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Factors that help you zero in on a career

June 23, 2009 13:31 IST

Image: Rediff Archives
S R Mohanty

My nephew, Vikram, called last Saturday. "My parents just don't understand me!" he complained.

"I want to study Commerce and they want me to take up Science. I hate science. I hate maths," he continued.

"And the last thing I want to be is a doctor".

I tried to pacify him and agreed to talk to his father, my cousin. He was an established surgeon, reasonably rich and well respected in his circle.

"What does he know about a career?" he stormed.

"Vikram wants to graduate in Commerce and then do an MBA, because most of his classmates are opting to do that. How will he inherit my medical practice and run my nursing home, if he doesn't become a doctor?"

Such stories are very common in India.

The author is co-founder & partner, Competency Development Services, Bangalore.

Careers360, is a complete career magazine.

School days

Image: Decisions and their impact

Most parents have a dream for their children. While it does help plan and put things in perspective it runs the risk of burdening the child. The pressure mounts as the child approaches Class X board exams.

Soon comes one big decision point -- what to study next? Is it going to be Science, Humanities or Commerce? This decision not only takes a student closer to a set of career options, but also moves him/ her away from another set of career options. For those who do not choose science, the option of becoming a doctor or an engineer is closed. Again, the parent's dream for the child may not be what the child wants. This is a potential point of conflict.

A decision, however, has to be taken, and that within a specific time frame. It is the reasons chosen and priorities attached which create conflicts. This increases in proportion as the child moves from one milestone to another.

After class XII

With more exposure, experience, education and information the student is better equipped to take informed decisions. But two challenges remain.

Often our career decisions are ones we have to live by for the rest of our lives. Hence, we must be very sure what we want in life and own that up. Sometimes parents offer the right direction. They are experienced, know the world better and have done enough homework. At other times the candidate knows what he or she wants to do for the rest of his or her life, and has considered all factors. Either way, a healthy and open discussion is essential before proceeding from one decision point to the next.

Choose a lifestyle

Image: Comparison of lifestyles in early phase of career

A practical approach to choosing a career is looking at what lifestyle you would be comfortable with each day of your life for the next forty years. Almost all parameters that you consider in choosing a career stem from the lifestyle one aspires for. Hence, it is said that choosing a career is choosing a lifestyle.

If you are not comfortable with the lifestyle a career demands, do not choose it even if it gives you short term gains like lucrative earnings, global assignments, immense power, high visibility etc. Why become a TV journalist for the sake of 'being in the public eye' if you do not like meeting and talking to people, travelling and keeping odd hours?

Different professions demand different lifestyles

Even within a particular profession, there could be specialisations to choose from. MBA students spend considerable time trying to decide what to specialise in. While the factors to consider remain almost the same, the thumb rule to help you decide is again the question "What lifestyle would you like to lead?" Choose what suits you and what you would like to do.

Different departments need different profiles

Image: Factors most families consider

Again, in the same organisation with a similar specialisation, one has to be careful in choosing which department to join. Each department has its ways of working and demands on your lifestyle. Let us take the organised retail industry as an example.

Many MBA graduates with specialisation in marketing aspire for a career in retail. They need to understand very clearly the probable nature and demands of each department of a retail organisation. For instance, a member of the operations division needs to be a hands-on person, service oriented and capable of taking on-the-spot decisions. He will be required to put in long hours especially on weekends and during holidays.

The merchandising department calls for hours of concentration at the desk, analytical and negotiation skills. He must anticipate customer demands. Those in the marketing department of a retail unit must think on their feet and deliver within short deadlines. They must keep abreast of competitors' activities and anticipate customer demands.

Supply chain management workers must have good knowledge of the local geography and transport systems. His work involves odd hours at city outskirts in a 'godown' environment.

 Once you start your career and get involved in the business of your organisation you will find your focus is on handling day-to-day challenges of delivering what you have been hired for. You will get so involved in your role that all that will matter at the end of the day is how well you have lived that day. Each day will be a different story. Collectively, it will reflect the way you work and live.

So, choose a career which will have a lifestyle you would happily lead. That way, you will end each day with lesser cribs and happier moments. As the saying goes "Choose what you would love to do and you don't have to work  anymore!"

Careers360 is a complete education and career magazine offering campus and course reviews, career features, scholarships, expert advisories, entrance exam preparation & solved papers, admission alerts and more.