Do What You Like or Like What You Do? Choice of Jobs.


Making a choice always appears to be a gamble. It may eventually turn out right or wrong.  At the time of making the choice the circumstances may dictate a certain course of action – which may change later. Who knows! So what do we do when it comes to making choices - choices which are long lasting; choices which are important and will affect us life-long?  Choosing a profession, a life partner, making a major investment, embarking on a new project - are such examples.

Should we simply toss a coin or go where our heart tells us – after all, as they say, it is the heart which finally makes the choice!

We cannot escape it – like it or not, in life, choices have to be made all the time. Various options present themselves at every step. One is forced to weigh the pros and cons and decide. Of course, sometimes doing nothing is also an option – provided it is a deliberate decision and not a fait accomplice!

Sometimes we make a wrong choice. Despite our best efforts and intentions, despite having rationally considered the options, despite having applied all available scientific decision making tools, things do not work out as expected. The decision, in hindsight, appears not only wrong but foolish. Sound familiar? This happens because situations in life are never constant or regular. They are dynamic, transient and constantly changing. Our mind tries to project itself into the future as though it were a linear equation – which it is not. There are lots of practical limitations. Predictions are, therefore, never accurate (listen to the weather bulletins or invest on tips in the stock market and you will see what I mean).

Blaming yourself for a choice made in the past is, therefore, an unwise remedy - if at all it is a remedy. The important point here is not whether a choice was right or wrong – it was always right when it was made – it is how we react to it now. That is what is important.

Choosing a profession is something all of us are confronted with, early in our life. Just after college, or even while still in it, we may, in a placement drive, be offered a job, say in a call centre. Having graduated as an engineer, say in ECE, a job in a call centre may be far from what you were hoping for. However, you got just 65% marks which is not good enough to get you a job in an MNC. What do you do? You may find that you are being offered a job as a junior lecturer in a third rate college, far out of town. You may also have the option of not doing any job but taking a coaching class for GATE, get a good score in the exam, and get into a good PSU or an IIT for M.Tech.  You may also have another option - to join your uncle in his small electronic firm as a junior engineer.

Each of the options has its own positive and negative points. The call centre will give you good pocket money and free time to study for some skill developing course like “embedded systems”, “VLSI”, “Automation” etc. which will elevate you to a very prestigious high paying job later.

A lecturer in a college will give you enough scope to prepare for an M.Tech. and Ph.D. After two years you can decide to either do your M.Tech. or take up a job in a factory or an MNC.

GATE coaching is useful and will give you a high probability of getting a good score in the exam. This will give you a chance to get into a good PSU or a college. If nothing else, it will sharpen your engineering knowledge for any future interviews. In fact even appearing in the GATE exam makes you eligible to appear in the entrance exam of many prestigious PSUs.

Joining your uncle in his small electronics firm will give you hands on industrial experience. You can later apply for many jobs which demand some industrial experience. On the other hand, if you like the job, you can stick on and make a career out of it – after all, your uncle’s firm will also grow with time and so will you!

As you can see, each choice has its own set of opportunities. Of course it can have its own problems too. For example, the call centre may close down; the college may not pay salaries regularly; the GATE paper may be extraordinarily tough; or your uncle may decide to sell his firm and move to South America!

Let me give you my own personal experience. In school, I was one of the best students in my class. Then, in the 1950s, I could have chosen any field that I wanted. I chose to write the NDA exam. My class mates, however, were interested in IIT and wrote that exam. I also wrote the IIT entrance exam. The NDA results, however, came out earlier, and I had passed. I joined the NDA.  I learnt later that I had also cleared the IIT entrance exam, but by then I had already joined NDA. My classmates joined IIT and later went to USA. Who was right, who was wrong?

On looking back, I feel that they led richer and better lives in the US. I spent most of my life in barracks, tents, in the borders, deserts and cantonments. But – if you ask them, they have a totally different view. They feel that the life in India and that too as an Army officer with sports, adventure, mess life, parties and challenging assignments is far better than the grind they went through as second grade citizens in US.

We always tend to see the brighter side of anyone else’s life and not the problems!

My own assessment is that nothing is right or wrong. Nothing is good or bad. It is how we look at it and what we make of it. There are excellent and happy bus drivers, bank clerks, tour guides, washer-men, masseurs and teachers. On the flip side you have enough examples of unhappy CEOs, disgusting bus conductors, hostile and worthless professors and so on. It all depends on how each person treats the cards which are dealt to them.

Here is a small video by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on choices. He makes it very simple. Adopt it.

In so far as choosing a profession goes, here are a few tips:

Decide your likes and dis-likes. This is not easy. To assist you, go back to your school / college days and list down the following:

Subjects which interested you and those which did not.
Subjects in which you generally scored well and those in which you did not.
Subjects which caused you anxiety, confusion or disinterest.

Based on the above, make a list of the areas you are good at or which interest you (as against those which you are not good at and those you dislike).
Make a list of at least five companies you would like to work for. While doing this deicide on issues like big or small company, Indian company or MNC, manufacturing or research type of company, location of the company etc.
List the type of job in a company that you would prefer. Would you like to be in Production/Manufacturing, HR, Administration, Tool design, Quality Control, R&D, Material Management, Marketing etc.?
Research the companies that you have listed to find out when they advertise for jobs, what is their selection procedure, what are the eligibility criteria etc.
Try to find out from alumni or older employees as to their interview procedure.

Prepare accordingly. 

In conclusion therefore, I may say that on the matter of choice of jobs, in recent discussions I have had with students, whether to accept the first offer that comes along, whatever the field, or patiently wait for the right type of job you are looking for, is a controversial issue.

On the one hand, some argue that it is far better to have a long term point of view, to look for a career and not for a job. From this perspective, and given the fact that one is still young and not pressed by social or family commitments, the luxury of waiting for the ‘right job to come by’, may be justified. On the other hand, however, others argue that rarely, if ever, do youngsters actually know what they want. Their ideal “job description” is imagined and built up from, often, one sided descriptions from friends and seniors who are most often bragging.

In the words of Srikumar S. Rao, author of best-selling books “Are you ready to succeed” and “Happiness at Work”, there’s a lot of good in every job, every situation – just matters what you have learned to focus on”.

According to this view, it is more about learning to like your job than having a job that you like.

My own view is that one should be pragmatic and take a decision based on ground realities – how is the job market? Is it likely that you will get a job of your liking in a reasonable period of time? Can you not treat the present offer as a waiting period in which you are keeping yourself occupied and gaining some experience?

Though I concede that one should have a long term perspective of a career in one’s chosen discipline, I still maintain that one should not close all other options. An engineer may make a good model, or a Finance MBA may find HR equally challenging.

If the circumstances dictate an awkward option, I would give it a go. The issue is important because waiting for the right job may take time – too much time! And result in loss in many fronts. A wait for some time – may, however, be worth it.

Its about how to get from where you are to where you want to be

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