Are you confused about career choices?

1. Depth vs breadth (Specialist or Generalist?) It is one of those eternal debates where both sides bring strong arguments to the table. There are enough successful generalists and perhaps an equal number of successful specialists. It’s important to know what suits you better – after all, the discussion is about your career and not a philosophical debate. My personal take is simple -- build your career on a strong foundation (the way multi-storied buildings start with a strong base). Invest on understanding your natural talents and focus on building career based on those talents. At the early stage of your career, build specializations on your chosen areas of strength. Later you can focus on being a generalist. Even a generalist should have high degree of competencies in one or two areas.

2. Want vs Need I always wanted to be a teacher but have been successfully persuaded to study engineering (which I don’t regret!). Studying engineering was more of a response to survival instinct! In deciding your career moves, you can’t ignore your immediate needs. Pay close attention to your needs but be well aware of your wants and desires. In a career span of 40+ years of active work life, you are likely to get enough opportunities to meet your needs and wants. Include your needs and desires in your career plan.

3. Fast track career or work-life balance As we are all aware, there is no free lunch. A fast track career demands 200% engagement with your job, long hours and a much deeper commitment. Since everyone has only 24 hrs a day, longer “work hours” means less hours for life outside-work. It is extremely difficult choice when you are asked to trade off watching your children grow (it’s one of the best experiences in life) for an accelerated journey in the corporate ladder and vice versa. Clearly, there is no right or wrong answer here. It’s about making an informed decision and finding the right balance depending on your personal context and desires. What should be avoidable is getting into the denial mode and believing that you can get the best of both sides (head and tail) in a consistent manner.

4. Fixed career goal or diversity of experience? There are two popular types of career development models – a) light house model and b) string of pearls model. In the first model, career planning starts with a fixed end goal (the light house) in mind. One may set a life goal (e.g., running a business as a CEO, owning a business or becoming a world renowned technologist etc) and work backwards. In this model, the entire process of career planning starts from the end. A string of pearl model, on the other hand, assumes a series of career assignments connected by a common thread of purpose. Here there is no end-of-life career goal. You need to make a call on which one suit you better. In today’s fast changing world, opting for a light house model may be a little difficult as it is hard to plan for very long term. A more realistic model would be to divide the entire career into several segments (5-10 yrs each) and have the light house model for each segment. More on this in a later blog..

5. Stability of income vs Chasing a dream/cause If you are already employed with a relatively stable job, you become so used to a regular pay check that you don’t even remember it! When you have financial responsibilities (feeding your family, EMI for house loan or tuition for your children), an assured regular income is extremely important. Starting an entrepreneurial venture to chase your dream is filled with risks and uncertainties, and certainly does not provide an assurance of a regular pay check. A practical approach could be to create a fund (to generate a regular flow of income) first, before embarking on an entrepreneurial venture.

6. Job stability or Job satisfaction Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if you can have all the good things in life and no evils? In the real world, every job comes as a package. You are unlikely to find too many packages filled with job stability and job satisfaction together!!

Making right career decisions is not only becoming increasingly important but also getting equally difficult. Sometimes you may wish not to go through this difficult decision making process. But you must try and you should. Making right career decisions helps in achieving career success and happiness in your life.

-- Dr. Susanta Misra

Founder and CEO, NICEFIT Careers