Stay Clear of the Rat Race

Stay Clear of the Rat Race

“What is your dream?” asked my uncle when I was in 10th grade. I answered immediately: “To get into IIT” . This was way back in 1987. Flash forward to 2023: I ask the same question to my son’s friends and I get the same reply. Things have changed dramatically in between 1987 to 2023, yet mindsets have not changed much. In 1987, I was in a small town in UP and there was no internet or mobile and we did not have access to any information, other than what our peers and seniors including teachers and parents told us about.

In contrast, every child in today’s age is well informed and aware of the huge opportunities that lie in so many varied areas of work. Still, there is a “rat race” for “Engineering” or “Medicine” or “Law” or “MBA” or “CA“. By far, in my research, these are the main conventional streams that people “want to get into” other than “UPSC” which is also another “rat race“. One thing common in all of them except “law” is that there is a very small “Gate” of entry and not everyone is able to get into the “Entry Gate” of the top premium institutions. That “premium entry” therefore creates a huge “pull” in the minds of the general public, making it aspirational to make it into the “top league” of one of these streams.

The second fact that drives everyone “to get into” these competitive areas is the “entry pay package” offered by the top firms as they appear for their placement interviews. No doubt, these top institutions have a clear advantage over the “general courses” and “lower rated colleges” in terms of the “entry pay package” in good firms. I am not too sure, how many or what percentages of students actually get a very high entry pay package. In my understanding, the top 10-15 % of these 1% may bag above average salaries, and then the rest take home decent salary packages comparable to most other “general” careers.

But there is a “key factor” here: Only1% of the population make it into these top institutions and only 10-15% of those bag really high entry pay packages. Further, not everyone who successfully “cracks” the entrance exams, is actually going to be aligned and happy doing that particular course or further pursue a career related to what they study. I personally interviewed a B.Tech. Metallurgy student from IIT Powai, who was keen on getting into the social front, and a B.Tech. Civil Engineering student from the same college, who aimed to become a Finance Professional. There are enough cases of Engineering or Medical school drop outs in the1st or 2nd year of college, when they realise it is not meant for them.

Another interesting aspect of the corporate “golden trap” is that the higher the entry pay package, the higher is the danger of “hitting the ceiling” too soon. Once an employee hits the ceiling in terms of pay and compensations, they are stuck and it becomes very difficult for them to switch jobs or even get promoted. In many cases, this scenario happens as early as 5-7 years after getting a job. This would be a pretty much difficult situation for decision making regarding continuing in the same place, as no organisation would be ready to pay the present or comparable compensation/ hike expected and you can’t get promoted too further in the same organisation.

Secondly, what is most important to understand is what happens internally to most people post 10 years of doing any work? Generally speaking, and it also can be easily substantiated with evidence that most people, even if they are doing reasonably well in terms of compensation, start thinking deeply of “career transition” when they reach 35-40 years. The reasons could be many, but the main reason identified is “lack of fulfillment” in the jobs that they are doing. Everyone wants to be doing something more meaningful and worthwhile. It is also seen in many cases that people are frustrated with their profiles and roles and decide to take up something completely different from what they have been doing for long in their corporate jobs.

Would we want our children also to live similarly, entering into “whatever job they get” and then growing in corporate jobs, only to realize that they are not enjoying what they are doing, and then start looking at transition? Or, would we prefer our children to chart a very different path right from the beginning, where they control the work that they do, based on their own passions, interests, and choices, steering well clear of the “rat race” ? They still may want to transit in the mid career stage, but the difference would be in the fulfillment and enjoyment that they experience even in the Early career stage. The Mid Career transition in such cases will be mostly a “jump” into Entrepreneurship or Business or something where they are free to do what they want to do, when they want to do, with whom they want to do, and as long as they want to do, and continue to live fulfilling and happy lives.

In our younger days, with no information and lack of resources, we had to play “survivor” and make do with whatever came into our fold and grow in that career to the extent we could. There were very few options too. In today’s day and age, with unlimited opportunities available across various fields and areas of work, parents need to be mindful when the children are jumping into this “rat race” due to a “collective thinking” effect of just getting into a “good job” quickly. A “good job” cannot be the “End Goal” of one’s life, as each child has unique potential which needs to be harnessed as early as possible to provide the right avenues for their development and growth. This would enable every child to carve out their unique “life journeys” filled with high energy and enthusiasm, and more importantly in line with the changing world of work.

More importantly, the entrance exams and college entries should be treated as just a “path” for some, especially those who are inclined inherently in those areas to achieve their future dreams, which should be something much higher and worth achieving, and not just “an entry” into the corporate world. And for others, there are many many more options that are equally lucrative, if not more, provided, they are able to excel in those areas. So, running behind some “overhyped and over marketed” entries and colleges is a futile “rat race“, which one would be better off, staying away from, if they do not have a true inner desire to be in those areas of work and achieve something really creditable.

To summarise the above, parents and children need to plan their life journey proactively and allow the children to tap into their inherent strengths to design their future goals. This is crucial and critical to enable “happy, productive, and fulfilling” lives of youth, and will go a long way in ensuring a happy nation.

Jeevan Pravaas Life Mentoring is a consultancy with a difference, to make a huge difference in the way youth looks at life, to design a bright and great future aligned to their own inherent strengths, and provide an exciting and meaningful education path related to the planned direction of the future. Futuristic Career Design is the need of the hour, which will include combinatorial” options of career choices, which needs to be designed and created using the unique strengths of an individual and connecting it with the various work opportunities in the world of work.

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