• Priya Sharma Shaikh

What career should I pick?

So, what career do you plan to pick?

Are you confused about what career to pick? It is probably the most common question faced by most of us nearing the end of the second decade of our lives. Of course there are those amongst us who've always known what they were born to do. This article is for the remaining 99 % of us.

Our education system is great at boxing people in. Early in our lives we are asked to tick on boxes that are labeled engineering, commerce or science. Once set, these boxes become our cages inhibiting our ability to even imagine possibilities outside them. We are left with a niggling irritation that tells us that we aren't in the right place. That's a good sign to pick on and start thinking about alternatives. And believe you me, it’s never too late!

I don’t know what my passion is!

Like I said in the previous article, passion is an over hyped word that is absent from the lives of many of us. ‘Follow your passion’ is a narrative that’s thrown at us at every turn of our life. It doesn’t help to be told that we should follow our passions when we don’t really know what those are. This incessant heckling in the name of passion leads to disillusionment in people who think they haven’t found it. It’s utterly stupid!

However, even if the narrative is flawed it doesn’t mean that the opposite is true, that we shouldn’t try to find out where our interests and strengths lie. A career built around doing things we enjoy can lead to a much more engaged and fulfilling life.

How do I find out what I would like to do?

By doing a lot of different things! No, I am not being facile. As much as you trust your brain, it’s a bad predictor of what will make you happy. I know, it’s the best tool you have in your toolbox, but it’s not good enough. The only way to find an answer is by trying multiple things and figuring our way to the answer.

But trying all the jobs that I think I would love will take me an entire lifetime!

I empathize totally. If you are like me, then you like way too many things and are convinced that you will excel at each of them. I for one love singing, writing, designing, cooking, event management, acting and meeting people - I did contemplate becoming an RJ and or a VJ. But for practical reasons, it’s better to narrow down that list to a few (say 3-5) options.

But how do I do that?

Close your eyes and think of your happiest moments. No, not the ones with your boyfriend or girlfriend, nor the ones where you goof around with your friends. Think back to moments when you really enjoyed doing something. Maybe it was a project in college. Or a research paper in school. Maybe you were a part of an event organising committee in college. I started organising events at a very young age and totally loved it all. Perhaps you love comics and can read them endlessly. Maybe you are into cars and can talk about them till the cows come home. Maybe you love basketball and know everything there is to know about the game.

Make a list of the things that made you the happiest.

Are there people you idolize? People you envy for the jobs they have? Make a list of them.

Your answer lies somewhere in the mix of these two lists. Look at these lists and play with them. Read more about these people you envy and find out how they reached where they did. Know more about what skills are needed for the jobs they do.

So imagine that you love cricket, and you envy #HarshaBhogle and think you can do a better job than him? Try and figure out more about how to become a commentator. Work on your communication skills and knowledge of cricket. Are there courses you can take to improve yourself? Find out local tournaments where you can practice. Keep an eye on cricket related channels and sites for jobs. Take up any job that takes you one step closer to Harsha Bhogle or a commentator like him so you can see them in action from close quarters.

But what if I don’t love doing what I imagined I would?

Well then of course, you move on. But before you do that, answer this. Did you give it everything you had? Did you not enjoy the job at all? What was it that you absolutely hated? What parts of the job did you love? As you go along, make sure that you answer these questions about every job, so you don’t make the same mistake again and again. Try not to be swayed by popular opinion or peer pressure. Trust me, there will be a lot.

It’s an iterative process and there are no correct answers. That doesn’t mean you keep jumping from one job to another every few months. If you aren’t applying yourself to every job you get, you are missing out on the best part and not really learning anything. That’s cheating yourself. That is one advice I got from my father when I was very young - 'You can fool the world Priya, but never yourself.'

A lot of people believe that every moment on the job should be exciting. There’s no job in this world that won’t get boring once every while. Life and your job are not a movie. The reality is that you can’t edit out the boring moments. They are a part and parcel of every career. So don’t fret and have patience for the tide to turn in your favour.

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