Sunday, May 26, 2013

Which Field with Great Scope Should My Child Choose: There is always a room at the top

Which Field with Great Scope Should My Child Choose: There is always room at the top

I often see parents coming to me for guidance about the field that their son/daughter should choose that would have scope in the future. They want to know the field which would be in great demand so that when their child graduates he/she would be able to easily get a good job and make a career out of it.

The scenario used to be simple some thirty/forty years ago. At that time the conventional wisdom was that the only field for a good student is either medicine or engineering. If a student can't get into either of the two than he is a failure and would for ever be labeled as such. The situation changed a bit about 20 years ago when two other fields got added to the list: IT/Computer Science and Business Administration. 
There is always room at the top! Daniel Webster



I strongly believe that the biggest misconception instilled in our minds while we were young was the typical question asked by a grown up from a small kid: "Baitay, aap baray ho kr kya banay gay?" What will you become once you grow up. Typical answers expected were the Engineer, Doctor, Pilot. I think this question has done more harm and corrupted the minds of our population. You don't become a doctor or engineer (or whatever else) when you "grow up", you become a doctor/engineer when you "begin" to grow up. Becoming a doctor or engineer (or getting any other bachelor degree) is not the end point of career. It is the starting point of career. I think it is misleading to make our youth focus on the starting point at the expense of the ending point of their career. I believe a better question that reveals the real priorities of life is to ask what would you be doing when you are 50 or 60 years of age. I often ask this question to my students to make them focus on their long term goals, and make them contemplate on what their achievements would be after 30-40 years of their productive professional life.

I think the reason why our environment is afraid to make our youth focus on the ultimate achievements of their lives is that a person committed to a longer term goal can not be so easily tamed in to submission to do ordinary jobs for most of their lives. Thus, the environment forces them to think short-term, on the present, or at most the jump they want in their next job change. So, the young employees find themselves focusing on pleasing their current boss and not focusing on ideals that they cherish in their lives, things that they would love to do, ideas they are passionate about, and following the bidding of their heart.

My advice to parents who want their child to have scope in their career is simple. Let the child select a field where his heart is. This is the field where after spending a 16 hour-workday, he would not get tired. This is the field about which he dreams, about which he would be able to talk non-stop. This is the field that would stimulate him, charge him, energize him, would make him sit up and work late into the night, burning the midnight oil. This is the field which will make him wake up at 3am in the morning without complaining. This is the field about which he would surf the Internet forever, will pull information, read books, follow magazines, meet people and discuss his ideas passionately.

So instead of going about finding a field which would have scope five or ten years from now which is highly risky as future is indeterminate especially with the current rate of change in technologies, you should actually bet on some thing that is certain, some thing on which you can depend upon. That something is your own self. Your own skills and attitude. If someone is willing to put in the amount of time I have mentioned above, then this person is bound to succeed. If you enable your child to discover such a field through a process of experimentation and trial and error, he would be happy in his life and you would also be happy because he is happy.

There is always a room at the top. If you are expert of your field, you will have scope whatever be the situation and conditions. If you are mediocre than there is no scope whatever be the economic activity in that field. I got this lesson from a dear old school class fellow of mine Abul Khair Masroor. This was 1987-88 when he was doing his PhD from University of Iowa at Ames, and was in Karachi for a visit. My younger brother was starting his intermediate in pre-medical. I wanted to dissuade him from further pursuing the medical profession because at that time doctors were protesting that they were only getting Rs 3k/month ($100 per month) and that there were news that many of them were leaving the medical profession and going into Civil Service, doing MBA or taking on their own business. Hence I took him to my friend Abul Khair thinking that because he was doing his PhD in engineering, he would definitely help my brother understand that there is not much scope in medicine. But, to my surprise and my disappointment (at that time), he advised my brother by telling him "there is always room at the top". If you are interested in medicine and have passion and would like to dedicate your life to the profession then go ahead and adopt the medical profession. Dr Abul Khair's advice was proven right in a few years. Not only that my brother, Noman Haider completed his medicine degree, cleared the tests required for getting residency in USA, got the visa and started his residency. He is of course settled comfortably in USA, much better than many of us, with his fellowship, practice, jobs and all.

There is definitely a room at the top. In any field. One needs to strive for excellence in order to grow. Becoming a mediocre in a field which is in high demand is worse than becoming an expert of a field that masses have not yet discovered. In fact, this is far more advantageous and fruitful as the competition is less in this yet unexplored field. The need for experts is always there, whatever be the field. Expertise creates its own dynamics and creates its own channels through which the expert can easily rise up. Rising up the expertise levels, an expert starts seeing things that may not be visible to ordinary people standing on the ground. A true expert of a field would design and create his own opportunities and would of course establish himself as leader who attracts resources towards him. However, becoming an expert requires burning a midnight oil, something which you would not do unless you are fully charged and passionate about your field!

Exploration of new fields, new ideas and new ways of doing things is exciting, challenging and fills us with wonder and excitement. We may think that all corners of the world have been explored by the Ibne Bututtas, Marco Polos, Amundensens, Hillarys and others. But, we are wrong. There are explorers going into uncharted depths of oceans, into deep recesses of our mind, exploring how the birth of a word takes place, replicating the locomotion of insects and birds in robotics, crystallizing and growing diamonds in a lab, tracing the human DNA and identifying how through cut and paste we can change the DNA and eliminate diseases like cancer. We first explored the world to exploit the natural riches, now we are exploring the linkages to learn how to save the world from our own footprint and safeguard the beauty and the natural ecology. Sky is the limit for such endeavors.

There are always opportunities for those who are willing to invest their time and effort for their happiness. There is always a room at the top!


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2 comments:

  1. Dear Irfan Uncle, thank you so much for directing me to this post of yours two days back. I have had similar belief in regard to the gigantic monster "Mr. SCOPE". I believe that scope is something we build out of what we are best at. We are best at doing what we love to do not what someone demands of us.

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    1. Thanks a lot for taking reading this post. Seeking advice and doing it is a trait I have found few people to be adopting. The operative rule is “Suno sab ki, karo apni”. Hear everyone, but do yours. What it means is that one should listen to all the perspectives of a particular decision, but should make one’s own mind, take ownership of the decision and get on with the chosen path. When confronted with challenges, make sure that you keep all the pros and cons in your mind to develop your strategies.

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