One of the choices that becomes the epicentre of our lives is the careers we get ourselves into. It is that simple. Our careers affect the number of hours we spend in paid work and the time we devote to other roles in our lives such as leisure, and home and family life. In an age where people are increasingly looking for a balance between work and family life, career choices have become essential. And why not? Careers contribute immensely in determining whether we become fulfilled in life and satisfied about life. In fact, they are our stream of our incomes and so we value them highly.

A career, is a thousand different things to a thousand different people. Like a work of art, one career speaks to you, and another does not. Some careers have charm, they lure you to enter, and then make you a prisoner until you gnash your teeth in despair. Other careers swallow you before you get a chance to think, they use you up and spit you out by the back door. Some careers you race through, as if on roller skates. They swing you high and drops you low without time to catch your breath. Some others weigh you down, oppress you for weeks and months on end till your daily prayer is for the weekends to come quicker. Yet a great many careers, lift you up to the skies, fills you up and make you laugh with joy all your days.

Such diversity in careers require individuals to engage more meaningful in order to make brilliant choices regarding what they eventually pursue. The choice of a career goes beyond a job that aligns with our interests. It also involves finding one that suits our personalities and empowers us to manage our lives successfully within a dynamic and complex global landscape. This is a complicated and highly individual dance of discovery that demands individuals to be adaptable, dynamic, innovative, flexible, resilient, self-initiating and have collaborative skills to work with people and thrive in workplaces, or to create work for themselves. It also means one has to exercise foresight and think about what kinds of professionals are in demand and would be in demand in the future in order to make good choices

Making the best career choices involves knowing one’s self. The individual has to know his or her skills and abilities (what an individual is good at), one interests (what the individual likes), and what values one holds to heart (what ideals are important to the individual). Then one has to get a fair understanding of the world of work. This is the reality check that corrects the perception about what the career actually entails and what one can essentially get out of it. Without the ability to make such informed analysis, one’s chance of making a good career choice is minimised. People need to be proactive, not only in the choice of their careers, but also actively manage their careers by engaging in life-long learning. In today’s fast techno-economic climate, life-long learning is now the norm and will be an integral part of workplaces of the future.

One of the ingredients, we often leave out when we talk career choices relates to ‘white-collar’ jobs versus ‘blue-collar’ jobs. We live in a society that places a premium on white-collar jobs, and considers blue-collar jobs, a lower status symbol. This skewed perception unfortunately has and is still driving many a young people into careers they are not ‘strategically fit’ for. It reach is so powerful that schools and teachers consciously prepare and push students to aspire for ‘white-collar’ jobs much to the disadvantage of society. Even in cases where individuals have confided that they enjoy working with their hands, and would prefer vocational and technical skilled jobs, they have been dissuaded and discouraged from entertaining such dreams. Rather, they have been condemned to work in careers they find meaningless.

This bias against ‘blue-collar’ jobs has greatly affected vocational education in society. Not only is this dysfunctional, but it is destructive to our young ones. We encourage people to be whatever they want to, except aspiring for vocational skills education. Such levels of hypocrisy is detrimental to societal development. The bulk of the skills most needed as a nation to lift ourselves out of our economic woes are technical and vocational in nature. Coupled with the fact that these same skills are needed to compete in the global market of the 21st century, the absence of excellent technical and vocational training is costing us socially and economically as a nation.

Nature does endow us with different skills and talents. In societies where these natural gifts are looked down upon, it creates a destructive force and prevents growth and dynamism. As a nation, we need, and we should actually encourage stronger and better-quality vocational and technical education, so that individuals talented with the use of their hands do not feel robbed of the infinite opportunities they could create. We also have to develop new business models around blue-collar jobs in order to create dynamism within our economy and challenge organisations to move up the value chain to take advantages of the synergies that would emerge. And finally, we should encourage individuals to feel comfortable choosing a career in any field without being made to feel like a second class worker.

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