After you graduate from schools and colleges, you spend most of your life working. It’s important to enjoy and excel at what you do to be happy and satisfied with your life. However, this is possible only if you combine your passion and expertise. In a competitive world, it is ideal to narrow down your career choices and make well informed decisions just after you step out of school. An early start can go a long way in deciding how successful you are later in your life. It is understandable that making a definitive career choice at this age is a daunting task. Especially when your choices and preferences keep evolving.
Here is a 3 step guide to help you in making a good career choice.
1. Know yourself
Before you start looking up words like "well-paying career options", and before you ask your parents, neighbours, and seniors about what they think is the right career for you, you must know yourself.
How does this work?
Knowing more about yourself happens in two ways.
a. Know what you are interested in: It is very important to know what subjects interest you, which classes can you absolutely not miss, and which subjects would you love to buy reference books for. Ask yourself these basic questions if you don't know what your interests are. Remember, you will not progress in your career, even if you have adequate skills for it if you find it boring and deadbeat.
b. Know what you are capable of: No matter how interested you are in a particular field, you may not receive admission in a good college, and even if you do, you may not be employable after you graduate. Which is why, it is important to find out what you are most capable of. Which subjects are you naturally good at? In which subjects do your friends ask for your help? Answer these questions to know what your capabilities are.
Next, make a list of your interests and capabilities and choose the subjects which fall on both sides. These will form the base for making the final career choice.
2. Increase your awareness
Once you know what you are interested in, and what you are capable of, it is time to know which career options are best suited to your choice of subjects.
Now, it is time to research your career options online, and speak to your parents and seniors. You will have more pointed questions to ask them, and will know what suggestions you should and shouldn't consider.
Let’s have a look at the three major streams, and careers that you can pursue.
a. Science: If you are interested in science and are good at it, you can follow four major fields.
i. Engineering: Engineers do a lot more than change light bulbs or provide technical assistance. They can change the future by applying scientific and mathematical principles to commercial uses. To study engineering, you should excel at physics, chemistry, and maths (PCM). Several entrance exams like JEE Main, JEE Advanced, BITSAT, State CETs, and VITJEE can help you pave the way into various engineering colleges.
b. Commerce: If you want to be the backbone of a company, you can follow five major fields. You must be good at maths to pursue most commerce fields, though some don’t require it.
i. Chartered Accountant: Help companies with taxation, audits, mergers and more! The CA program is divided into three sections - Common Proficiency Test (CPT), Integrated Professional Competence Course (IPCC), and Final Course.
c. Arts: If you are the creative sorts, or if your talent lies in how well you can talk, then this is the stream for you. You can pursue five major streams:
i. Law: Lawyers can change the future and rewrite the history of individuals, companies, and entire governments. To pursue law, you will need to attempt the Common Law Admission Test which is a centralised test for admission to 19 National Law Universities in India.
3. Find out what it takes
Once you have shortlisted potential career options, find out more about what it takes to be successful in that career.
a. What are the top colleges that offer such courses? For engineering, you should look at the top IITs. For medicine, the top colleges are government colleges like GMC or LHMC and other AIIMS colleges. For CA, focus on clearing all groups in the first attempt. For Management, look at top IIMs for MBA degrees. When it comes to Law, National Law University comes among the top few. For Design, focus on NID and NIFTs.
b. Will you need to give any competitive exams? As discussed earlier, each course has its own set of exams which you can give. However, some exams are easier than others. For example, state CETs for engineering and medical are much easier than national level exams like JEE Main or NEET.
c. How much do you need to score to get admission in the best colleges and why is a good score important? When it comes to engineering, you must get a very high rank (500 and above) to guarantee a college and course of your choice. For medical, high scores are required for admissions in government run colleges, which have better exposure, and come at a much cheaper price than private colleges. When it comes to media, top scores in your 10+2 exams are necessary to get admission in colleges which have a good alumni body to help with placements.
d. How much money will you need to pursue that career? Some professions like dentistry and specialisations in the medical field require much more funds than others. Moreover, different colleges offer the same course have different fee structures depending on their affiliations with the government. It is important to speak to your parents about money that you would require in the long run for pursuing a field of your choice.
e. What does the day in the life of a typical professional look like? Media people do not attend parties every night and doctors often have 24 hour shifts. It is important to know what the most boring aspects of your shortlisted careers are. This will help you be better prepared and you will avoid any unpleasant surprises on the job.
f. Does this career have scope of growth in India or will you have to move? Some careers like research based professions in the pharmaceutical or pure sciences industry, or even animators and designers in the film industry have better scope outside the country.
Once you find out more about your career, you will be able to further narrow down your options to two or three choices. You don't want to close too many doors. It is wise to keep a few backup options and have a plan B. All of these steps will help you get clarity on what kind of work you should be involved in for the rest of your life.
Remember, follow your dream with your heart and have the courage to see it through.
About the Author:
Manish Kumar graduated from IIT Bombay in 2006 with a degree in Metallurgical and Materials Science. He then pursued masters in Materials Science Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. Post his graduation, he joined Indian School Finance Company, where he was part of the core team responsible for business strategies and growth. In 2013, he co-founded SEED Schools, a venture focused on improving quality of low-cost K-12 education in India with a vision to make quality education accessible. He is currently Vice President of Product - Learning & Pedagogy at Toppr.com.