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Thursday, 5 March 2015

Pursue your passion - Ask our counsellor Q&A column

[The following column,  answered by me, was published in the Deccan Herald Education supplement of March 5, 2015]

Pursue your passion

Dear Madam,
I passionate about music and aspire to make a career in it. But since my 
parents weren't supportive of this, I joined an engineering course. But my focus in engineering is getting diverted due to my music classes. Consequently, my results are suffering. I am under a lot of stress. Kindly help me out. Prateek M
Dear Prateek,
I think it is important for you to be able to pursue your passion, if you truly believe in it. But you must be able to convince yourself, and those around you, that is truly what you would like to do. Build out a plan on how you are going to pursue your music, and how you are going to build a sustainable livelihood based on it. In the process of this plan, you may realize that building a livelihood on music is not practical, in which case you must have a Plan B. Or you may realize that it is possible to have a steady source of income based on music, in which case you must share that plan with your parents to put their fears to rest. After all, your parents are concerned for your well-being and their anxieties and pressure stems from a genuine desire to ensure you have a secure future. 

If you can share a detailed plan with them on how music will let you do that, while at the same time allowing you to follow your passion, they will be more than happy. It is possible that at the present moment they see it only as a distraction from your studies and are therefore, concerned about where you are headed. So, to reduce your own stress, and allay the fears of your parents, you must flesh out the plan of a life based on music and see where it takes you. All the best.

Dear Madam,
I am in the second year of my computer science engineering course. My communication skills are weak and I don’t have the confidence to talk to someone in English. Even during classes, I hesitate to clear my doubts because of this. How can I improve my communication skills? Ray

Dear Ray,
I understand that you are scared to ask any question in class because you are not confident about your English speaking skills. Ask yourself what is your worst fear around this? What is the worst thing that you think may happen if you were to ask something in class, and your English was less than perfect. Remember, no one is perfect and no one gets things right every time. The only way to learn is by making mistakes and learning from them. You did not learn to walk without ever falling down. But now that you have learnt to walk, aren't you thankful for the fact that you took the risk of falling while learning. In the same way, take the risk of making a mistake while speaking, because confidence only comes with knowledge and practice. And to aid you in the process, try speaking English whenever you are with people you are comfortable with (like your friends and family). Make speaking English your mantra – each time, every time. You could also join a class to help you get some confidence. Force yourself to read English newspapers, magazines and books. Listen to the English news and other programmes on television as well. But there is no short-cut to speaking. So take the risk and speak. After all what is the worst that can happen? Nothing more than a couple of inconsequential laughs which will soon be forgotten. 

Are you going to let the fear of some inconsequential person laughing at you for a moment, hold you back in life from achieving your potential? Think about it. All the best.

Dear Madam,
I am 21 years old. I have a backlog in my final year B.Sc course (physics, mathematics and electronics), which I will clear this year, in June. My dad wants me to do B.Ed (a teachers’ training course), which I am not interested in. So, I have decided to work, earn some money and later pursue courses of my choice. But my dad isn't comfortable with me working night shifts or anywhere outside Bengaluru. So, what kind of a job should I look for? Chaithra N

Dear Chaithra,
I am not a career counsellor, nor do I run a placement service, so I will not be able to tell you what kind of job to apply for and how to go about it. Nor can I tell you how to continue your studies further. However, I do believe you should do what you heart tells you to, and what you are good at. Even though you may not think so, it is possible to communicate with parents and discuss your options, understand their point of view and explain your own. You are allowed to have a point of view, and express it, though sometimes as children we are told that we need to only follow what are parents say. 

So, my suggestion would be to understand why your parents want you to do what they want you to do. Then understand for yourself, why you do not want to do that, and why you think the path you are choosing is better. Then understand your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and limitations ahead of you. In this self analysis, things will become clearer to you about what path will work. Try and take up a job that leverages on your strengths and is of interest to you. It is not about searching for a job. It is about building a career. A job is a short-term goal. A career will stay with you for life. All the best.

Dear Madam,
I currently in my final semester of mechanical engineering. I am quite good at studies and have no backlogs and have an overall distinction CGPA. In about two months, I will graduate and I haven’t appeared for any campus interviews as most of them are for software companies and I wish to work in a core mechanical company. But my real passion lies in boxing. I have been boxing since I was 18-years-old. I don’t have any personal coach but I am pretty good at this sport and wish to make my mark as a boxer. But not many opportunities have come my way in this field. So, should I look for a mechanical engineering job or follow my passion? Are there any options where I could do both? Adithya Kashyap

Dear Adithya,
I am not someone who can guide you on opportunities that are available in boxing because I do not have any knowledge in that field. However, it is important that you be able to build for yourself a sustainable livelihood with whatever field you choose. If you can visualize that with boxing, by all means go for it. However, if you cannot, then it may be in your interest to pursue it as a hobby. Maybe you can ensure your linkages with the sport in a way that helps build the environment for it for coming generations. Maybe you can work with a company that will give you the opportunity to also build on your passion. Maybe you can become a coach yourself. 

You must visualize your life as a boxer and see what you like about it and dislike about it. Visualize your life as an engineer and do the same. Talk to people who are already in both the fields and see what they have to say about it. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Define what success means to you and see if which career path will align you better with your definition of success. Career choices are personal and best made after some serious self-analysis and introspection. And take whatever help you need in this process. All the best.

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