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Have a back-up plan

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An off-beat career is not always a safe option. Read about ways to get around this.

Whenever a young individual tells his/her parents that he/she is going to choose an “alternative” career like acting, most parents react with horror. Why? Are parents reacting irrationally? Or is their reaction justified? Let’s take a quick look at some of the facts that underlie such scenarios.

The fundamental requirement most parents want for their wards is economic success so that they can be earning enough to be comfortable. Parents therefore look at people in different careers and assess how much they earn. The important thing here is to check the average earnings of all those entering a field — not the highest earners in any particular field. For instance, if you take medicine as a profession, most doctors go on to making a reasonable living. Parents have seen that time and again. Compare this field with something like acting.

The more famous actors of course make a lot of money — probably far more than most doctors.

owever, if you look at the average actor, he or she makes far less than what a doctor makes. Nobody thinks about the long list of failed actors who could not make it to the big stage. Working as a Chartered Accountant may not be as exciting as becoming an actor for most people — however, there is a broad demand for the CA field across sectors and across geographies. So the main decision-making factor for parents is the overall chances of success when selecting a particular career.

Typically such “safe” careers are characterised by a high demand from an entry perspective. It is very difficult to get a medical seat. In contrast the “higher-risk” careers have low entry barriers — getting in is easy but becoming really successful is much more difficult.

Success is not easy

So what should students do? Should they ignore all such high-risk careers even if that is what really interests them? No. The main take-away for students is that they really need to understand the chances of success before embarking on the journey. They should not fool themselves into believing that success is easy.

Students should be prepared to put in the work required to succeed and accept that there could be a large element of luck involved in their success in such professions. It is also prudent to have a back-up option in mind if the main career fails to take off. For example, you may want to be an actor. However, it may be a good idea to train yourself in something like film editing or cinematography in addition to acting. This way, you have a back-up in the field that you love which could provide you a reasonable living if your primary, acting, career does not come to fruition.

When parents suggest careers, they typically select ones that have (in their minds) the highest probability of economic success for their children. And that is indeed a rational goal.

The writer is a director at Thinking Palm. Email: vikram@thinkingpalm.com


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