Very often when we are advised to conduct self analysis we are told to inventory our strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths which include our innate talents as well as skills we have picked up by the virtue of our earlier choices. All this attempt is to decipher what we are good at. The approach to the above exercise has been evolving over years and there are numerous methodologies to understand and arrive at the almost exact set. All career advises, guidance and decisions are then arrived based on the above identified strengths.
While I do not wish to find fault with the methods, or the individual tools, I am beginning to see, that the reason why many times such scientifically worked out options don’t result in happy careers is because of an assumption that is inherently present. The assumption is that your identified strengths is what you love doing. Just like all other assumptions it has the possibility of materializing as a risk. This could probably be the underlying reason why even after a thorough analysis and career planning, happy careers are a rarity.
Isn’t there a fundamental difference between what you love to do and what you are good at doing? What is important is to first understand and acknowledge the difference between the two.
For if you continue to do what you are only good at – in all probability you will be successful but seldom satisfied. And if you persevere to do what you love doing – you will definitely be satisfied – and then being successful or not; would not matter!
The hype about board exams and their importance has not reduced one bit on the contrary the number of people competing in a bracket has increased manifold. While the importance of scoring in these exams may vary depending on their utility value for gaining admissions to prestigious institutes, not much has changed about the exams themselves. If there were 1000 people scoring between 99 and 100 a decade ago – today there are probably 10,000 in the same bracket. The number of seats or admissions at many of the institutes has also gone up in proportions, in a feeble attempt to accommodate this growth. When we hear parents and students discuss competition intensifying, I feel it is very similar to discussing the heat and humidity of every summer compared to previous years. If you actually look at the data more closely one may be surprised that to note that while the quantum of the discussion has changed over the years, the discussion itself has not.
Here are some thoughts that I feel require our collective attention and action:
- When tube becomes a funnel With increasing number of children going to school and with lot of them heading towards peak performance, your overall throughput of higher secondary education is bound to see a spurt and an overall shift to a higher level of performance. But the receiving end of these products – the colleges and under graduate courses has not kept pace. With increased amount of competition we find a number of highly motivated, inspired and energized performers not find alternate options to pursue quality education. This becomes their first experience of friction with the system as they enter the world. It has possibility of changing attitudes instantly to the negative side. While we are all working to get more students through school – are we prepared enough to provide for their further progress?
- Race to the top While all parents and teachers have focused on making the children perform better at the board exam, very little or insignificant effort is seen to get invested in creating and exposing the child to newer opportunities and options. This creates number of graduates who become lost after having completed their college courses – as the options in front of them are even fewer. The mindless herding towards business degree as the next logical step to graduation – if not addressed is going to soon become a societal issue
- Building on Strengths Though the number of aids for personal development has increased, the number of professional counsellors has gone up, the world becoming more connected, the need to earn a living at a young age decreasing – the pressure on the child and family remains on the same set of traditional choices; irrespective of the child’s individual strength. It may be surprising that many of the children do not know or experience what their strengths are even when they complete their collegiate education. This lack of working on strengths gets extended when children finish colleges and start making choices on jobs rather than careers
There are lot of questions and learning that come to one’s mind when one would watch children and parents make their choices after the board exams. Sadly some fundamental things don’t seem to change even with so called focus on development and social awareness. While we are creating a society to be more competitive – are we really enhancing the competitiveness of our people?
As we delve on these topics it is important for policy makers to start looking at longer planning cycles, it is important for teachers and schools to start exposing students to their own strengths and the plethora of new opportunities that are emerging.
A lot of effort, faith and courage is also needed by the parents in enabling the child not just becoming competitive in the short term but helping the child in finding and settling on the most suitable natural path for its vocation. For it is here that true happiness and fulfilment will lie!