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Career Choices beyond Academics

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja
(who studied Engineering in IIT, but never used the knowledge, who practiced counselling but was not qualified in it, who was refused admission in a University to pursue his doctoral studies, and finally landed up becoming an Advisor to the same (and another) university; who believes that being a better human being is far more important than being a highly qualified person).

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At school a quarter century ago, I had two class mates who inevitably competed for the last rank in every term exam. Their marks were so miserable that no one could go down to their level. They both dropped out of school. We kept in touch and found that one has become a taxi driver, and the other a Medical Sales Representative. “Poor guys” we all said as we went on to college and professional courses.

Today the first guy runs a travel agency with a dozen luxury buses, two dozen air conditioned cars, and an agency of international airlines. The second fellow is the CMD of a pharmaceutical company that is listed on the stock exchange, and has a turnover in tens of crores.

What is the moral of the story? Even though academic qualifications are very important in life, they are slowly yielding to the more important factors of skills and abilities. The education system is good for those who have a high IQ (i.e. mathe-logical and linguistic intelligence), but if you have other types of intelligences, then you perform badly and lose interest in studies.

If you do not have a super-high IQ and are struggling with your textbooks, focus on building your basic Life Skills (i.e. how to deal with different situations and challenges of life) and how to sharpen your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), your emotional Intelligence. This consists of 5 parameters:

  1. Self-awareness (of your emotions, your strengths and weaknesses).
  2. Self-regulation (of your strong feelings, your actions)
  3. Motivation ( finding out what really gets YOU going )
  4. Empathy ( being able to understand what is going on in other people’s minds, and why they behave in a particular way ).
  5. Social Skills ( ability to build interpersonal relations, team work, and eventually, leadership skills)

If you are still not convinced, think of the great Mr. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the leader of the IT revolution in the world. One would think he holds many degrees with medals and prizes. Actually good old Bill dropped out from Harvard (and that too from the American education system, which is supposed to be much more flexible than ours). And do you know why he chose to drop out ? Because, of all the subjects, he hated Math. And maths, as you know, is the backbone of the IT industry. What Bill has to his credit is a high EQ. You too can start building your EQ now, regardless of your age and your academic qualifications (or lack of it). One day you will overtake others, like my classmates did.

Explore all possibilities in the fields that do not require too much of academic excellence, mugging up, or studying theory. Here are some:

  • If you want to get into a stable career straight away: Join the Air Force as an Airman, get a full-fledged salary, and continue your studies in any discipline at your leisure.
  • If you want to upgrade your qualifications without too much hassles: Take up correspondence courses from recognized universities (Indira Gandhi National Open University IGNOU being an excellent example) that are vocation oriented, and require very little mugging up. Some are as short as six months to one year.
  • If you are a good communicator: Take up practical short term courses in marketing, retailing , franchising, event management.
  • If you are good at tinkering with electronics: Take up practical courses in hardware, networking, mobile phone technology.
  • If you want to keep options open for future upgradation: Take up a three year diploma course in any of the engineering streams, and you are eligible for admission to second year BE without losing a year. Similarly a Diploma in Commercial Practice (DCP) entitles you to get direct admission in B. Com. Second year any time later.
  • If you like children or teaching: Diplomas in special education, Montessori training, or counselling. There are also specialized courses for handling disabled children.
  • If you have good communication skills and are willing to work hard for good money : take up basic training and join a Call Centre.
  • If you like cooking or hospitality: Join up practical and non-academic certificate and diploma courses in catering, hotel management, bakery etc.
  • If you are the artistic or creative type: You can enroll for a direct five year Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) after 10 th . It is much easier academically than the traditional graduation courses. Alternatively, good practical courses are available at private institutes for Multimedia, Web page Design, Animation, Commercial Art.
  • Similarly you can opt for courses in landscaping, interior decoration, jewelry design, accessories design, leather design, etc.
  • For those who like to do office work: Secretarial and other office management courses of 6-12 months duration give skills as well as offer placements.
  • For those who like to work in the medical sector: Diploma courses are available in Medical Lab. Technology, in Pharmacy, Dental Ceramics, radiology and physiotherapy.
  • For those interested in media: Many prestigious private institutions offer one year courses in TV, video or film making.
  • If you are interested in travel, there is IATA and other internationally recognized certification courses, with tuition provided by private institutes, opening up job avenues in airlines and travel agencies.

This is only a representative list. There are many more avenues opening up every year. Keep exploring, find out what you are good at doing, and move into a satisfying career where your potential is utilized, and you forget your academic set backs as a bad dream.

The world is open out there, and hard work always pays dividends. Develop confidence in yourself, set clear goals, and put in your best efforts.

About the author


This website was initially conceived and designed by the late Sitaram N
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