Born with a stethoscope around the neck.

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Blog, Work
Tags: , , ,

Ambition is a pretty big word, not to be thrown around casually. Kids at school, are perhaps the ones bombarded with this question most often. I remember being asked in class, what I wanted to become. I was 9 then. My Classroom quickly transformed into a group of future Doctors and Engineers. I was least interested in engineering or medicine. In an attempt to break the pattern, I declared, I wanted to become a contractor (My Dad, worked for a big-shot contractor, who employed several engineers. That gave me the idea that a contractor would be an important person). I ended up being the laughing-stock of the entire class, even though half of them had no clue who a contractor was. That was not really my ambition but was merely a place holder which would make way for other dreams. As I grew older my classmates changed a bit. Some wanted to go into business, a few were interested in law or even civil services, but medicine and engineering remained the overwhelming favorites. I had become clueless as I had too many interests. I wanted to be an astronaut, a sky diver and a mountaineer among many other things. I never got to work at a higher altitude than at an office in the eighth floor of a building. My dreams did not come true, at least not yet. I can find solace in the fact that I am not the only one with unrealised dreams.

At school I shared my classroom with roughly 100 students. Around 30 of them are now engineers. Some of them held on to their ‘dream’ right from kindergarten. Medicine turned out to be a much harder dream to attain as only two or three succeeded. When I look back now, I had no clue that any of the jobs I have done even existed at that time. We had heard about computerization happening, but i could never have imagined carrying one of those things in my backpack. When I was queried about my ambition in an exam, I could express myself fully. I explained my interests in journalism, photography, film making etc. When somebody(mostly a teacher or relative) expected a one word answer, I was stumped. Now I know that I am not the only one who had such experiences. In a recent conversation a friend recollected how she was branded as a failure at school by her teacher when she was not able to answer this question.

Taking into account the number of seats available, I guess it is easier to be an engineer. If I had to choose between the ‘big two’, I guess medicine would have been better for me since I am a disaster with maths. I never wanted to choose any single profession. I still have not. Why choose one, when you can have fun with different things? I definitely don’t want to live in a world where people are either doctors or engineers. From a grown up perspective engineering or medicine is only a career. I would not say every engineer is ambitious, or even everyone with an engineering degree really wanted to be an engineer. I almost became one myself. It is not a terrible thing to become an engineer. It is just that, I get the feeling that there is a surplus of engineers today. I know many people who did engineering in diverse streams doing jobs more suitable for a commerce graduate. My concern is, as an intelligent species, are we not behaving like a more primal being living in a herd, or a colony. We get settled into the existing systems and procedures either too scared to change anything or oblivious to the fact that there are countless ways to go about with your life. You don’t have to mould yourself into a role acceptable for people around you. People make the society and society would be a lot more vibrant if we stop behaving like a brick in the wall.

It is not only about medicine or engineering. Once those options are filtered out people tend to look for the next best thing. The safest and financially lucrative options. A few ambitious ones see the role of a chartered accountant as something just as good as the ‘big two’, they could not get. Most baffling for me is to see people getting charmed by a bank job(What could be more ‘bankable’?). The lure of a bank job has become so attractive that even those who nurtured dreams of becoming engineers are now becoming bankers despite having that coveted engineering degree. Banks are also one of the few privileged institutions that get paid to conduct recruitment drives in the form of exam fees. Personally I find a bank to be a grim and gloomy place. I feel a strange sadness when I am inside one and feel relieved when I walk out. I cannot imagine how people can survive a lifetime in that sort of atmosphere and why many of my peers are dying to get into one.

Your profession need not define the person you are. If it does, make sure it aligns with your personal lifestyle and interests. You don’t want to end up living your entire life waiting for weekends, vacations and paychecks. Yes, it doesn’t hurt to have a safe and secure job that pays well. That is typically why most people spend the most of their time in office rooms and cubicles. Very few people I know have a job which they sincerely like. Even fewer have a job which they would do out of choice and not for the salary. Your ideal job should be one which you look forward to do. Not the one which you must do. We will always find ways to justify ourselves saying we are barely making enough money, or we need the job to pay our bills/loans. It really comes down to what you consider as your ‘need’. Something you do to entertain or amuse yourself is not a need. Once you find a truly interesting way of life, you will never feel the ‘need’ to go on a vacation or to even see a movie. A closer look at expenses will reveal what things you really need. Lower expenses does not mean just savings but it means you can ‘afford’ a job which pays lower (provided you like it better than your old job)and also a different lifestyle.

Most kids get possessed with the idea to be the best and school provides this competitive atmosphere and also nurtures it. Parents reinforce these beliefs. The idea grows stronger as your peers start competing with you. The true believers fight it out, vying for pole position. Then there are the slackers, who are more laid back and try to get by. Some become disinterested (or overwhelmed) and drop out or are pushed to the fringes. The last category is often humiliated and denied promotion. You will find all these categories and more in your office as well (If you work in one). The simple truth is money drives the system. Getting rich means you get to lead a better lifestyle. Does that alone explain all the trends? The richest people are often into business and not doctors or engineers. The rich may get rich in different ways. Business, for example does not guarantee success. Therefore the master plan is to find something which is lucrative and safe. The professions which come on top are hence most coveted. Not everyone can however qualify for these professions, hence the competition. The ones who are left behind look for an alternate plan to earn more money or as much. There are plenty who go abroad in search of better opportunities.

A few stray from this plan consciously. Some search other avenues after achieving the childhood ambition and realizing that there are better things. Others are forced to look for other options. Most people in business are forged in this manner. Many writers and bloggers have put up their own ideas about what your profession can be like. I have listed my personal favorites below. They are all people making a living doing things they like and are passionate about. Even if you don’t agree with me, the following links do provide a good read.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/07/10-reasons-you-should-never-get-a-job/
http://puttylike.com/true-calling/
http://paidtoexist.com/start-here/

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