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The Process of Choosing a Career

Outside In

Perspectives of a HR professional

Harish Devarajan has 23 years of experience in human resource development in the corporate world. For the last four years, he has been spearheading People Unlimited, an executive consulting and coaching organisation. Harish has helped youngsters, who have approached him through family and friends, identify their passion.

How did you happen to associate with high schoolers?

I have always been intrigued by these questions, “Why do people pursue a particular path? Do they stick to thepath all the time? What do they end up doing?” As a HR professional, I ask these questions to various people that I meet, all the time. So people who know me thought I could value add to their children’s process of deciding on a career, and sent them to me. It is not as if I offer career counselling as a service for a fee.

What is the biggest issue in the way high schoolers approach the career choice situation?

Quite often, high schoolers look at their performance in school subjects as validation of their abilities – and up to Grade 10, there are only three broad buckets – maths, humanities (including languages) and sciences. School teachers and peers also encourage this line of thinking and say, “You are doing well in languages, consider pursuing the humanities’ stream.”

What they all fail to examine is whether the exemplary performance is because of the innate drive of a performance-orientedchild (who is motivated to work hard and excel at anything he takes up), or liking for the teacher who is teaching the subject, or a genuine passion/interest.

It is also important to understand the application of these subjects in various situations and check if those jobs/careers interest the child.

So, to sum up, performance in subjects cannot be taken as conclusive proof or validation of future success – it can at best be an initial trigger, to find more information.

What do you suggest high schoolers do instead?

The first step would be to identify the source of their motivation and aconsuming passion. To students who come to me, I like to ask, “If you have to think about the things you did outside school – What gave you the greatest joy or sense of achievement? What made you happy? For which activity did you work extra time on your own, without anyone else ‘pushing’ you? In which areas do you think you did well?”


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