If you are coming out of college, how do you start thinking about your career? Or, if you came out of college a few years ago, and have dawdled through various things you don't like, how do you re-think about your career all over again? Indeed there could be numerous variations of this scenario, each person having an individual one, and the key question to ask is whether there are any general rules to think about careers at all. And, if you want to get really deep, you may start musing what's a career anyway.
Let's start with the philosophical one. My favourite story about this is the story of the young man who was fishing in a pond middle of the day when he got accosted by a busy type, may be some distant uncle. Horrified with this young man's laziness, the older man advised him to abandon leisurely pursuits and get some productive engagement - education, employment or training whatever. The younger man asked him what would happen if he did that: The older man told him about all the good things that could happen - the pursuit of happiness thing. The younger man asked him what would happen if he got rich: He would be able to do whatever he liked, like fishing in the afternoon, the older man answered. But, then, asked the annoyed younger man, was he not doing that already?
This is an old story and indeed we can start picking the argument quite easily. But the broader point is that there is little point talking about a career without thinking through why one should take the trouble. For many people in the developing countries, this point is really so simple that it does not need any elaboration: They have to strive hard to get a better life in terms of money, and all the other elements of happiness. From that vantage point, deliberating what a career is for may indeed not make sense. However, from another, empirical, standpoint, when we see millions of people feeling wasted mid-career, with lives no better than they started with, this whole pursuit of happiness thing may look quite phoney. The more obvious likeness is with the fateful ride of the six hundred, this one unsung.
Becoming the canon-fodder isn't a smart career strategy, and this is why starting with the philosophical question, even if that leads to practical answers, such as job and money, may make abundant sense. In fact, what a career is for isn't a philosophical question at all, but a guard against buying too much of the self-serving emerging middle class rhetoric, particularly when middle classes, for all practical purposes, are submerging. Raising a question such as this should lead one to the core issues of careers today, that it is ever changing, and that stereotypical dream of a job after school is actually well past its sale-by date as far dreams are concerned.
One is much better served, whichever country one is in, to think about their objectives in the face of the two dominant forces shaping our lives: Globalisation and Automation. An understanding of what globalisation is doing to their lives, professions they want to be in and the dreams they have shaped for themselves, is enormously helpful to get started on career thinking. Ditto for automation as it reaches some kind of tipping point, changing the terms of engagement for most jobs and work.
This may sound like a tough ask - to ask twenty year olds to think about such mighty topics - but it is really basic. Globalisation and automation is really everywhere, and an appreciation of them should lead to one key understanding: That the future isn't going to look like the past. The first problem with our career thinking, that assumption that life will continue to be exactly as it is, should go away if one develops an understanding of the forces shaping the change. They may reach different conclusions, but they may also get closer to general principles, such as one may have different careers through his/her life, and that one needs to keep moving everyday. They may also discover their strengths, they may be forced to think what they are good at, something that really gets obscured in the business of buzzwords that career gurus unleashed on us.
Such thinking is a design exercise, and if done well, it can have unexpected results. One may discover some of the things one had strengths on but nearly forgotten: How many people have suddenly remembered that they were good at drama/ music/ writing when forced to think what they are really good at? They may also discover the inevitability of certain things - that you can't really hide from the internet, for example, or that learning another language may be one of the best career investments one can do. They may also discover opportunities to build their strengths, traveling being one example. In short, if one could be jolted out of thinking their fathers' careers to be their own, lots of unexpected things may happen.
So, here are my five questions to make you think about your career:
1. What are you really good at?
2. What do you love that you can be really good at?
3. How do you make someone pay for what you are really good at?
4. Can you be the World's Best in what you are good at?
5. How can you harness technology to become even better at what you are good at?
My argument is that these questions will focus one's mind on 'core competencies' - at an individual level - and allow him/her to think about various strategies to build a career around these, once s/he is clear about the objectives. These questions will take into account the twin forces of globalisation and automation, and hopefully allow people to think of 'development' seriously. These would also take the discussion beyond the buzzwords and allow some serious thinking around 'benchmarks' - what is being good at means or how to define world's best - which makes career discussion more real than ever.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.