Call it a product of the (erstwhile) socialist setup of the Indian economy, but the two most popular professions in our country have been that of doctor and engineer. The indomitable Indian common sense has also argued that a large, populous country will always need medical professionals and people who could develop infrastructure (the latter was justified by the Nehruvian vision). All other callings were for children who were ‘less intelligent’ and couldn’t get admission in engineering and medical colleges. For example, as recently as the nineties, if you joined hotel management institute, neighbours and relatives alike would heap shame on you and assume that cleaning toilets was all that you would be doing for the rest of your life. Culinary expertise or managing a profit centre somehow never formed part of their thought process. On the other hand, in the same decade, if you were learning how to code software, you were elevated to god-like status. At the turn of the century, the MBA craze was in full swing, irrespective of the fact whether you had it in you or not to manage a business. In fact, inexplicably, the career most youngsters pursue has more to do with external factors – parents’ expectations, peer pressure, monetary expectations – than their abilities. More than a century ago, German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had said, “People are so constituted that everybody would rather undertake what they see others do, whether they have an aptitude for it or not.” And how true it stands even today. Motivation?
Aspiration? Happiness? Long-term satisfaction? Most are too ill-informed or just pushed in a corner to be able to think ahead about such things.
Why does it matter?
So, what has changed and why are we talking about aptitude? One big reason is that the aspirations of Indians have never been higher. We have ‘arrived’ and it feels like each one of us finally has a date with destiny. We also have much greater exposure, thanks to the internet, and television. While we may be spoilt for choices, it does seem easier to decide what we want to take up as a profession – all one needs to look at is what kind of content we are consuming. For example, girls and guys hooked to motor sports could, in today’s India, contemplate various careers connected with it, like automobile engineering. Students who find themselves constantly flipping to channels like Discovery or Animal Planet could steer themselves towards a career in conservation.
Of course, this is too simplistic an approach. While a passion is all nice and good, physical and mental attributes – some innate, others developed – are essential to a satisfying career. For example, good dexterity is important whether you aim to be a surgeon or a violinist. Ideation and analytical skills are important for both journalists as well as architects. For each established profession, there are well-researched competency maps that lay down the skills, attitudes and other attributes that a person entering the line of work requires to succeed. To determine what kind of innate abilities, there are a host of aptitude tests that give you a broad sense of how you score on various parameters.
Therefore, passion, combined with an analysis of your attributes, can help you determine the profession where you are likely to find success, room for expanding your mind, finding self-expression, and success.
To help you see that focusing on finding out what you are naturally suited for, and why choosing such a career is in your long-term interest, we have invited a renowned career counsellor, a developmental psychologist and a life-skills coach to write about various aspects of discovering your calling and going after it. Happy reading and all the best - may you find what you were made for.