Career: journey or destination?

Career: journey or destination?

Career: journey or destination?

Post-independence India saw a surge of professionals, mainly doctors, lawyers, chartered accountants, civil servants, armed forces officers, pilots and engineers who all had something in common. They chose their careers before they turned 25, often after finishing high school. Having taken this momentous, life-changing decision rather early on, they went on to take other equally momentous decisions — got married, had kids and ‘settled down’ — following the commonly accepted pattern set by the Indian society at large.

Less than a decade ago, candidates used to dread being asked a common question during interviews — “Why did you do an MBA after studying Biotechnology?” or worse, “Why are you quitting your current job?” Today, youngsters have no qualms in admitting that they may be trying out a technology-based role, even though their interest may rest with a sales profile. It is okay for children to try multiple things, to change courses more than once in their lives, to rediscover and re-invent themselves as they go along.

Changing a career path no longer has a social stigma attached to it and more often than not, provides positive results. It allows individuals to react to changing technologies and market conditions and take on jobs that were virtually non-existent when one graduated from high school. Who would have even thought of being a social media manager or a digital content writer 10 years ago? Today, these are full grown professions.

Research shows that people make major changes in their work and careers at different stages in their lives. We all have received advice from adults and answered the perpetual questions on our plans after high school. Children are often made to think in an age-old manner and stick to generic courses like Law, Design, Liberal Arts, Computer Science, Medicine, Engineering, Accounting etc. If one course leads to alpha, the other leads to delta.

Why don’t we encourage them to think about entrepreneurship or arts? Did Bill Gates not start Microsoft at the age of 20? Didn’t Mark Zuckerberg launch Facebook at 19? Some kids expect to reach to the stars right after high school while others want to extend the fun of being a teenager a little longer and thus, stay away from taking a big decision after college.

No matter which category your child belongs to, they should be made to realise that the phase post-school will really be the 10 toughest and most fun years of their life. The only phase in which they most likely will work round the clock and still find time to party. When the world will be their oyster and they will learn and discover their strengths. Encourage your children to build their skills and credentials; guide them in finding their feet and hopefully, their own self.

Something changes as one hits 30. Psychologist David Levinson, a pioneer in adult development studies, called this ‘The Age Thirty Transition’. Individuals are treated as full-blown contributing members of the society, expected to exercise political rights and financial independence. They called the 40-45 period as ‘mid-life crisis’ but, today it appears to be the fountain of creativity and often start new enterprises and careers.

At the same time, one is wiser, stronger, more self-aware and supported by long-lasting friendships. Mark Pincus was 41 when he set up Zynga Games that has made successful web-based games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. I remember being told once, that anyone over 60 is essentially a grandparent. On the contrary, many people look to engage themselves creatively post retirement with work and hobbies that they had once dreamt of. Hence, it is important to understand following aspects:

Whatever may be your age, it’s great to have a vision. Dream big and give that pot of gold a shot. Connect with your mojo and take the plunge.

Failure is only what’s happening right now. This too shall pass. Are there any lessons to be learnt? Friends to make? Mentors to learn from? Any small successes to build on later? Pick up what is valuable from such experiences and move on. You never know what you could create tomorrow.

Keep room for change. Don’t insist on finding all the answers right now. You may find talents in yourself that are still brewing and you may find career paths that you did not even think of.

Career is a journey, not a destination. Mostly we can see till the next hill, perhaps a decade at best. So, give this decade your best and follow your best dream. Till the next stopover.

(The author is with Inomi, Bengaluru)