[MTC Global] Career Pick

Author: Prashant Banerjee , Senior marketing manager , Marketing, Pearson Clinical & Talent Assessment on how one can choose a career

Indian law allows one to vote at 18 and 18-year-old women and 21-year old men are deemed mature enough to marry. What then beats logic is how the quintessential Indian kid is never considered old enough to take, what is possibly the most important decision of their life: what career to choose!

What's undisputable is that nobody is born with a definitive knowledge of what they want to do in life. Identifying career interests and personality characteristics, understanding priorities, increasing one's exposure and learning about new subjects and fields are critical to understanding what one wants to do in life. Therefore, isn't it surprising that choosing a career - a decision so intimately personal and far-reaching – is generally done with minimal introspection and inward journey? How do youngsters, then, take these decisions? What kinds of obstacles exist in the process of making an informed, well thought out and conversant career decision?

Limited exposure: By virtue of the system of learning that exists today, our horizons and perspectives are actively stifled to fit a meta-narrative of 'academic excellence', from the moment children enter formal education. Our society has built an education system based on conformity and authoritarian standards that reward rote learning through a one-time assessment of memorised information, which leaves little room for inquisitiveness, curiosity, and practical application of knowledge. As a result, by the time one nears the crossing line at school, this constant imposition of top-down hierarchy (neatly categorised into water-tight streams) forces students to have a tunnel vision in terms of careers that doesn't leave much room for the myriad set of career options available today. 
Pressure of expectations: Several unintended triggers build overwhelming expectations on students. Be it the subtle, yet constant, reminder at home which emphasises the criticality of the impending career decision, peers discussing entrance examinations with a feverish passion or the use of abstract terms like 'potential',  'sharp 'and 'out-of-the-box' at every PTA meeting. Add to that the burden of expectations one has from one's own self! All this builds a pressure to prove oneself academically and professionally, and worse, do so in a pre-defined manner. 
Inadequate understanding of self: Potentially, the least talked-about factor while making a career decision is the limited insight students have into their personality, aptitude, workplace related values and interests, given their age. Instead of helping them build this understanding, parents, teachers, and other well-wishers – with the very best intentions, nonetheless, – end up directing career related decisions for them. Learning about our identity and self is a life-long journey, and we define our own notions of success, happiness, satisfaction and self-worth as we grow older. Hence, career related decisions taken at a young age, with an inadequate understanding of self, do not incorporate these values. 
Assumptions and misinformation: Lack of exposure and information is a deterrent on its own. But add to that the ease with which misleading information is available about what entails in a field of occupation and you get the perfect recipe for a disastrous career choice!  From positive and negative depictions of careers in popular culture to internet and social media providing out of context and narrow viewpoints – everything contributes to creating fuzzy boundaries between fantasy and reality, when it comes to career choices. This overload of incorrect information, easily available through the internet, media, and through over-zealous and biased family and friends means that objective and facts-based information often eludes career decision-making. 
Thus systemic, societal and ideological hurdles exist which make it challenging for individuals, especially students, to freely decide a career of their own. If the very foundation of such decisions is marred in lack of awareness, doubt and misinformation, the end result is bound to be chronic dissatisfaction in one's professional life. 
It doesn't, however, have to be that way. 
Parents and educators need to acknowledge that students at critical junctures in their lives need support and guidance, not hand-holding. Furthermore, allowing students to really explore what ignites their passion by way of careers is key to helping them make informed choices. Various psychological assessment tools can help a student understand their own selves in terms of personality, ability and interests. It is this part of the self – the personality, ability and interest – that need to overlap with what one decides to do in their life. An individual is likely to truly succeed, when what drives him or her is in alignment with what he or she does in life. There might not exist a perfect match but this synergy is likely to be much more satisfying, rewarding and exhilarating than a decision taken with haste, misinformation, and under pressure.  After all, it is a lot easier to keep marching on the beaten path given to you by friends, family and the media, than conquer new frontiers of professional satisfaction off it! 

Prof. Bholanath Dutta
Founder &  President 
MTC Global: A Global Think Tank in 
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