There is a tendency in our Asian culture to have parents place great importance on academics and paper qualifications. To some, the higher you go in the paper chase, the more respect and admiration you gain along the way.
To others, it is a ticket to a successful career, whether the course of study is their own choice or, more often, their parents’ wishes.
Hence, many school leavers are expected to start “hunting” and applying for placements in reputable colleges and universities as soon as they can, to avoid being “left behind”.
Such major decisions in life are sometimes done prematurely due to parental pressure of keeping up with book-smart individuals. At times, decisions are made without the individual knowing which direction to take after finishing school.
Book smart vs street smart
Urban Dictionary defines book smart as “being able to succeed scholastically, and not necessarily in the real world” and street smart as “a person who has a lot of common sense and knows what’s going on in the world”.
From the changing landscape of today’s employment trends and career prospects, it looks like the “book smart versus street smart” debate may not be as relevant as it was back in our parents’ and grandparents’ time.
“When given a choice, figure out how to take both. The world doesn’t have to be an either/or”.
In the context of the 21st century marketplace whereby information is readily available, you need a mix of both “smarts” to succeed. After all, being book smart and street smart has a lot to do with your preferred learning style, and about the way you perceive the world.
What’s relevant then?
A 2007 survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder reported that 15% of employers had changed their HR (human resources) policies to cater to Generation Y workers.
This translates to the notion that future generations of employees will probably be the ones to shape the labour market and create job prospects.
For youth, the key is to prepare yourself to face a new wave of non-traditional but exciting careers by mapping and envisioning your career path of tomorrow based on your own innate strengths, today!
After much thought, I believe these are the three main stages involved:
1. Discover yourself
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu
How well do you know yourself? Have you come to terms with who you really are? Do you recognise your talents and potentials? What about your strengths and weaknesses?
Self-awareness is an important journey everyone must undertake to envision himself or herself in the marketplace. And, it is often the most overlooked one.
There is a variety of personality assessment tests out there to help you discover yourself, such as MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance), and Gallup’s StrengthFinder 2.0 personality tests.
In a Forbes article titled “Stop Worrying About Your Weaknesses. Focus On Your Strengths”, we stand greater chance of success if we build on our authentic selves, i.e. who we already are, starting with our innate strengths.
Thus, aligning your unique personality with your spoken or unspoken dream is vital to ensure you do not lose sight of your projected career path just because everyone else is heading towards a certain direction in their career.
2. Gaining exposure
Once you have discovered yourself, the next step is to work towards your envisioned career. At this stage, you would need to “get your hands dirty”.
For example, if you see yourself as a comic artist, start arming yourself with story boards and doodle away! You may want to join a comic artist club in your school to share ideas and artworks. Perhaps you can consider starting your own blog and make yourself “visible” in the comic art space.
By networking and connecting with people of similar interests, you gain wider exposure and experience. Be ready to make mistakes but ensure that you learn from them and not give up.
Also, always be open to seeking feedback from the people you look up to. By doing so, it helps to anchor your personal development in that present time and professional development in the near future.
If you are still at the crossroads of your career path when you are already in college or university, fret not. Continue to discover yourself and be involved in various activities such as TalentCorp’s Sector Focused Career Fair.
Seize every opportunity available during your campus life to improve your soft skills such as communication skills, critical thinking skills and analytical skills.
In other words, activate the street smart in you because these will propel you further once you enter the workforce.
3. Equipping yourself
The path towards your envisioned career does not end after discovering your strengths and gaining more exposure. It needs to be complemented by equipping yourself with proper skills needed for the prospective job.
This is the stage where you unlock the book smart in you by getting the proper paper qualifications.
In the example of the comic artist wannabe, you might want to enroll in an illustration course with an art college to refine your drawing, colouring and doodling techniques.
Of course, this is not to say that the previous two stages are mutually exclusive from this one. Far from that. In fact, they are interconnected with one another (see diagram below).
As you acquire formal education in the course you enrolled in, you might discover new skills you never knew about. At this stage, you may also continue to expose yourself to add to your skills. After all, learning never stops.
Parents play an important role in helping their children discover themselves in school and activities. Of course, parents need to be mindful not to impose their own dream career on their children.
For youths, continue to discover yourselves and envision your dream career so that you can start mapping, planning and working towards achieving your dreams by discovering, gaining exposure and equipping yourself.