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In-Depth Jobs

volume-50,16-22 March,2019

Carving out a meaningful career

Rruchi Shrimalli

This weekend, I had an interesting conversation with a genius Class 12 student. Simran Kaur (name changed) who scored 97% marks in her Class 10 exams and opted for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) in Class 11 because that's what all the intelligent students of her class were doing. She also joined a reputed engineering coaching class and is doing quite well there. All her teachers are upbeat that she would certainly sail through the JEE exams and bring them glory as a 'star achiever'.

The only problem is that she is not enjoying herself. The engineering coaching takes too much of her time. After school, she spends two hours in her coaching class during weekends - and rest of the day, she is busy with her homework and self-studies. On the weekends - Saturdays and Sundays - she has an 8-hour coaching class schedule and of course, the homework and practice sheets to do.

As I delved deeper, I found that this girl had decided to become an IAS officer ever since she was in Class 5. She joined the engineering coaching and wants to take the engineering exam because she wants to prove to her peers that she 'can' do it. She loves to paint, read and write. If she had chosen Humanities, she would still have been a model student.

Remember, this young lady scored 97% in her Class 10 board exams and aced IMO, IEO and several other Olympiads. She is bright and studious. And yet, she feels a need to prove herself to her peers.

This is how peer pressure works. No matter, how bright you are, how talented you are, how old you are, or how many achievements you have under your belt, you still seek social validation and approval. And in the process, we forget to work on our dreams.

I received another question online. Siddhartha was a PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Biology) student till Class 12. He opted for BA after his intermediate board exams because he wanted to become an IAS officer too. But now, in the final year of his graduation, he realised that he is not cut-out for the vocation. Again, he did not want to waste his years of hard work and wanted my help to come up with a Plan B for him.

Here are some of the questions such students ask me and my response to their questions:

I scored 95% in Class 10 and then chose Maths stream because that's what all the intelligent children around me were doing. Now, my Class 12 board exams are just round the corner. I have slogged so hard in my engineering coaching and my teachers have high hopes from me. I don't want to be an engineer but I don't want to look like a fool by not appearing for JEE exams now. What do you suggest?

Psychology says that humans are hardwired to seek approval from others around them - be it their parents, friends, relatives or colleagues. They also feel a need to stand by the decision they make even if it seems stupid for a while. Dr. Robert Cialdini's book 'Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion' discusses this at length.

Fortunately, we also have the power to recognise these influences and override them.

You have worked hard enough. You chose PCM and you proved that you have the logical and reasoning skills that are at par with the best students in your class. You have already proved that you can be one of the best in the engineering coaching if you want to. But do not let your need of validation take away your power of choosing what you want to do.

If engineering is not your end goal, you do not have to choose it.

I originally wanted to be a doctor. Now, I want to be a musician. What if I join a music course now and regret my decision later?

Lata Mangeshkar would never have regretted missing the Team India selection for under-16. Sachin Tendulkar would never have regretted for not appearing for the Indian Idol talent show. You do not regret decisions that do not fall in line with your end career aims.

If you are sure you want to become a musician, you should concentrate all your efforts on it. If you are not sure that you'd be happy being a musician or not, maybe you should take a break for a year, try your hand at music and see if you can commit to it long-term.

Sometimes, your mind plays tricks on you to avoid a difficult path. So, you do want to be a doctor but since achieving that goal seems difficult, your mind tries to avoid it by choosing something that seems easier. In such a case, you should visit a career counsellor and take a detailed test for better guidance.

My parents want me to be an engineer and I want to become an IAS officer. Should I do engineering first and then, prepare for Civil Services?

Many engineers crack IAS exams so no doubt, you can do your B.Tech first and then prepare for the UPSC exam. There is no harm in doing Engineering if that's what you would love to do. However, if you do engineering merely because your parents want you to do it, you might not enjoy four years of learning. You feel dissatisfied and frustrated and not be able to learn as you should.

Do not feel pressured to follow a certain path. If you think you would be happier studying History or Geography, then those are the subjects you should seek admission in.

Can I seek admission to Humanities courses in DU colleges if I am a PCM student?

