One of the biggest luxuries of the modern day and age in terms of careers is the multitude of options. In the current pandemic-ridden scenario, however, the career goals should be a fluid mix of dreams and practicality, writes Karan Verma
For every school or college student, the word ‘Career’ is often the most polarising word thrown around by seemingly responsible adults at every dinner table conversation, family meeting or gathering. The irony is that most of the modern day parents themselves know little about the modern day careers like digital marketing and data analytics. However that doesn’t stop them from giving their two cents on every aspect of a modern day career. The parents don’t realise that the world has drastically changed over the course of the last 10-15 years.
The careers that are the biggest money spinners today didn’t even exist twenty years back. Social media is a construct of the last 15 years, different apps like uber, bigbasket, makemytrip, bookmyshow all have come up during the same time-period. Gone are the days when memorising, rote-learning could get you huge breakthroughs. Today all information is available in your pocket, so skills like memorising and calculations are becoming mundane. So, what ticks today is a different skill set. Critical thinking, data analytical skills and coding are the modern day skills that set you apart. When a young boy ends up in a google or a facebook with a whooping `40-50 lakh package as a start, it’s not because he is the most hard working kid around. It is because he was into coding from a young age of 13 and he was passionately working hard on a thing that mattered the most in the modern era. And that’s my first big message to all students and hustlers — ‘Watch where the money is’. Start early and keep your eyes and ears open all the time.
One of the biggest luxuries of the modern day and age in terms of careers is the multitude of options. You can be a college dropout turned you-tuber and earn more than an IITian. As amazing as it is, let’s not be fooled here by looking at a few examples. The problem with many career counselors, motivational speakers is that they have turned dream merchants rather than mentors. They quote Steve Jobs and Ratan Tata as if every kid can become a trailblazer. The fact of the matter is that there are many who won’t be the next Steve Jobs and a plan needs to be in place for them. Truth is that yes every kid can become great, but let’s understand that these are rare examples and a little bit of practicality is always welcome. Truth is that many of these great people gradually became great and had probably not planned on becoming this big. So what was critical in the journey of these great people is the journey itself. They were on the right track in their life. They got to know something they were good at and passionate about and then they worked tirelessly towards their goal. This is the best that we can do in our pursuit of greatness. So how does one pick the right track. Well the ideal career choice should be a fluid mix of your dreams and practicality.
It starts with evaluating your interests. What is it that you would want to do for the rest of your life or at least a major part of your life. At this stage, you can be a total dreamer. Just run in the direction of your dreams and start trying different careers. The best time for this is college. Never ever settle for just classroom experience in your school or college. Step out and start interning under different organisations and individuals. Start volunteering for free services just so you can evaluate your interests. Is your interest for real? I’ve seen many individuals come to conclusions about their interests by drawing references from pop-culture. Invest Banking, Film-making and stock-broking excite many young students courtesy the portrayal of these careers on the big screen. However the same students didn’t really find film-making so exciting when they visited a film set and found out how non-glamorous and tedious the process of film-making is in real. Once you’ve come to a shortlist of your genuine interests, you need to run further in the direction of your dreams. And then the dreamer in you will wake up to reality — the reality of your abilities. You’ll slowly find out that as much passion as you have for cricket, you actually don’t have that magical timing or touch or in the same vein, you might be fascinated by statistical analysis but your math skill might not be of the same quality. You might develop some of the ability needed but actually you have your limitations and it’ll perhaps never branch out to become a viable career. It is a tough call to take but that’s where your intelligence needs to kick in.
So my second big message to all students is — Know yourself and embrace your strengths and limitations. Your career should be an extension of your personality. If it is not, then sooner or later, frustration will kick in and you will not be happy with the way your life is unfolding. In the end, you should be happy going to work everyday. A good career isn’t just about designations or pay packets, it is most importantly about happiness. In the end, that is all that matters. Of course you’ll have to compromise and you’ll probably not get everything you wanted but you may get close and that’ll be good enough. Once your dreams are defined and your strengths are identified, you’re actually in a position to define a career goal. But for that, you need to understand the scope and potential of a career in the given times. As an example, those who are seeking a career in hotel management right now in the post covid-era might need to rethink. They could probably go about it by a different route. Do a course in management or fine arts and revisit their passion later. They could also compromise given the tough times and take up whatever job they’re getting in whichever domain without being too fussy about the role and designation. They can probably survive now and thrive later at a time when the circumstances are right. Flexiblity in career paths, choices makes one a winner in the long run. You cannot be rigid about your choices and goals. They have to be dynamic and in sync with the times. You might have a taste for event management and wedding planning but it won’t be a good idea to set up that company in the post covid environment right now. Of course if you already have a company, then you need to innovate and hang in there one way or another. So the truth is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in matters of careers.
We need to start accepting the fact that the skills in demand will keep changing. Today the skills that’ll be most richly rewarded will be coding, machine learning and data analytics. Of course, the one big skill that’ll forever be evergreen is the art of communication. All stakeholders need to contribute to developing human skills like communication, understanding people, storytelling, accepting diversity, remaining calm under pressure. These are the skills which far outweigh all degrees and certifications in the game of life. Unfortunately they’re at best confined to a boring moral science lecture in school. It is high time that these soft skills were imparted to students in innovative ways. Students must understand that along with talent it is their temperament that’ll take them a long way in their careers. One cannot function without the other. A solid temperament isn’t built over the years. It’s foundation has to be laid early on in school. In the times of the Corona pandemic, human temperament has been tested to the hilt. Those who didn’t get dispirited and sought ways to innovate have survived this tide and will thrive someday. However the ones with a weak temperament succumb to the pressure.
The biggest skill set that’ll determine the altitude of one’s career will be emotional intelligence. If one can bounce back from setbacks, failures and go from one task to another with equal vigor then sky is the limit.
The writer is the author of Dhruv: Love Story of an Alchemist