Choosing a Career in Unpredictable Times

Published 09 March 2021 at 05:05

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Choosing a Career in Unpredictable Times

There was a time, not so long ago, when there would be only a handful of premium careers to choose from if one was serious about doing “well” in life. Engineering, Medicine, Law, or Chartered Accountancy. With a little bit of variation, that list would be it for most families. Students would undergo months of tutoring so that they could get into their choice of course and college. The idea behind selecting these careers was to give them lifetime job security and hence, a secure future.

But today the higher education scenario has changed. There are many more interesting and lucrative careers to choose from. It is great news for students who are not very keen on following the “standard” career options. This also becomes a challenge for the parents. The dilemma of the parents begins with 2 major factors:

  • How do we guide the child to choose the best option to match their interest and also ensure that they will be making a good living?
  • Given the unpredictable times we are living in, how do we future proof the child’s career?

The worry of the parents is not baseless. As per the World Economic Forum report 2020:

  • Automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ scenario for workers.
  • 43% percent of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce.
  • It is estimated that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced while 97 million new roles may emerge.

Photo Credit: Vitchanan Photography / Shutterstock

So how do we as parents guide our kids to choose their future careers in a world where we cannot even predict the careers?

Studies show that most students end up choosing careers based on where they think their interest lies (e.g., I want to do medicine because I like to help people) or based on social backgrounds and societal pressures (e.g. everyone in my family is an engineer so I have to be an engineer)

The problem with adopting any one of these approaches is, it is not a holistic approach. To keep doing something every day for years, one cannot just do it for money or social status. At the same time, only following one’s heart may not be enough for a sustainable existence.

I give you the following framework to guide your child to make a realistic career choice. I call this I-S-V-L method. This method is based on my research on career theories propagated by psychologists like John Holland and Carol Dweck. The theoretical aspect has been interlaced with practical experience with clients I have coached on finding new careers.

Photo Credit: By Creativa Images / Shutterstock

1. Interest

Keep an eye on the areas your child seems to be naturally drawn towards. These are the areas they would be doing well naturally or even if they are not doing well, something they keep going back to again and again despite the challenges they face. Any career path they choose will always have challenges. Overcoming challenges require skill, will, and a lot of effort. It is easier to put in all these things when we like what we do. We don’t have to force ourselves; we are naturally drawn towards it.

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2. Strengths

Nature, nurture and experience, create a set of strengths in each individual that supports them in their life path to reach their maximum potential. Being aware of our strengths is like taking stock of the tools we have in our toolbox before embarking on a task. Without this important resource, we would be at a loss on what to fall back on when faced with challenges.

Often, we do not realize how valuable our strengths are. Adaptability is a great strength as people can easily go with the flow and make the most of an unexpected situation. This is a particularly good trait to have when we are living in unpredictable times such as now. They will always find a way out.

Photo Credit: XiXinXing / Shutterstock

3. Values

Our life values are things that we believe are important to us. When we make decisions that are based on our values, we live a harmonious life. When we live a life that contradicts our values, we face internal conflict and unhappiness.

Values get imbibed in the children as they watch their parents navigate the world. However, each generation has its own way of thinking and things that they value. Millennials are known to value work-life balance and flexibility.

In my experience of working with teenagers, I find these students are drawn towards fairness and purpose in life. Work with your child to find what they value most in life, it may not be just one thing but a combination of a few.

Photo Credit: Bo1982 / Shutterstock

4. Life Goals

Early on, we create a mental picture of the kind of life we envision for ourselves. But societal messages and conditioning cloud these visions. But eventually one goes back to what one had envisioned a life for oneself. Some people prefer a work-life balance with a 9 to 5 job, while others might enjoy an adventurous job that takes them places.

There was a time when job security meant you worked in the same company and the same industry for 30 years. Today the scenario is, you might not even get 30 years in the same industry because you don’t know if the industry would survive! “Employment for life” is no longer a relevant concept. Today we are moving to the concept of “Employability for life”. To be successful in this new way of employability, our children need to be educated to understand why they are choosing to do something and what are the principles behind it. I-S-V-L method gives that framework so that they have the clarity and principles behind their choice, thus making them adaptive, resilient future citizens with a growth mindset.

By Shalini Bindal

About the Author

Shalini Bindal is a coach certified by the International Coaching Federation. She focusses her coaching efforts on teens, parents and women. Shalini has an MBA in Human Resources. She has worked in consulting firms for more than 10 years with the likes of Fortune 500 like GE, Aviva, BMS etc.

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