India: A Demographic Dividend or Disaster?

India: A Demographic Dividend or Disaster?

At the age of 15, you face a critical decision that impacts the rest of your life - choosing a career! You’re expected to pick one option from over 12000.

Students, who can barely keep up with hectic schedules, take on this enormous burden of choosing a career that makes everyone around them happy, leading to stress and impacting their mental wellness. Today, one in every four Indian teens suffers from depression (WHO 2015). The pressure on students to perform and excel in a path not often chosen by them is so intense that many can’t cope, which is why our country sees around 26 student suicides a day (Indian Crime Records Bureau 2017). At 15, when an individual is supposed to discover themselves and what they enjoy doing, they  struggle with stress and confusion over the future.

Ours is a generation that dreams of chasing passions. Everyone has grand ideas and grander plans, which we daydream about while working a job we chose because it once held our fleeting interest. We spend hours envying Instagrammers and YouTubers for following their dreams, but do we consider what's stopping us from following ours?

Say you pick the first career option you come across and see it through to graduation. You enter the workforce, choosing an industry because you cracked an interview or responded to a job post online. Alternatively, you notice a lack of opportunities, so you look for options abroad (2017 saw at least 17 million Indians living abroad). However, when you choose careers and jobs without considering your interests, you end up disliking what you do. Given how much time we spend at work, this unhappiness takes over all aspects of life, bringing unhappiness and frustration.

Over 55% of India’s workforce is miserable in their current job (Monster + GVK, 2014). As per the Global Workforce Happiness Index, India ranks 55th on the list of countries with the most satisfied workforce. Even China, with its enormous workforce, ranks at 27.

A significant portion of the blame can be placed on the way we approach career decision making. People in developing countries choose financial security, job stability and career prestige over interests or inclinations, while individuals in developed countries choose how they wish to contribute to society. This makes us opt for popular traditional courses over subjects we’d actually enjoy, in the hopes that, say, an engineering degree will make us successful. Here’s a reality check: according to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), over 60% of engineering graduates every year remain unemployed!

A 2016 World Bank development report stated that 69% jobs in India face the threat of automation and technological advancements. To top it all, by 2030, 160 million young Indians will join the workforce, as compared to China’s 92 million. Imagine the impact on our economy if we kept force-fitting square pegs into round holes!

To change this at a grassroot level, individuals need to have the power - and tools - to make the right decision from the start. While opting for professional guidance, it is important to know how they help you make an informed decision. Organisations using aptitude tests for career selection should be avoided at all costs, as aptitude tests are archaic, measure abilities that are not relevant to today’s careers, and do not consider one’s interest areas or personality traits.

While choosing a career guidance, keep this checklist in mind:

  • Is your career guidance provider using an assessment that measures your interests, personality and abilities?

  • Is the assessment an adapted version of a foreign test or tailor-made for an Indian audience?

  • Does the provider help you select a career option primarily based on your interests?

  • Does the provider handhold you and equip you with the right resources right until you begin working in your chosen career?

It’s not that we have a dearth of good career guidance organisations. There are entities that use a comprehensive solutions which include a psychometric test designed for Indian millennials, career counselling by MA Psychology experts, a knowledge gateway with detailed information and updates on different careers, and webinars by industry professionals who provide a realistic picture of the career. Such organisations help individuals gain a deeper understanding of their own interest areas and, thus, discover themselves and their ideal careers.

Simply put, it’s time to choose scientific methods for career decision making instead of relying on fate, family or results. You deserve to lead a happier, more successful and productive life pursuing a career you love. All you need to do is make an informed choice based on your interests, and not your circumstances.

Authored by Juie Divecha, who heads Content at Mentoria, a career discovery platform that helps individuals discover who they are and which career path they’re best suited for, primarily based on their interests. Her dream is to transform the nation and help it achieve its full potential by enabling the youth to find careers they’re happy, productive and successful at.

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