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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Narrow down your career choices - Ask our Counsellor Q&A column

[The following column answered by me was published in the Deccan Herald Education supplement of March 13, 2014]

Dear Madam,
I am a student in Class X. The time for me to choose my streams has arrived. I have been a confused person my entire life and this decision seems the most confusing of the lot. It is said that one should choose the subjects one is good at, or the ones one likes. Neither do I have any particular likeliness towards any particular subject, nor do I excel in a particular one. I have no clue what to choose and what to do in the future. People around me are joining various institutions and I have no idea what to do. I am an intelligent student but not good at maths. Now it seems that everyone has decided their streams and here I am with no clue about my future.

Dear Hargun
I think you should take the help of some career counsellor who will help you discover your strengths and aptitude which will give you some direction on which way to go. I understand that you are confused. But let me reassure you that you are not alone in your confusion. Many children at your age do not have clarity about their future path. It does not mean that all is lost. It just means that you need a little help.
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Dear Madam,
I am doing my MBBS in ESI Medical College,Gulbarga. I am not happy to be here because I really want to be a scientist. I feel I should know a lot by now, but I don't. Because that is what scientists need - a thorough knowledge. So now I think I should take one and half year more and get into AIIMS or AFMC or CMC. I know it's not going to be easy, but I am ready to work hard, so that one day I'll be able to do research. I don't know if I am feeling like this because I have not studied what my teachers have taught here. When I told all this to my father, he just convinced me and asked me to put in the same effort here in medicine, and try and get a transfer from Gulbarga to Mysore or Bengaluru,my hometown. This is what my father promised and I agreed. But I am afraid if I have an ability to go to the colleges I mentioned above, I may be losing out by staying here.
Please help me. My father said that people will laugh at my decision. Tell me whether you feel the same way.
Is it difficult to do what I think? What do I need to fulfill my dream? Or am I scared of this 1st year exam in medicine? Manoj

Dear Manoj
I think it is great to dream big, but we need to be able to rein in our dreams with a dose of realism as well. You are the best person to gauge whether what you are aspiring for is realistic or not, given your capability. If you believe it is realistic, you must go for it. Don’t let what people will say about it be your guiding factor. People are limited by their own beliefs and understanding. You know yourself best, and if you feel it is within your grasp you must attempt it. But before you go down any path you must make a realistic assessment of your abilities (i.e. strengths and weaknesses), opportunities and threats. You also must be able to clearly articulate your dream. You say you want to be a scientist. What about being a scientist is appealing to you, as opposed to your current path? What makes you so sure that you will enjoy that path more than your current path? What do you stand to gain from making the change? What do you stand to lose from making the change? Remember, teachers are not a constraining factor in our gaining knowledge, at least not these days when you have access to so much knowledge that is freely available on the internet. If you really want ‘thorough knowledge’, you can gain it no matter which institution you are enrolled in and what subject you are studying in college.
So answer these questions for yourself, and you will find clarity emerge on your true motivation.

Dear Madam
I’m studying in 12th CBSE and appearing for board exams this March. I obtained a 9.4 CGPA in 10th and opted for science and my subjects are PCM and computer science. Although I’m at the peak  of the moment, I am still not clear about my career. I say that I want to get into engineering but keep don't know which branch. I have kept some options for myself but am not able to choose between them. I want any of these (aeronautical, computer science, sound, system, mechanical, ocean or marine) in engineering. The problem with me is that I want to do many things but stick to none. I strongly have interest in archaeology, cyber forensics, animation, but also the above mentioned. I want to do computer science engineering but when I hear people taking it so casually and saying there is no scope for it my heart sinks. Due to my fluctuating opinions even my parents are not able to decide things for me. I always wanted to take up a career that was out of the box and adventurous, always with new things in it and now the irony is that I’m not able to even decide a graduation subject for myself. I am very depressed and tense about this and am not able to concentrate on my studies as I don't get that fire to do something when I study as there seems to be no goal in my life. I told my parents to take me for career counseling since the start of the year, but they did not pay much attention to it, and doing it now seems to be of no use. Ma’am please suggest a suitable career so that I can avoid my fluctuations and focus on my goal. When I read about inspirational personalities and how they came up in their life I feel that I’m no less and even I can do it. I want to do something in my life, something extra-ordinary. Please guide me through this dilemma. I will be very thankful to you. I hope for some solution to my career problem.
A student

Dear student
It is never too late to get some help. Even now, I think it would be helpful for you to get some career counselling. Since you have a very wide range of interests it is important to be able to narrow down your list. The career counselling will help you map your interests with your strengths and aptitude and narrow down your choices. It will also be helpful to talk to people who are working in the various fields that are on your list, and learn from their experiences. Sometimes what a particular career path may require of you, may be quite different from what you imagine it to be. It is time for you to narrow down your choices, not necessarily to one, but to a few which you can then start focusing on. And remember, that while you make a choice at this point of time based on your current knowledge, it may not turn out to be what you want. Which does not mean that you are a failure. All it means is that it did not match your expectations and you need to look for a different fit. No choice needs to be final and fatal, unless you choose to make it so.

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