Prioritize and plan

Students who have taken the class 10 examination this year are bracing themselves for all important results in a couple of weeks from now. Whether the results bring out a great yelp or joy or one of pain is as for anybody to guess. A feeling common to all at this point is that no matter what the numbers on the mark sheet indicate they will define the subjects one can choose for the next stage of their professional lives.

The start of the subject debate is almost always the decision between – science, arts or commerce? The confusion is further intensified by the existence of variations within these streams in the form of either bifocal courses or vocational streams.

The responsibility of making the right choice may seem overwhelming but if you break it into smaller steps, there emerges a roadmap that you could potentially follow to make the right choice.

Step 1: Self Assessment

With each new day, new careers and professional opportunities are merging. No matter how tempted you are to change course or take up new things, you must prioritize and choose the best option for yourself.

Your unique strengths abilities, interests, aspirations and even your weaknesses are what help you decide the most viable option for you. Academically it is easy to see the subject areas you are good in, but there is more to life than academic strengths.

Here is an exercise to help you understand your choices better. Sit in a quiet corner and start by noting down the following on a sheet of paper. There is no time limit and you can come back to this often for review.

Skill or things you are good at: Example – calculations, making friends, art, remembering names, repairing things, convincing people etc.
Values or needs your career must fulfill: Example – Status, money, power, helping people, brining a change in society etc.

Weaknesses or things you find boring: Example interacting with people languages sitting in front of a computer, reading long essays etc.

A typical career choice decision matrix looks like this.

Career Choice Decision matrix

Add Subtract

Your Interests Disinterests
Your strengths Things you are good at
Your values
Your passions

Different careers / professionals help you utilize your interests, strengths, values and passions in different ways. It is important to understand all the possible careers you can pursue using the career decision matrix you have developed.

Step 2: Different Career choices

Most of you will end up working in traditional professionals and move along a well planned path, while some of you may end up in professions that neither your parents nor you had heard of before. Whether or not you achieve success depends on a number of internal as well as external factors – such as your interests and personality, employability, the scope of the career, market factors, etc. The only way to lessen the risk of uncertainty is to research a career well before you jump in.

Draw up a table that helps you identify the following:

Research Different careers

Employability or career scope – is it viable?
Personality attributes necessary – do you have them?
Will it interest you?

Next, identify if your interests and personality matches the requirements of the career that you have researched. Only if it does go ahead and think of taking it up further.

Are money, status and power linked only to specific career?

The answer in today’s world is a definite no. Money and status seem to be the most common denominator in our system. More and more youngsters today seem to be making career decisions based only on what they think will fetch them highest pay packages.

However, truth is that if you are good at what you do, the money will certainly follow. If you look around, you will find people from all walks of life who have excelled in their and enjoy a status in the society but did not start off their careers earning very well.

An important question you should ask yourself is how best can I integrate my strengths , special skills and interests with the different career options that exist? The mistake is in believing that there is only one possible successful mould and everybody has to somehow fit into it. In principle, it is possible to leverage your own personality traits in your career planning process and still make pots of money.

Career Influences

Who are the people you should be discussing your career options with? Most of us have the maximum number of discussions with our parents about the choice of career to take. However, parents know their child intimately but may not be aware of all the career options that exist or how career can optimally integrate your strengths.

A counselor can knit your values, abilities, parental observations and aspirations with the different options available — some traditional and hopefully some futuristic. Also they would be able to give you innovative ideas about integrating potential careers with your interests – for example if you have management skills and an interest in fashion a counselor would suggest you take a look at fashion marketing. A good counselor will also give you multiple indications on the possible careers you could be good at. Most of us can be successful in a range of careers with our skills set – a counselor would be able to identify that range for you.

Career decision making needs to be a collaborative approach between parents, students and counselors. Parents bring their experience to the table, students their personality and counselors the knowledge to weave it all together.