You can do so but you have to sacrifice 2% marks when you change stream to join a Delhi University course. So, if you are a PCM student and scored 96% in Class 12 and then, choose to apply for a B.A. in Geography in a DU college, your marks will be counted as 94% (because you changed your stream) in the cut-off list the college prepares for the course.

All universities have different rules though. Some of the other universities may not cut down your marks for trying to change your stream.

If I opt for the coaching classes for Civil Services, would it be advisable to go for an Open University course instead of a regular one?

Hands down, a regular course from a traditional university holds more value than an Open University course or a distance course in the real world. Moreover, you learn more in a regular class than when you study alone.

That said, you may consider joining a lower-grade college which is more flexible with the attendance and other requirements. If coaching is your priority, you may find it difficult to meet the rigorous demands of the top colleges in India along with that of the top coaching classes for the UPSC.

Are there any self-assessment tools which can help me identify which careers I should choose?

This is like asking the magic trick from the magician. Yet, here are some of the free self-assessment tools you may use to understand yourself better:

Tools to Understand Yourself

  • O*Net Interest Profiler is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labour. It is a free tool to assess your vocational interests on the RIASEC scale (which categorise the interests in six categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. It also offers you a list of jobs that match your interests that require no preparation all the way to those that might require extensive preparation.
  • Kiersey Temperament Sorter is another tool to judge your personality type. This self-assessment questionnaire puts you under four major temperaments: Artisans, Guardians, Idealists and Rationals. Each of these temperaments are further divide into two categories - each of which aim at a specific job role. Each job role is further classified in two types which define two variants of the role.

You can take the test and then, study more about your personality type on the official Keirsey website.

Skill-based Self Assessment Tools

  • O*NET Online is a good place to surf through. This tool also allows you to surf jobs by your interests, work activities, work styles, work values, work contexts, and physical work conditions. You can also search potential careers you may opt for through the skills you have.
  • Government of Canada has developed a similar site where you can explore careers by essential skills you must have.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is offering skill-based training programs in over 30 sectors right now. You can check the different sector-specific skill councils to see the training programs being offered for different job roles in these sectors.

Values Assessment Test

  • MyPlan Career Values Assessment Test is available for free. This test helps you to assess what kind of work motivates you and what kind of work environment or characteristics you need to achieve job satisfaction. This test also suggests careers that match your values.
  • Career Perfect's Insight Values Inventory does not offer you career choices but it offers you a much more detailed analysis of your work values. This tool is also available for free.

Which careers are open for me based on the stream I opt for?

There is no dearth of opportunities for the graduates of all the three major streams - Science, Commerce or Humanities. Most career counselors have extensive list of different careers one can opt for based on the stream of education one has chosen. You can visit them for more guidance.

If you cannot afford to go to a good counselor, you might consider exploring the options you have on your own. Just google for "<Careers/ Courses> after <Class 10/ Class12/ graduation/post graduation> for <subject/ stream> student" and you should find a lot of options easily.

Suppose you cleared your Class 12 with PCM and are looking for career options for you, you can type:

Careers after Class 12 for PCM student

You will surely find thousands and millions of links with different options you can look at.

Can I earn my living as a painter?

One of the most difficult areas of providing career advice is for those who want to make a living as a creative artist. According to Payscale India, painters make anywhere between Rs 72,000 to Rs 10,00,000 per year. Assuming you are talking about being a fine artist, you may make anywhere between Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 20,00,000 per year as a painter or an illustrator.

In the end, it all ends up with how talented you are, how good you are at coming up with a unique and imaginative work and how you sell it.

Fortunately, there are literary agents to help you sell books, artist agents who promote your art work, and several other agents to help actors, dancers, and other types of artists to create a niche in the market. When you are good at what you do, you can always tap into right opportunities with the help of these people.

My advice to all the students or professionals who come to me is - Do not be afraid to do what you love. Once you start working on what you are passionate about, you'll surely reach your full potential.

It's never too late to start working on your dreams. It doesn't matter if you are 14 or 40. As long as you are clear about your goals and ready to do anything to achieve them, nothing would stop you from carving out a meaningful career for you and living a happy and meaningful life.

Rruchi Shrimalli is a career counsellor e-mail: rruchishrimalli@gmail.com.

Views expressed are personal.