10 myths about choosing a career
What will you become when you grow up?" sounds like a fairly innocuous question to ask a neighborhood kid and the answer comes fast... pilot, cricketer, Miss India, model, air hostess etc.
However, as many young adults will tell you, the question gets more difficult to answer when the time comes to actually pick a profession. Several books, counsellors and well-meaning relatives will attempt to guide you to the 'right' path when it comes to your career nirvana. However, it is important to separate the wheat from the chaff. So, here we look at some of the myths about choosing a career.
Myth 1: If I don't have a career goal already, I am doomed
Not really. Though there are cases where people have been absolutely clear in their minds that they wanted to join the IAS from class II, our thinking, prospects and interests evolve as we go along. A better approach could be to have an idea of what kind of activity interests you and a broad understanding of what kind of career you want. Specific details can emerge as you learn and grow. As you see more of the world, your perspective expands.
For example, if you know that a physically active career with thrill and adventure along with the scope to do something meaningful excites you, that's enough. You can leave the decision about whether you want to join the armed forces or become an wildlife conservationist to a later stage, when you have more clarity.
Myth 2: A wise man can tell me what's best for me
No one can tell you what's best for you, be it a counsellor or your illustrious uncle. All they can do is to explain what is what and what you can expect in a particular career role. Know yourself, your interests, your strengths and weaknesses, and your options and then make your own decisions. It's you who has to live with the decision. Any career will occupy a huge portion of your life so it's important that it hits an inner resonance with you.
Anupama Thakur is an NIT Hamirpur alumna and is the director, Operations at BodhiSutra. BodhiSutra (www.BodhiSutra.com) is an IIT-IIM alumni venture that specialises in employability skills training including Job English, Professional Impact and domain specific employability skills training programmes for students and working professionals.
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Myth 3: This field is 'hot' so let me go here
How well you do in a career depends on how well it excites the inner you and not how many people are choosing it or how fast the opportunities are growing. Of course, you don't want to get stuck in a field that's shrinking but don't make that the sole criteria. Instead look for options that excite you and then choose the 'hottest' among them.
Myth 4: A lot of money equals a lot of happiness
Money is important and anyone who claims otherwise is simply not telling the truth. However, a career is much more than money. If you do what you like doing, you'll find a way to make enough money and more.
At the start of your career, don't make salary the sole criteria. Instead go after excitement of work and your interest. Money is almost always a by-product of excellence in what you do and excellence can never happen if you choose a field for the wrong reasons.
Myth 5: My best friend is doing this so it's right for me
In spite of you having so much in common with your best friend, in spite of both of you having had the hots for the same dude/dudette in college/school, you are still different. Look for what you like, look for your own song because only then you will be able to sing it well and also, enjoy singing it.
Myth 6: If I choose career X my skills will go waste
A common argument many young people encounter is, "If you wanted to do MBA finance, why did you do electrical engineering?"
At any point of time, we are a sum total of our experiences, skills and knowledge. None of your skills go waste even if you are doing something that may ostensibly look like drawing upon a completely different set of skills.
Going back to the engineering-MBA question, your aptitude developed in engineering will help you being quantitative and analytical in your MBA. Moreover, why should you let your qualification be the chain around your feet; your education should help you soar, not tie you down.
Myth 7: The decision today determines what I do for the rest of my life
Not a complete truth. People make career changes almost throughout their working lives. New opportunities come up, interests evolve, priorities change or they simply get bored (which is perfectly okay!). You only need to be careful about why you want a career change. Is it because of a wrong decision early on or because you are unwilling to slug it out long enough to excel or is it because your career interests have evolved and you want to fulfil changed priorities?
The point is making a decision does not mean going down a one-way tunnel; there will always be several roads branching off from where you are and confidence, perseverance and balanced decision-making will take you down the best one.
Myth 8: Hobbies are hobbies and a job is a job
Several people have made outstanding careers working on their hobbies and interests and making a living out of it, a good one at that. Of course, not all hobbies can be made into careers but there can be a sizeable intersection between your interests and your career. Try to find the common area because pursuing a career asks for a lot of commitment and you cannot be committed to something if you don't like it.
Myth 9: To know about a field, I need to work in it
Not really. Of course, there's nothing like firsthand experience but you can always find out enough about a career option to determine whether it should figure in your shortlist without really diving in.
Read about a career, talk to people who are already in and try to determine if the job excites you. When talking to people, try to gather information rather than get influenced by their opinions "You get a lot of free time generally but when the deadlines are near, you may even have to work 14 hours" is much more valuable than, "I love being a software developer".
Myth 10: I don't have any interests; I just want to pay my bills
It may sound like a nice thought, even somewhat macho but it's not true. Saying that you don't have any interests just means you haven't really looked at yourself closely enough. Get in touch with your inner self. Discover what you like because everyone has preferences. Discovering oneself is the first step towards a 'right' career decision.