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How to choose your calling

The choice of a career is possibly one of the most important decisions of our lives, and should be given due thought and deliberation.

education Updated: May 11, 2011 09:22 IST
Usha Albuquerque

Ishaan loves football more than studies, gets average marks and dreams of becoming a DJ, a chef, a computer hacker or a pilot. Shruti is a ‘90 percenter’ who loves biology and maths, but cannot decide whether she should take up biotechnology, or aerospace engineering. Choosing a career can seem like a daunting task, more so when you have limited knowledge about careers, still less about yourself and you allow parental and societal pressures, that should rightly be irrelevant, dominate your decision.

The choice of a career is possibly one of the most important decisions of our lives, and should be given due thought and deliberation. There are four major steps to planning you career:

1 Before you can make a career choice you have to learn about yourself. It is your life, your career – and you should give serious thought to how you would like to spend the rest of your life. Self-assessment is the process of gathering information about yourself in order to make an informed career decision.

Each individual possesses a range of talents, and interests, which in combination with certain personality traits, can help decide the kinds of work that are best for you. There is nothing more powerful or more exciting than knowing what you do well, and being able to select the skill you prefer to use to pursue a career.

With the use of a range of self assessment tools you can identify your abilities – what you are good at, and what comes easily and naturally to you, your interests – what you enjoy doing, and your personality – the individual traits that characterise you. There are psychometric tests available to measure the relative strength of a range of abilities, such as scientific, numerical, reasoning, verbal, and so on, in an individual. Exercises and questionnaires can help identify these areas of interest, likes and dislikes, personality traits, motivational drives, needs, and attitudes and guide you towards careers most likely to give you success and satisfaction.

You can conduct your own assessment, talk to your teachers and parents, ask your friends and peers and work out a profile for you. You can also talk to career counsellors and career guidance professionals who are trained to administer these tests and can provide detailed guidance on the most suitable career options based on the analysis of the test, keeping in mind your educational background, your strengths and weaknesses, your personal aspirations and so on.

2 You also need to be aware of the opportunities that exist in the world of work. Never before have there been as many career options as there are today.

Innumerable career opportunities exist, and are being created all the time, not just in this country but also abroad. Therefore, you need to get as much information as you can about the careers that interest you. Find out more about the nature of the jobs that interest you, what kind of work will you be doing, the environment and working conditions, salary, future outlook, and anything else that can help you narrow your focus.

List down at least four to five career options and against each note down the educational requirements, study route, and the pros and cons of each of them.

Also, match your interest, ability and personality against each of those options, and see which ones appeal to you the most. Each field has its own aura and attraction, and you should identify the one which makes you most comfortable, for unless you are, you cannot enjoy your work.

3 Match your skills and interests with the occupations you have selected. The career that matches your skills, interests, and personality the closest may be the career for you. To choose work that will be satisfying to you, it’s important to know which interest categories attracts you the most and match it with the work of the same category. Find out as much as you can about the job you will do, the abilities and skills required, and talk to people in the field of interest.

4 Once you’ve decided what occupation matches up best with you, you can begin developing a plan to reach your career goal. Your plan should include all the information you have gathered about your four to five career options along with:

. Your study options: higher educational courses, degree or training programmes that best meet your career goals

. Institutions offering these courses in India and abroad

. The steps you need to take to equip yourself for the world of work. Some possible internship/ or apprenticeship in the field of your choice, can help you identify if this is the right place for you

. Development of some skills: There are a range of skills that can be useful for any career. They could be technical skills such as computer, language, cooking, drawing as also personal skills like communication, leadership or management skills. Sometimes it is important to have these skills as they enhance your career prospects

You can develop some of the skills through your daily activities. Students who participate in debates and compering activities improve communication skills.

Working together with classmates on a show can help develop leadership and management skills, while designing costumes and sets for a school or college concert can refine your creative skills.

Finally, it is important to have a realistic approach to the choice of career. We can only build a successful career when we know what we can do well, and are able to equip ourselves with the key to making the right career decision.