“Why is career such a big deal? It’s like everyone around me is just obsessing about the same thing!” Saurabh, a 10th grader, said frustratingly; when he had come to me for help about his studies. It’s not only Saurabh. “What after 10th?” “What stream are you taking?”, “What are you planning to do?” “What career are you choosing?” “What next?” are common questions that we have had to answer at least once in our lives. You will see every adult asking these to every high school student and every high school student being bothered by these. Since choosing a career is a crucial decision, it’s understandable that everyone places so much importance on it. It is a life changing decision, after all.
Pursuing a suitable career leads an individual to live a fulfilling life and drives them to achieve their goals. On the other hand, being in an unsuitable career causes individuals to be unfulfilled and frustrated. A healthy career will not only help people build their identity, earn a living, satisfy their financial needs; but will also provide growth opportunities and give their lives greater meaning. An unhealthy career on the contrary, will be dissatisfying, uncomfortable and discouraging.
Hence, making the right decision is extremely important. Yet, xx.xx% students in India end up in careers that they regret later! This wrong career adversity is the most common challenge for the youth today and has been a constant problem for decades now! Even though this is the grim reality, it’s not very surprising. Career decision is indeed among the most critical choices an individual needs to make.
What makes this decision particularly difficult is (1) the myths people hold about careers and career decision; (2) the numerous factors that affect this choice; (3) the lack of awareness about the subject; and, (4) the various hurdles that are involved.
To draw a comparison, choosing a career is actually not very different from finding a perfect life-partner! Both are searches that are difficult and complex; will remain for about 40 years of your life; will have ups and downs, good and bad; are capable of making your life either fulfilling or distressing; require you to put effort and work; and, both are situations that can be changed but are extremely stressful to change. The interesting aspect is, that on one hand, we devote plenty of time, effort and money to find the suitable match, whereas on the other, we end up making career decisions without enough consideration to the many essential factors! If you wish to avoid the exasperating wrong career adversity it is important that this decision be considered as a process and be taken by adapting a holistic approach.
When choosing a career, an individual needs to consider the factors that affect it along with the factors that hinder it. Since we belong to a collectivistic culture, career selection is not an independent decision that a student may take alone and therefore the process should involve parents and/or the primary care-givers. These 4 steps can be helpful when deciding a career:
Step 1: Engage in Self Awareness and Evaluation – Make a list of subjects, situations and tasks you like and dislike as well as those you perform well and poorly at. Consider your current educational background (marks, stream, subject etc) and family background (parents’ expectations, economic condition, family’s education and occupation etc). Engage in SWOT Analysis (Analysis of your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats). Lastly, list down your expectations from your career (nature of work, environment, earning, lifestyle etc).
Step 2: Engage in Career Awareness & Evaluation – Talk to professionals, read from useful sources and generate a factual understanding about a general Career Path, Career Process and career options available. Further, collect information about facts and realities about the desired career (path, scope, costs and benefits, criteria, time and resources needed, coursework, work culture, opportunities, market need, colleges, skills and training needed etc).
Step 3: Evaluate your Career Fitness – Evaluate whether you can meet the demands of the career you desire to enter. This can be done informally as well as scientifically through career testing. The latter is more reliable to give you a realistic understanding. This process is called career guidance and is commonly referred to as aptitude testing.
Step 4: Goal Setting – Set a S.M.A.R.T. career goal. The one that is specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Make sure it includes short term goals that you can track step by step and includes all things that make you likely to be successful in your career option.
Our careers fill up a many years of our lives, and the only way we can be truly satisfied in those years is by planning and developing a fulfilling career and to continue the search for one if we haven’t found it.