management institution. He also does consultansy work and gets his fees. Thus he is both an employee and a professional.

(E) Payback

Except for certain fields, where the candidates have or require inborn skills, most of the others are learnt. A successful singer, would mostly be an inborn singer rather than an educated singer. How many singers can you name who have a BA or MA in Music?

But for others, they require education. Education should be seen more as an investment decision, rather than a voluntary work. If you are studying, try to figure out the ultimate result of your education in terms of payback (ie. legal payback) compared to the kind of investment you wish to put into your education. How much you would want to earn – that should determine your career choice.

In society there is structural differentiation of the various professions. Some professions are traditionally high earners, compared to others. Try to figure out what works in your case.

(F) Job Satisfaction

Its not just money all the way or the security of a good life. Persons like Aruna Roy left the IAS to work in the villages and today she is the most respected of women activists with international recognition. Here the point of job satisfaction is extremely important. However for most of the people it is the remuneration that is the main reason for job dissatisfaction. Different jobs have different kinds of capping / limitation in form of remuneration. So, one should be careful in deciding what exactly one wants, and what would give one job satisfaction.

(G) Be Practical

The practicalities of life calls for the tea rather than the cup. Some ways to be practical in regard to career choices:

1. Set your goals while in standard 10. Take informed decisions. Stick to one professional field and build on it. If you want to join finance, take commerce and not science stream.

2. Its better to pursue a professional degree to be on the safe side. Idealism may come later.

3. The world keeps changing fast – so dont make career plans for more than three – four years.

4. Do not be taken in for the hype. Many educational institutions create hype around themselves through advertisements. Its better to stick to the proven institutions.

5. Basically liberal arts degrees like BA, MA etc have become obsolete – its better to simply say them goodbye, unless you are sure to make hay out of it. Idealism does not make the stomach feed. If you have decided on a liberal arts course, be sure to have a clear view of what you want to do in future – an academic or some profession for which you have to take additional courses – like journalism, foreign language etc.

6. Before joining a course talk with those who have passed from that institution and are working. The institution imparting the course should have proper teachers and facilities like labs, computers etc. Surf the internet to find out more for the opinion of such institution or course.

7. Its better to join some work and gain experience, rather than waiting for some dream job. There is nothing like dream job.

8. Do not keep counting on chance of result of some competitive exam – if your foundation is strong, you would be able to succeed in life. Success in life is more important than trying to get into a particular job. Many candidates keep wasting precious years appearing in competitive exams held by government organisations. Try such exams only if you have alternative. One or two attempts at the most is sufficient. More than that is simply being adventurous and dangerous.

(H) Finally

Finally, one should remember that there is no substitute for hard work. Hard work includes dedication to one particular field, being strong in ones fundamentals, having good communication skill and being confident.

© Anup Mukherjee

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