I have always considered myself an ambitious person. Having the drive to do something big, making a dent in the world with my writing – it was all there.
But by the time I got out of college, the drive was lost.
College life was rife with my peers taking one calculated step after another, answering interview questions on where they see themselves 5 years from the present. At 21, I felt like an outcast because I had no idea how to answer that question.
With so many paths available for us to explore, how could anyone answer that question?
Now, even as I turn 28, good at my job and yet not entirely sure of my career path, I can’t help but wonder: What if I still don’t have it figured out?
We’re Expected To Know What We Want Straight Out Of College
We’re living lives that are designed to force a career path-related decision out of us.
When I was studying, internships were an integral part of my course curriculum. We were encouraged to apply in varied fields to develop a holistic view of the world along with our interests. This was encouraged so vehemently that we had one compulsory internship at the end of each semester – that left me with five internships by the time I got done. With a total of seven – yes, seven – internships in my kitty by the end of my Master’s degree, I was more than confident that this impressive list would give me an edge over other candidates during the job search process.
But I was told that my internships meant nothing because I didn’t have experience doing just one thing all this time.
When educational institutions encourage students to try as many things as possible, why can’t we walk into the world with the same kind of curiosity? Why is there an age-limit to trying out new things?
Internships – an opportunity to learn something without the pressure of being great at it – are provided to students so they can figure out exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. And being unsure after all that proves to be detrimental to their career. Imagine the pressure!
We Attach Our Self-Worth To Our Work
Though I’d specialised in advertising, I didn’t move forward in that direction because I simply hated the field. I got a job as a writer out of college, and I developed another interest – social sciences. Reading about women’s issues and feminism made me keen on learning more about it and involving myself in research. I quit my job and decided to pursue my Master’s degree in Gender Studies – something absolutely unheard of.
Will I be able to get a job after this? What if I don’t want to pursue a PhD? Will I still get a job as a writer? I had my big moments of doubt. But what made my anxiety worse was all the people around me asking me why I didn’t go for something more lucrative.
But you’ve studied advertising, right? How will gender studies add to that? There was a collective gasp at the fact that my education wasn’t directly helping me rake in more money.
Harbouring a dream of getting rich isn’t the worst thing in the world. Those who weren’t born into wealth can have a different outlook – maybe making money is the end goal. But with social and cultural roadblocks, it can get difficult to access education that can bring in more money.
With colleges, schools, and even coaching classes getting privatised, we’re forced to put in money to be able to make money in the future.
Subjects such as social science, history, and philosophy are the easiest to access, but they don’t guarantee great monetary returns. The system itself has set a majority of us up for failure – why have we collectively allowed our self-worth to be judged by it?
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We Consider The Age Of 30 As The Time To ‘Settle Down’
If you’re a woman reading this, you’re more than familiar with shaadi pressure. When I turned 25, my mother announced that she was ready to set up a matrimonial profile for me, should I allow it. The announcement made me existential. As a strong, independent woman ™, all I wanted was to carve out my own identity before I let someone else into my life.
Our marriage prospects are judged on the basis of how much they earn. Men, in particular, face this problem.
For ambitious career women, there’s an even stricter deadline to become financially independent and successful, as it can be a huge negotiating factor in the arranged marriage market.
The question to ask is: Why does our career path have to determine our success in our personal lives?
We can be successful parents and partners without loving what we do or having a fixed career path. With a few sets of transferable skills, life should ideally be easier and more forgiving, especially for parents who are raising a new generation of entrepreneurs, employees and workers.
To understand your place in the professional world, try connecting your life experiences with the skills you’ve acquired.
There needs to be a shift in the way we view our careers.
The world of work is constantly changing and evolving – the skills you’re picking up in the present can be of use in the most unique ways in the future.
If you’re still worried about how your career will pan out, it helps to think that a good leader has a combination of skill sets to oversee multiple projects and don different hats. There’s a path on the horizon, even if you don’t see it yet.
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