Higher education in India: Choosing career is an art
Prof. Sanjay Dhande, 15 May 2017

Prof. Sanjay Dhande, former Director, IIT Kanpur and currently the Chief Mentor of Avantika University, Ujjain in a conversation with Careers360 shares with us that as the means to choose a career has become important and stressful at the same time, one needs to develop the right skills in the art of selecting a career.  Read below Prof. Dhande’s views.

Gone are the days when one child had to become an engineer and the other a doctor - a dream of every middle-class family in India. Days are changing now. The economic complexion of India is changing from a manufacturing-centric economy to a services economy. The boom of ICT created new type of jobs which are not only white collar but these jobs also opened up avenues of foreign travel and more cash-in-hand. Thus, the concept of a career is no longer restricted to becoming just an engineer or a doctor.


Plethora of choices

The new generation young men and women can now develop their career more innovatively. One can become a language expert and still make a healthy living by joining a multinational company. One can be a creative designer, or one can take up a course in nursing and still live comfortably. All in all, the choices are far more now. It reminds of the days when one could buy only either an Ambassador or a Premier Padmini car. Now, the choices are far more, and the same holds true for career options, though for young men and women the means to choose the career has become important and stressful at the same time. In fact, one needs to develop the skills in the art of selecting a career.


How will you pick a career?

It is a pertinent question to ask yourselves to avoid a quarter life crisis - a career option that intersects with your interests and strengths. The first and foremost aspect is that one should evaluate one’s passion and likings. One should not get intimidated by the pressure of parents, friends, and others. If one is passionate about a particular career option, 50% success is ensured. The second evaluation is about one’s likings and preferences. It is clear that a career path pursued based on disinterest leads to frustration and below average performance. The third thing is about setting some realistic goals and pursuing them diligently. These are individual-specific issues.


Selecting an institution -Ranking

Once an individual has decided a career, the question of admission becomes a paramount issue. There are three important aspects. The first one is the ranking and category of institutions. The first generation of college graduates have their fair set of challenges, which needs to be addressed. However, the selection of the option should be with an open mind. The emphasis should not be just on getting the dream job after scoring close to 100%. Some institutions like IITs and IIMs are very well known, and a seat here becomes an entry ticket for a good career. However, one has to figure out alternative strategies by finding information about national, regional and local academic institutions in different disciplines. One should evaluate this information and arrive at a priority list of institutions assuming that a career choice has been already made.



The second important aspect is location. Many students prefer to get a degree from a college located in a city with many companies. For example, if you graduate from Bengaluru, Hyderabad or Pune, the chances of landing a job in businesses located in these areas are more. So, many students explore more on admission in institutions located in the said preferred cities.



The third important aspect is regarding the quality of education, faculty, infrastructure, hostels (security and food), and transport arrangements. The quality of cohorts who are likely to become future friends and finally the distance between home and the academic institution. The learning methodology should also be given the due importance, which is largely theoretical and lacks required exposure needed to navigate careers. Most of the students, even in tier-I colleges usually don’t get enough guidance. The factors for this could vary, as in many cases even their parents are unable to provide guidance. The students must be encouraged to think about short and long-term goals before choosing a career, and one that intersects with their interests and strengths. They should do their research, ask questions and introspect on where they want to be in life.


All these aspects should be openly considered, with a view to select a career and choose an institution of learning for that career. The priority while screening or shortlisting such institution should be the quality of education, followed by other parameters. It is quite essential as this will help the students in deciding the future course of life decisions.


The art of choosing a career

Sheena Iyengar has written an excellent book on Art of Choosing. It is indeed a very complex psychological process. However, in life, one has to become proficient in choosing from available options. It needs some common sense and self-confidence to practice this art of choosing. The important thing emerging in India is that education and jobs are now an unbalanced equation. In the past, the number of jobs and the number of graduates were equal. Now, in engineering, there are six graduates for employment. In future, this may become line one position available for 10 or 12 graduates. So, a degree alone is not sufficient to get a job. Young men and women will have to create a portfolio of talents and skills. Most of these skills are not reflected in the mark sheet or grade card of courses. Skills of communication, creative arts, teamwork, leadership, using different languages, sports, skills endurance, and skills of strength will all become critical in shaping a career and finding a job.


Hence, an educational institution that provides you with the learning that transforms your lifestyle and permits both the academic as well as personality growth while choosing the skills aforementioned is now becoming more important. Hence, the art of choosing is becoming increasingly critical for young men and women.


I am sure the younger generation is enthusiastic and energetic to take on this challenge and come out with flying colours. I can wish all of them success and happiness.    


The author is former Director, IIT Kanpur and currently the Chief Mentor of Avantika University, Ujjain. All views expressed in the article are personal. Prof. Dhande can be reached at [email protected]


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