Is there a right age to choose a career?

Research has proved that we humans are not great at predicting how we will feel in the future about our career choices. Young raring minds often embark upon a career thinking that they would love it and excel in it, only to find themselves not particularly enjoying it a few years down the line. 

In India, by the time the student is in Class IX, there is pressure building up to decide upon a career path. The Standard X mark sheet only reconfirms whether or not you can pursue that career path. Is this how it’s meant to be?

Firstly, at the age of 15 years is our mind strong enough to decide on the best lifetime career choice? Will the career choice provide financial and emotional fulfillment over the years? Will the same career, sustain in today’s fast changing, technology driven world? May or may not be! At that age our minds are nubile and often influenced by teachers, family and friends around. Maybe it’s too early to make a decision then.

By the age of 40years, eventually not only myself but also my friends were getting into second careers in absolute contrast and different from the first one. From banking to being an entrepreneur, from FMCG to an actor, from an editor to a startup. The change has been dramatic. The only question arises, if that was the first choice wouldn’t we be masters in it by now? Were we not equipped enough to take the right decision then? Since, in this case, we are all starting anew from ground zero, the question comes to mind.

Deliberating about it, I would like to share a few factors that may assist youngsters to arrive at a better decision to pursue a career path in the early years of college education:-

1. Look at well-established careers: Few traditional careers like medicine, sailing, etc will continue over the years. Skills will need to be constantly upgraded with the incoming of robotics and artificial intelligence but the chances are less that these careers will be wiped away in your lifetime.

2. Look at the latest and new career options: Parents still have a mindset about making their kids pursue a career they think may appear suitable for the kid. They like the kids to ride on their coat tails. Often, if parents are doctors, they expect the kid to choose medicine. It’s time parents and youngsters reconsidered the latest/niche career options available worldwide. From a singer to choreographer, from a graphic designer to sports management, from modeling to restaurateur, from biomedical engineer to research analyst, umpteen new choices are available. So look within and make the long lasting choice to make your dream come true!

3. Follow not your heart but your skill set: Right from early childhood if a child is exhibiting better set of skills in a particular area, the teacher should nurture the child further towards that direction. Likes and dislikes change with age and time but an acquired skill set is honed over time. Loving a subject may not be enough. One should have the skills that are required to pursue it.

4. Don’t mix up a hobby for a job at the onset of your career: A hobby can be nurtured into a career but it takes time and effort. Not all hobbies can turn into lucrative career opportunities. So do check if your hobby is backed by education, the finance and will power to retain the interest. For example, not all artists can achieve fame and monetary gratification like M.F. Hussein or S.H. Raza. So weigh your pros and cons.

5. Ascertain whether you ‘promotion focused’ or ‘prevention focused’: Choice of careers for people who are ‘promotion focused’ differ from choice of careers for those who are ‘prevention focused’. People who chose a career path with promotion focus are constantly self-motivated and looking for opportunities to achieving higher and higher goals and promotions. On the other hand, if your goal is ‘prevention focused’, it will point more towards financial and emotional security to fulfill life’s responsibilities.

So, basically your career choice boils down to read, research, realize! Be aware of the multiple choices and ask yourself if that is your best fit.

Today in rural India, though the government is providing free education, why do we have such a high rate of dropouts from school? Well, for some at the age of 15 years, it may be socioeconomic pressures to start working in the fields, for some it may be shying away from educational institutions in the city to pursue higher education. The recent case of Dr. Payal Tadvi, is a sad example how a young doctor from rural India was berated and intimidated by colleagues and could not find a place to stand amongst her ‘urban’ fellow doctors. Are the children taught to face life’s difficulties and struggles? Does the education system go beyond preparing us to pursue a career with a paper degree? Could the right career help make one’s mind stronger?

Ultimately the choice of a career should be in your hands. It’s not only the age but preparedness that defines the right choice.  There are also educational institutes, which offer part time/online courses if you wish to pursue education in later years. The digital era is also seeing a huge shift from the established 9am-5pm job to working from home or working on a freelance basis.

Don’t select a university and a career basis your mark sheet only. Don’t commence a career for the love of it. Take time. Let it be a well-informed decision. You have to live with the choice, so ensure it’s what you want and what will you to pursue it in the years ahead.

Conclusion: There is never ‘the right’ or ‘the wrong’ age to choose a career. Every person has different maturity level and understanding. Don’t let your age be either a criteria or an excuse for the choices you make. It’s all about informed decisions. When you can look back and feel good, you have done it right!

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