Thursday, March 17, 2005

Education, jobs and careers

Edwina Cameron writes in The Age about decisions faced by tertiary students (around 21 yrs of age) to decide on a career.

It started after a holiday. Returning to a sedentary office job from two weeks of traveling around parts of Western Australia was more than I could bear and I quit my public relations position a week later. I want to go to a music festival in Byron Bay, I explained to my boss. After that, I will probably continue traveling up the east coast stopping to work in casual hospitality positions along the way.

My employers couldn't understand my decision, primarily because I couldn't explain it to them. Quitting a promising job to take a road trip up the east coast with your flatmate is hardly considered an optimal career choice, particularly when you have a mortgage to consider.

I am 22 years old and finished my public relations/journalism degree in 2003. From there I went straight into a good public relations job, the job I am now leaving.

I also bought a three-bedroom weather board house with shoddy plumbing and a selection of ramshackle outhouses, the same house I am now renting out.

Deciding what to do after I finished studying was an emotional, challenging and rushed process for me and for many others in my situation. The array of options is simultaneously dazzling and daunting and I ended up jumping into a nine-to-five job without really considering whether this was the right option for me at this stage of my life.

The problem in my case is that I did too much too soon. Buying a house and rushing into a full-time job are both examples of steps in the so-called "right direction", a direction that isn't necessarily right for everyone at my age.

There is pressure placed on tertiary students to make some serious, life-changing decisions in the last months of their degrees and there is considerable encouragement to go straight into a full-time "career job" as soon as a course finishes.

In my opinion, the attitude of my friend's family comes from a fundamentally flawed tenet of our education system that states that the core purpose of learning is to get a job, not to satisfy personal interest.

There is little emphasis in our society on the importance of building on our knowledge through personal experience and discovery by traveling, exploring and making the occasional controversial decision.

Travel is recommended, but only in small, well-organised parcels that don't interfere with the all-important "building a career".

I certainly speak for a minority. Most of the employed graduates I have spoken to are delighted to have entered the workforce and are feeling satisfied and rewarded in their new positions, as well as excited about their futures.

I am also excited about my future, although at this point I'm not sure where that future is going to take me. With the rest of my life to build on my career and fulfill my ambitions, I have decided to take time now to do the things I may not be able to do in a decade.

I am excited about the element of the unknown in my decision and I'm excited that six months from now I could be just about anywhere.

I think she is right in a lot of ways. I faced similar situations in our life in India. I finished my tertiary education and the joined ADP Wilco, a Fortune 500 company, worked for 4 years in their investment banking division.

I had to say that I got bored at the end of six months and continued for a coupe of years. Then I did not know what to do or where to go. Time passed, I got married, worked in the US still thinks did not change.

In a way I thought that I was bound to work, bound because I could not find a rational reason to convince my family why I did not like my well paying job.

A lot of friends are still in the company or in other companies doing similar jobs. The reality is that some are very happy, some think they are happy and the rest know that this is not the right thing but do not know where to go.

One chance to work with Deeshaa Ventures changed everything. I started blogging, started companies, worked with people I respected, learnt to live in one of the toughest cities in the world - Bombay, lost all my money and savings, decided that I should do a MBA.

One of the primary reasons for doing an MBA for me is learn, educate myself but also to give myself the time to find out what I want to do in life. I guess 2 years in Adelaide will involve a lot of self-realization, hopefully!


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