I am an architect by education. I spent a little over 5 years getting that degree which was not an easy one to earn. In fact it offered all the experiences a young adult could ask for in her formative years – the right amount of creative stimulation, adequate intellectual exposure and an opportunity to interact with a really talented bunch of people. I enjoyed every bit of my education as an Architect and most of what I am today as a person and as a professional, I attribute to those 5 plus years. Ironically, I never practiced as an architect.
It’s been 15 years. Today I am a successful self taught marketer all set out to carve my own niche as an entrepreneur. So why did I spend time and money qualifying as an architect?
The answer is very simple. I didn’t really choose my education. My education chose me. It wasn’t even a matter of my choice to begin with. Instead I arrived at it through a very well laid out process of elimination. When I did well in my secondary school examination that by default offered a science stream left me with only three choices for my professional education – medicine, engineering or architecture. No one ever asked me what I wanted to do. In fact, I never asked myself what I wanted to do and even if I had,what would I have known anyway. My choices were few and my exposure limited.
This story, however, is not just mine. I know many who identify with this. The course of what we do for the rest of our lives – supposedly for a living – is defined by the degree and qualification we choose to earn. Yet in most cases these choices are far from being well thought out informed decisions. In fact, we build careers around domains that at best was a conformed selection handpicked to look good on our resume.
Lets stop to think for a minute. How many of us have spent years doing jobs without thinking if we truly enjoy doing what we do or ever considered if we are even good at it? How many of us have chased a career only because we hold a bunch of degrees in our bags that qualify us for it? Most of us have. Until one day when we are met with what is gloriously celebrated as the mid-life crisis and going back to that same job becomes the one thing we rather didn’t do. I know very few people in my peer group who haven’t suffered this. But of those who have, not all acknowledged it as a sign to change the course of their lives going forward.
I teach post grad students pursuing a course in events, media and communication. Only 5 to 6 from a batch of 50 odd students chose the course for the right reason – that of having a clear view of a satisfying career ahead and not a choice made based on some popular belief, an attractive brochure or simply hearsay. For some it was the only choice because it did not require qualifying an entrance exam.
In my several discussions with parents who have teenage children, the discussion on education has disappointed me the most. Very few parents think of higher education as something they need to help their children carefully pick and not decide basis the entrance exam their child can clear. Most of them also use interest and aptitude interchangeably. If the child does well in a subject, he or she must be interested in it, is the worldview. While it is true that not every interest may translate into a lucrative career, is it fair to completely equate survival in this world to performance and gain alone? However well meaning, we cannot base our entire lives or that of our children’s on choices that are misdirected to begin with. Shouldn’t there be a better way for our children to choose their education instead of arriving at it through a process of elimination?
I consider myself lucky to have pursued a career of my choice independent of my education. I am fortunate to have met with opportunities that helped me advance and am grateful that I faced no opposition from my family when I decided to take them. Thankfully for me the education that chose me did not come in the way of my life. I hope it doesn’t for others too.
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