Work ethic: A job or a career?

March 8, 2006

What is common to the likes of Mallika Sarabhai, Harsha Bhogle, Vikram Sathye, Aditi Govitrikar and Shreeram Lagoo – and perhaps many others like them? They all educated themselves for a particular profession but went on to do something else as a career.

On the other hand are people like Azim Premji, Dhirubhai Ambani, Harsh Mariwala and several like them who despite a lack of ‘professional education’ pursued ‘careers’ as entrepreneurs, providing careers to many. Add to this analysis, the many ‘well educated qualified professionals’ who languish in jobs that could be done by someone not as ‘qualified’, and feel miserable about it.

That brings us to the moot question – how does one get educated, how does one choose a career and what role should education play in choosing a career? Education is often seen as a passport to a good job and good quality life. More importantly, when people talk of education, they are really talking about formal education. Even today, in most homes, the emphasis is still on being educated enough to get a primary qualification, like engineering or medicine.When I hear such discussions, I remember a story I read many moons ago. In short, it was about two lads in a village.

One went on to complete his education, got a job in a government organisation and was well regarded. His job, however, never excited him and he would drag himself to work everyday, coming to life only when he reached home. By his mid-forties he looked as if he were in his fifties. The second lad did not complete his education, and went on to work with a mechanic. He was not well regarded in his village.

But, he enjoyed what he did. He keenly observed all that happened in the shop, interacted closely with customers and understood their issues. He also learnt to identify defects and find ingenious solutions to them. His reputation as an ace mechanic grew. He managed to set up on his own and soon collected a large clientele. Whenever anyone met him, he would be extremely cheerful, enjoying every moment of his time. In his mid-forties, he still looked thirty.

So, is education about learning in the formal system or is it about learning continuously from life?When it comes to careers too, the defining criteria for what to take up seems to be a good degree of earning and prospects of life-long employment. Thus, many are goaded into stereotyped careers. First, many are pushed into engineering or medicine

Then many jump on to the management bandwagon. Even there, the field they choose is determined by the latest trend. In all this, a person’s natural talents and what s/he can be best at are often overlooked. As a result, very few take the path of self-discovery and choose a career where they enjoy themselves and meet financial needs. Like the names we spoke of at the beginning. Most keep pursuing a ‘career’, but do not get an adequate thrill from it. This is despite the fact that the choice of careers has really exploded.

So, how should one choose a career? Should money decide your career choice or will money follow if you get into a career where your talents flow naturally and in which you can excel?

The big question is should education prepare you to get a job or should it help you discover what you are good at so that you enjoy what you do, thereby perhaps excelling in it as well? If one sees education as a process of discovery, then there are many people who can facilitate this process: parents, teachers, friends, oneself and perhaps later on the first few employers. This adventure of discovery can help an individual design his career on the basis of his strengths and interests. And remember, it’s never too late to begin the journey.

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