Guidance to Management students.

I had done my one year post graduate full time course at the International Management Institute(IMI) in 1990-91. After going through various published articles that I had written in the Times of India and four other magazines, I was invited by IMI to write something in their newsletter of the third quarter of 2007(July-September’2007) Accordingly, I prepared a special write-up

Career Choices

Hiren Shah is an IMI alumnus (PGPIM-1991) who has adopted the mission of advising students about the adverse implications of choosing a wrong career. In this article for Interface he answers questions about finding fulfillment in work.
How serious is the problem of students making wrong career choices?

It is vital that students realize the importance of choosing an appropriate profession and career which enables them realize their potential. Wrong choices result in misery and frustration. Dale Carnegie said “Nobody is to be pitied more than the man who gets nothing out of his work but his pay”. The Gallup Corporation in a survey of US employees in 2005 found that 31% were “engaged” in work, 52% percent were “not engaged” and 17% were “disengaged”.

The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the extreme expressions used by sufferers such as “lifetime imprisonment” ,”spiritual suicide”, “living death” and from the titles of books on this subject:-

I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want. Barbara Sher
I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This. Julie Jansen
True Work: Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do. Michael Toms
How to Find the Work You Love. Laurence G. Boldt
Passion at Work: How to Find Work You Love and Live the Time of Your Life. Lawler Kang
To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love: Marsha Sinatra
Discover Your Passion : An Intuitive Search to Find Your Purpose in Life. Gail A. Cassidy Success v/s Joy. Geet Sethi
What should I do with my life. Po Bronson.

The titles indicate that this is a major problem in the US. I suspect it is also fairly serious here, but many Indians accept it unquestioningly. An Indian career consultant told me,”Americans can afford to think of all this because they have money but in India we have to work”. This may be a practical perspective now but it will soon be outdated. In The Greatest Secret of Success; Your Passion Quotient Virendra Kapoor points out that Indians can now afford to look beyond just Roti, Kapada aur Makaan.

Many students may get stuck in wrong jobs and mess up their working (and personal) lives. When such students start working, they discover that they have neither aptitude nor interest in their work. Their excellence lies elsewhere and the earlier they can do something about it, the better the chances of living a fulfilled life.

What should educational institutions do to help students make right career choices?

Unfortunately educational institutions do not currently provide sufficient help to students to identify the vocation which would enable them fulfill their potential. For example, though many B-schools have efficient placement services which help students get well paid jobs; they do not ensure that students get jobs which will suit their mental and emotional profile.

Educational institutions need to be proactive in creating awareness about the problem of wrong career choices and arrange professional counseling for students to enable them analyze their strengths and weaknesses, scan the environment and choose appropriate jobs and careers. This is routinely done in many societies which thus ensure that their human resources are productively, efficiently and happily employed. In India the lack of proper counseling for career choices can result in huge economic costs to our society because of suboptimal utilization of human resources. Also Business schools could arrange short term courses for people who wish to completely change their career line.
I have written about these matters to several HR consultancy companies but they seem to have adopted the perspectives of placement consultants. Even those who claim to help in changing careers do not do much about it. Incidentally, even the Gallup Corp referred to above, which is doing excellent work, has more to offer to companies than to individuals.
Are there tools available to help students make right career decisions?

Internationally acclaimed HR consultants Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks used to ask “Are you comfortable with data, people, things, words or numbers? ” Such questions have profound implications. The answers provide indications of the type of job which will match one’s talents. There are now many such profiling tools available which gauge a student’s make-up and can suggest suitable work. The Gallup study referred to in an earlier answer, identified 34 themes to enable people discover, or rather uncover, their potential so that they know where they belong and how their weakness can be complimented by another person’s strengths. Examples of themes are ‘harmony’, ’empathy’, ‘command’, ‘activator’, etc. Some, like ‘harmony’ and ’empathy’, are relationship oriented which help in connecting and teambuilding while others like ‘command’ and ‘activator’ are task oriented which help in getting things done.

The Gallup study also recommends specific career choices for strengths in certain themes. For example there is a theme called ‘restorative’ which has to do with identifying, analyzing and solving problems. People in whom such themes are dominant do well in medicine, consulting, computer programming or customer services. ‘Individualization’ is another theme which has to do with observing styles, motivation, how people think and build relationships – career choices for such people could be counseling, supervising, teaching or selling. Since too many themes can dilute focus, the five best “signature” themes are identified for each student. They help in knowing “who you are and who you are in relationship with”. This enables better relations with teachers, fellow students, spouse, friends, relatives and strangers as well as choosing the correct profession, which is the primary purpose. There is also a book “Strength Quest” which explains the themes in detail and advises students about how to identify their talents. Gallup has a site where one can take a test to identify strengths and weaknesses. The book and the site are specifically for students.

How does one deal with a wrong career choice?

The Times of India (5/8/2007) devoted a page to nine examples of drastic career switches by persons discovering that they should be doing something else. Most transitions mentioned in the article were from professions like engineering and medicine to arts and sports:-

Tyre technologist to classical singer. Doctor to actor and film producer.
Advertising to adventure sports. Airline steward to restaurateur
Financial consultant to tour operator. Engineer to marketing educationist.
Engineer to theatre person.
IT professional to winemaker.

One may earn money and gain recognition but still feel unfulfilled. An interesting example is Sunil Aggarwal, who despite being from IIM (Ahmedabad), IIT (Delhi) and rising to become a Managing Director in a media company complained of feelings of “failure and inadequacy”. After all the ultimate goal is happiness which to a great extent depends on fulfilling one’s natural potential. In my experience the basic question about wrong career choice is that you may be able to ignore your inner or spontaneous urge in the beginning of your career but could you ignore it for a lifetime?
People with an artistic bent of mind need to be particularly careful as discovering the artist in oneself can be a long drawn out process and artists in the wrong profession can have a very bad time. The chairman of ICICI, KV Kamath said that if you want artistic satisfaction in the business world you have to innovate continuously.

For students interested in this subject I recommend the following books:-

Achieving your Dream Career. Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks
Passion to Win. Abadmed and DO Chopra
The Greatest Secret of Success: Your Passion Quotient.Virendra Kapoor
The five great Myths of Career Building. Sanjiv Bhamre

Those interested in knowing more about consequences of wrong career choices could visit my blog, “Make your passion your profession” at


One Response

  1. dear friend,
    i liked your article very much. I was looking for the material on Spiritual Management and came across your instructive article.Well done. I do help students in my own way to develop their personality. Now I will talk about the job you like with more confidence.

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