It is a tough choice when you are 15, 17 or even 25 years old to decide what you want to be in life. I am reliving those tough moments with my daughter who recently finished her secondary board examinations. Over the past several weeks, there have been animated discussions at home on subjects to study in higher secondary, courses to study after college and her longer-term life and career goals. Like most other 15-year-olds, she doesn’t have any idea of the kind of career she wants to pursue. Therefore, she is unsure what she should study in higher secondary and college.
My suggestion to her has been to take up those subjects that give her the maximum choice after school. She has, after all, the next two years to decide what she wants to study in college. Leave as many options open as possible—for now.
Being a part of Naukri.com, I have a large number of young people coming to me for advice on career choices and courses. My advice to these youngsters and their parents has always been that a career choice should be decided by examining three questions: What are you passionate about? What are you good at? Where are the opportunities?
What are you passionate about?
This is the most important question to answer when making career choices. If you know what you are passionate about early on in life, that’s great.
The truth is that most young people have not discovered what they are passionate about and what their true calling in life is. They, at best, have a hazy idea of what their interests are. Doing work you love means that even if you are not financially successful, you will still find happiness. It means that you will work hard, be committed and persist. This will increase your chances of success in your chosen path.
Also Read Sanjeev Bikhchandani’s earlier columns
In general, people who are passionate about what they are doing tend to be more successful than those who aren’t. This is why venture capitalists like to back entrepreneurs who are passionate about their idea and are committed to it—they have a higher chance of success. Therefore, it is important that you try different things and try and discover your passion, and then chase it.
What are you good at?
Most young people have some sort of notion about what they are good at. But this is usually in terms of academic subjects and not necessarily in areas of work. There are all kinds of tests that students can take to get an idea of where their aptitude lies. I am not a great believer in these tests. They at best reflect where you are today and not what you can become.
So it is not what I am good at today. It is more about what I can become good at tomorrow. And that is about what I am passionate about rather than what my capabilities are currently. The fact is that you will work harder at something you are passionate about and, with practice, you will become better at it. As you become better at it, you will enjoy doing it more and your passion will find more fuel. Passion and aptitude go hand in hand; they evolve over time. So if you discover your passion, you will find that if you are not good at it today you will become good at it over time.
Where are the opportunities?
While this is the third important question to answer, the truth is that in India today, there are opportunities everywhere. Financial success is possible in every field of endeavour if you excel. So this question is becoming less and less relevant over time.
Sure, there are some fields where the opportunities are so large that even if you don’t excel you can be comfortable financially, and in others you have to be really good at what you do in order to be similarly successful. So we often take the safer option of doing things where financial success comes easier, even if it means we end up doing work that we are not passionate about. This is a suboptimal choice.
If you do what you are passionate about, you will excel at it and chances are that you will find financial success along with recognition and happiness and fulfilment.
So finally, it all boils down to one question—what are you passionate about?
The author is co-founder and chief executive officer, InfoEdge (India) Ltd, which runs the Web portal Naukri.com. He writes a monthly column on careers and enterprise.
Respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org