Article published in myrepublica 6/18/2011
Twenty years ago, our mentors – our teachers, parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents, and even prominent radio and TV personalities – started giving us career guidance from an early age.
They told us, explicitly or implicitly, what they expected from each of us. They had analyzed, to the best of their ability, what was going wrong in Nepal at that time, and tried to make us look into solutions to the problems they were facing then. Fair enough.
That is why almost all of them told us to become professionals – engineers, teachers, bankers, managers, accountants etc – or medical doctors or scientists.
If you are a middle-aged Nepali, you might have heard something similar. Every Dashain, while offering tika, our elders blessed us thus: “Bujhyau, you better become a doctor or engineer (professional) hai, otherwise a scientist bhaye pani hunchha!”
They would frown upon some of our own exciting ideas of making a career in sports, poetry, journalism, or even acting. Equally no-no was a career in politics or in the government (public service). Even the army or police was out of the question for the “brightest” amongst us.
They would say, “After all the education you have, you are going to be just THAT?!!”
For them, the arts meant usually sociology or economics. Commerce usually meant management, finance, or accounting. And for them, these were a back-up plan for those of us who were not deemed well enough be a doctor or an engineer.
Our mentors also never saw a career in the social sector as a viable alternative for us.
Lately, I was curious to see whether their advice was effective in shaping my generation’s choices.
My question was, did they shape us into what we are today? So I decided to test this by checking how many of my high school classmates’ careers matched with the general trend of career advice given by our informal mentors at that time.
If you analyze the chart, essentially we have become what we were shaped to be by our mentors two decades ago.
Half of us are working as “professionals” – the top recommendations our mentors made decades ago.
Nearly one out of five is in the medical field which was the other popular career advice our mentors gave. About 15% of us are working as bankers, accountants and managers, which was the third most popular career guidance given back in those days.
Only 8% of us are engaged in trading and in business. Out of this, probably a handful still had become genuine entrepreneurs – the breed that creates jobs and opportunities for others.
Less than 7% are in the social sector and multilateral agencies to help solve our social problems. Out of this, an extremely few are actually doing social activism.
There are almost none – less than 1% – of us in the public sector (the orange) which included government career.
And, none of us actually joined politics.
Now wouldn’t you agree that this is where we see a lot of problems in the Nepali society now? These three sectors – the public, social and entrepreneurial sectors – are where we see a big vacuüm in moral and visionary leadership.
The conclusion I draw from this is, our nation is a reflection of our career choices, whether we like it or not.
The state of our country now is the product of what our elders believed our country required years ago. It was not a forward thinking vision of what would happen to our country today.
Today, we Nepali all face a similar choice. I believe it is in our selfish interest to mentor our children – the next generation – in ways to improve the sections of our Nepali society where it needs help.
If we want to produce good leadership, those who can unite Nepali together with a vision, maybe we should encourage the next generation to choose to “lead.” Ask them to take up careers in public services, or to become more involved in social, political, economic, and creative activism.
Tell them to take action! To stand up! To speak up! Tell them to unite people!
So the next time when some child or student or a random youth comes running for your career advice, please recommend this to her or him: “Be a leader, become a change maker, turn out to be a unifier!”
Prasanna Dhungel helped with this article. Thanks.