You can take the wrong course but don’t end up in the wrong job

Case Study

When we are schooling, decisions are normally made for us. Our parents would decide what is the best stream (science and art) to go to. For some kids, they have been groomed from a very young age to be a doctor, engineer, accountant, etc. Some follow the path that their parents lay out for them. Some ‘rebels’ will deviate- some drop out from engineering school to take up arts, and some becoming writers after they are qualified professionals.

Still, a career decision have a direct influence on the course of our entire lives. Seriously, as I have mentioned many times before, we spend the best hours of our lives working. So if that should be the case, we have to be very careful in what we select. It is well worth the time and financial investment to identify our passion, and then try to integrate it into our working life. No matter what we do, so long as we are passionate about it, it is very easy to succeed.

Once, I was remarking to someone called J about following career choices. Let’s learn from J’s experience on how it hampers your life if you were to make the wrong choices:

You can take the wrong course but not the wrong job

What happened was that during secondary school, J went into science stream because he seemed to be good at calculation. It was okay till he went to Form 6- again he took Science stream.

Anyone who had studied Form 6 science stream knows that it is a very difficult – when exam questions come out, it is either you know or you don’t know. You can’t even play guesswork or simple scribble something if you do not know the answer. But if you take a paper like commerce or economics, at least some questions can be answered using common sense.

The science stream is really not for J- but he never dared to tell his parents. Because he was not taking tuition and teachers at school were not interested to teach, he struggled with difficulty to understand Physics, Chemistry and Biology. He had no interest or passion.

At last, he resorted to memorising school notes, which is a disaster- because as a Science stream student, you must understand the principle behind the chemical reactions, the various applications of the laws of Physics (it’s amazing how the simple Newton Laws can be put to so many zillion uses in the everyday world).  Else, if the variables of a scientic equation is changed, how is one able to answer? Needless to say, he did very badly in the Form 6 exams, just barely passing it.

That should be an obvious sign that the science stream is just not for him. Unfortunately, he had no mentor or experienced person to guide him. So he continued with the only subjects he had known- he took Chemistry again in college- after his elder sister who was that time a Chemistry undergraduate.

His family had suggested he switch to Business Administration or other commerce paper but he did not dare to venture away from his comfort zone- even though one could hardly called barely passing the papers as any comfort at all.

But by the time he was in the first year, again, he was doing very badly in all the Chemistry papers. It is not that he has low IQ or something. He is exceptionally good in mental calculations, world history and culture- but there are no such papers being offered in commercial colleges.

He could memorise the European history and pick up Japanese on his own (despite not being Chinese educated). So we cannot say that JA is not bright. The sister observed this and again asked him to drop the course and take up BA instead- by dropping the entire first year, he will graduate one year later than his friends.

Again, he was afraid and refused. He wanted to graduate as soon as he can to help his family as they are not rich- so he did not wanted to lose another year. But because he did not dare to change his course, he is to waste another 10 years of his life, stuck in an industry that he does not like and not getting anywhere.

Soon after he graduated (with below average results), he had problem securing a good job. Because of his results, he had to endure low paying jobs. There was no future prospects in the field he was in because he had no passion and is demotivated- as such, it is difficult for him to go any extra mile to work extra.

Life is stressful and deep down inside, he is very unhappy but he did not want to complain to anyone. This went on for about 10 years- till one day, a mentor took notice and told him he had to seriously sit down, identify his passion and start leaving his comfort zone. Else, he will lead the rest of his life like a drifter, often applying for entry level positions.

From the above true account of J, there are some important learning points:

1. When a person fares badly in school, it is not that the person is stupid.

Often, people who do badly in school either have personal unresolved issues or are just in the wrong course. The way school curicullum is designed isn’t much help either- a lot of the subjects are dry and have no use in the working world.

If a person consistently perform badly in a subject, like the case of J above, the family should seriously try to identify the person’s strengths and interests. And then put the person into the course that is closest to the interest.

This is especially so if your son/daughter tends to be an introvert and is not effective at communicating with others. Whereas people who are extrovert and seemed to be an in-born sales person will be able to persuade potential employer to take them in- even though they may not be qualified in the field that the employer is looking for.

2. Investigate the root cause

Once you realise that you are at the wrong field or industry, it is never too late to change. If you viewed your job as just a job, something you have to do to earn a living but that you never looked forward to, then you are probably in the wrong field.

But before you leave the field, you still have to investigate whether or not your lack of motivation could be due to other factors such as too heavy workload, extreme stressful environment, unresolved personal issues (such as dealing with anger and other emotions)- this is because if it is due to personal issue that is not addressed, you will carry the issue with you wherever you go and wonder why you are never happy.

3. Never let a mistake lead on to more mistakes

Once you identify that you are just not cut out for the job and that you have absolutely no passion for it, you will need to sit down and plan. By then, hopefully you have identified what you are good at- you will need to figure out how to get into the field that you like.

For instance, people who wanted to be entrepreneurs may first moonlight (ie work part time or during weekends) to test out if it is really for them and to establish a market base.

Proper planning and research have to be made before taking the plunge especially if you already have commitments (mouths to feed and loans).  If you already made a mistake, it can cause you to waste years of your life in unhappiness. You need to have courage to go for what you are truly interested in.

4. If you have passion, you will excel in your chosen path.

With passion, you want to learn, you always want to figure out various ways to improve certain processes- and you do not complain or show a sour face when you have to stay back to complete your job. A few months of doing that will undoubtedly get your boss and big boss’s attention. Which employer do not want a dedicated staff who is interested in what they do? Appraisal will then be favorable and with that, comes better bonuses, promotions, etc. Believe me, if you dislike your job, no matter how hard you try to hide it, the bosses will soon figure it out.

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