We have come across many questions from students on Quora who face a career dilemma.The question is always ” How do i know what career to pursue?” . This got us thinking. I myself faced this dilemma as a student. Inspite of starting this venture i realised how difficult it is for a 9th or 10th std student to make a decision. So we decided to give students a framework based on which they can think of a career that suits them. This framework lists out attributes that are most relevant for a successful career in descending order of priority.

  1. Longevity – A career lasts for almost 40 years from the time a student graduates from college at 21 to retirement age around 60, almost 39 years. A successful career is like a marathon run. If your goal is only to reach the end you are missing the point. Marathoners enjoy their run because they cherish the journey and in the process reach the destination. So start trying to identify what kind of activities you like to do. These activities are not hobbies but what we call latent or hidden interests that stay with you from childhood to your later years. The more you like an activity the more inclined you are to stick to it for a longer time like a career. Remember that successful careers last long because of interest.
  2. Skill – While longevity is important we all need to understand that the world is competitive. Any career requires a degree of skill to compete. Skills are of two types – 1) Innate or natural and 2) Acquired. For example a naturally gifted debater has potential to become a good lawyer due to innate skills of debating. However the student would also need a professional degree in Law where they are taught about cases, arguments, drafting and mooting in courts. These are acquired skills. So students need to evaluate the areas in which they are naturally gifted and hone their skills through education (Acquired Skills) . Remember , a Diamond is a stone that needs treatment before it shines. Identify your natural skills like writing, sketching, storytelling etc because a career based on those skills will give you the edge in this competitive world
  3. Benefit to Society – A student might be very good in solving mathematics problems. However if solving those problems have no impact in the practical world those skills cannot be put to use and are worthless. However if the student can use their skill to solve problems that the world faces (Pollution, Climate, Insurance, Health etc) the world values those skills and there is a market for those skills. Always try to evaluate to see what value you can bring to the world by putting your skills to use. The more impact you make with your skills the more marketable you are.
  4. Vision – When you have taken into account your interests (longevity), skills and benefit to society you gradually start building a vision or bigger picture of what you want to do and breaking it down into a short-term and long-term plan. A vision, simply put, is a direction in which a student wants to take his career. As we all know today’s world is extremely fluid and we all want to be flexible to change course slightly though the direction that we want to go in remains pretty much unchanged. This direction or vision is defined by the above 3 attributes.
  5. Money – And finally the most important attribute that we all need to survive in this world – money. A lot of students make the mistake of asking “What career should i pick to make a lot of money?” . Thats the wrong question. Instead, adopt the above approach and you will see that money follows. Money is the byproduct of a good vision which again a byproduct of the first three attributes.

To give you an example, lets say you have a lot of interest in food and cooking (interest) and you are good in Chemistry (Skill). You can study Food Science and become a Food Technologist. Your Vision is to create new food that is healthy and tasty (Benefit to Society). You can see how all these attributes come together to form a Vision .

Look at any successful career and try to map it into the above attributes and you will see a pattern. Once you start thinking through this framework it will be very easy to select a career and follow that path.