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Interest, skills and lifestyle. An ideal career should address these three important areas

In this article we take a closer look at the most important question: how should I select my ideal career?

Before we dive into the “ideal” process to select a career, let us explore what typically happens in a young adult’s life. For example, when in grade X, I hardly had given any thought to what I wanted to do and suddenly was asked to select my subjects for grade XI. I did not have much time for research, nor did

I know where to start, so I ended up choosing what I was most familiar with, the sciences. Eventually I found myself doing management consulting at a premier strategy consulting firm in New York, after completing my postgraduation in Engineering in the U.S. Looking back, if I had taken time to follow a structured process, I would have selected commerce instead of science for grade XI, which may have better positioned me for a life in business.

Trap of mediocrity

Let’s look back at similar decisions we are all faced with in our most formative years — decisions to pick subjects, a course, a college and finally a profession. Each of these decisions is usually tackled when a point appears in our lives that requires us to make a choice.

There is little if any forethought or preparation that happens along the path that leads to these crossroads. Once the choice is made, the student finds himself/herself comfortably numb in the system he has chosen to be a part of. Unfortunately for some this extends beyond academics and into their professional lives as well, leading to a life of mediocrity. So how can we make better decisions and achieve our full potential?

Decision-making

The career decision-making process is similar to any other decision we make. First, understand the options available to you. To make sense of the thousands of careers available, the starting point has to be an understanding of the overall world of work.

For example, you must understand the world of finance before deciding to become an investment banker or understand the product development process before wanting to become an engineer. The second step is understanding what is important to you as a unique individual. As part of the Pathways Program we have interviewed numerous professionals, from eminent dancers and film producers to accountants, retail managers and tech pioneers. We asked them all what criteria they based their career decisions upon. Three main criteria emerged — interest, skills and lifestyle. For example, you may be interested in sailing the seas and have the skills to work as a marine engineer. However, the lifestyle of staying away from family for long periods of time associated with being a marine engineer on a ship may be unacceptable. So, the ideal career should address these three important areas — one that you are really interested in, one for which you have the skills to succeed and one which suits your lifestyle preference.

One final word of caution. Choosing a career is not always a one-time event leading to an answer. As with any other decision, it is OK to change your mind as you work through the options available and get new information. The alternative is to spend the rest of your life not enjoying your work and that would be truly unfortunate.

Our next article “The world of work” takes you through the process of understanding how the work works.

The writer is a director at the Pathways Program (www.pathwaysprogram.in). e-mail: Aditya@thinkingpalm.com


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