What if I want to be an astronaut and not a doctor?

Published: November 4, 2012

It would hardly be sensible for an MBBS student to try switching fields by joining an FMCG in branding. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

The very first profession (barring the childhood fantasies of becoming a superhero or flying jets) I was genuinely interested in Psychology; becoming a shrink, if you will, drew me like a magnet.

That of course lasted maybe a few months (four or five months at the most) and this was when I was in the 10th grade. I never really pursued it nor explored it. What attracted me towards this profession was listening to and helping people understand their problems. Unfortunately the fact of the matter was (well at least what I felt at that time- I may have been wrong back then and even now) that I didn’t see much of a scope for a profession in Psychology in Pakistan.

Perhaps, if I had been given the right guidance, or rather had the opportunity to get the guidance I required, I would have chosen an entirely different career path. It’s not that I have spent all this time, nine years since I started my BBA, exploring Psychology in hopes of reliving a past dream, but it still makes me wonder ‘what if’.

Since then I have thought about the innumerable other fields that I would have loved being a part of, some of which I could still be a part of (depending on how much I want to do it – separate topic and issue) and others I cannot be a part of anymore.

My point, however, is not to cry over spilt milk, but to point out a lack in the past that should be addressed now so our future is not affected by the ‘what if’ mindset many of us now suffer from. Had someone helped me explore the other professions out there and made me understand what profession I was suited for, then things might have turned out differently.

I know this is the story of many Pakistanis. Many today wear a doctor’s coat, but wonder what it would be to be a professional golfer.

There is, thus, a dire need for proper career counselling to be established within our educational system. This counselling should take place prior to the student entering the undergraduate level so as to maximise the effectiveness from the very start, so the student picks his/her professional education with a clearer mindset of the end goal. It would hardly be sensible for an MBBS student to try switching fields by joining a Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) in branding.

Career counselling has an extremely important role to play for students in the 10th and 11th grade. It enables a student to be able to test out different core subjects within these two years of school and then establish a stronger career path whence the subject of choice is picked. Not only will this help expand horizons and create better opportunities within Pakistan it will allow more professions to flourish, be accepted and recognised. There are so many professions that get their due respect, social acceptance and growth globally that don’t get their fair share in this part of the world. Those that are trying to make it big in this part of the world still have a long journey ahead of them.

For example, an athlete’s career in this country can only go so far as cricket. To prove his/her mettle, the athlete will have to do really well in cricket; any other sport- by and large gets ignored.

With regards to journalism and writing, apart from a small number of columnists and journalists who have earned a place in the top, the profession itself is not considered as highly as it is abroad. Photographers, film-makers, artists, chefs, psychologists, software and fashion are all examples of professions that are trying to make their own space in the Pakistani professional realm.

Unfortunately, the masses of our population believe that picking a ‘safe’ career in law, engineering, chartered accountancy, business or medicine is the smartest thing to do. Although these professions may be risk free and generate the right amount of financial stability, these are not the only stable professions out there.  I have never come across a set of parents who would proudly push their kid towards becoming a professional photographer, or a media content developer, or a film maker.

Part of this mindset is due to the risk factor and fear of not being able to make a decent living; however, what they may fail to see is that there are some who are making their way through these professions and have made a decent living for themselves. Some examples are Hasan Rizvi with his ‘Bodybeat’ classes and event-based choreography services, K Bridals and Kohi Marri with their photography, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy with documentaries. But collectively, there is only a small amount of people who encourage these ‘alternative’ professions and under the right guidance and level of encouragement; those who have set about this career path have done well for themselves.

Encouragement at the right stage of life can help students get the motivation they need to really go and explore different careers, choose the right one and equip themselves accordingly. We need good career counselling, with career fairs and talks to be established at the secondary school level to induce more ideas into the system and allow mindsets to expand.

I would love to see a Pakistan where there are careers other than the ones that have become a norm here. I want to see a Pakistan where the youth is guided well enough to make an informed decision when choosing their desired profession.

Who knows if I was guided well enough I might have picked out journalism as a career or maybe become an astronaut. Who knows? Thoughts anyone?

Read more by Shiraz here, or follow him on Twitter @sammywiseguy85     

Shiraz Abdullah Mahmood

Shiraz Abdullah Mahmood

The author is a marketeer by day and a blogger by most nights. He loves writing, football (Arsenal! Gunner since '99) and is a delusional romantic of the Pakistan cricket teams. Avid book reader, viewer of sitcoms and general fun lover! He tweets @sammywiseguy85

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Goodness that was a fantastic read, you have made me think all sorts of things.
    I, like a lot of chaps would have loved to be in films, think George Clooney or, or, or, but one look in the mirror and that all went out the window.
    In Pakistan more so than in other developed economies, the uncertainty of simply making a decent living forces one to opt for the more traditional professions. Yet I know of people who have gone into non traditional fields and have done amazingly well. The one thing that we have failed to appreciate is that Pakistan is 190+ million strong and virtually untapped and in that statistic alone lies immense potential.Recommend

  • http://facebook.com/EpicFailDuoandbit.ly/asadali Asad

    Mainstream parents, pfft! I swear to God, I’ll be a damn good parent! (as soon as I pass my intermediates with an A+, get into medical school, become a daactor, get married and make babies)Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/908/erum-naqvi/ Erum

    great writing.. happy to read this blog on ET:)Recommend

  • gp65

    You made some great points. In order to allow kids a chance to select and succeed at careers more in line with their own attitudes and aptitudes, career counseling is surely an important element. Another thing is a skills development strategy at a national level. Thus there shouldbe vocational courses tha people can complete hat would allow them to be successful in their chosen area. One final thought. In countries like India and Pakistan the chances of getting even a minimium standard f living in some alternative careers maybe difficult – the successful ones may become multimilionaires but a typical middle class risk reduction strategy leads us to safer paths. In such cases, you should pursue our passion at least as a serious hobby. IT does not have to be either or – it can be both and.Recommend

  • shuja ul islam

    guidance thats exactly what a kid need…i didnt get it…n after completing more than half of the ACCA i realized i dont want to do it..and now m stuck with it…while doing a job as an ACCOUNTANT..i hardly have trime now for my passion i.e PHOTOGRAPHY..!!Recommend

  • rkhan

    Emigrate to AMerica or ChinaRecommend

  • https://twitter.com/JazbatiJhaaru JazbatiJhaaru

    its readings like these that makes me want to check out tribune blogs.
    more substance and less feminist opinion :p
    good going!Recommend