It’s that time of the year when my phone starts buzzing every now and then with texts and missed calls from my juniors in Roorkee, mostly 3rd and 4th years, asking me for a comfortable time to call for they ‘urgently’ need help with their life decisions. While I love to speak with them (and also feel special at the same time), I am very careful of what I say, for the last thing I want to do is tell them something they blindly believe in only later to realise it did not work for them. Having gone through the same phase myself while in college and still being a person who constantly seeks advice from many people, I have come to realise a few key places where this entire advice-giving exercise can horribly fail, from either side – the giver and the taker. Here are some of the key points to understand, especially for college students (though they apply to everyone), while being a part of any advice you may seek from people, especially college seniors.
1. Don’t let anyone form your opinions.
I remember when I was in college, some of my seniors abroad told me to take up the GRE and go to the US for I had a good GPA; a few others in India told me to work for a few years and then take the GMAT; a few even suggested to take a shot at the IAS for they knew I could work hard and crack it. But here was the problem. Actually two problems. One – Their advice was usually profile-based, and not interest-based. That is, they tried to give advice on the basis of analysing my chances of cracking the different options, not really keeping my interest as first priority. And two, while giving advice, most of them were subconsciously trying to impose their own decision on me. It’s very natural you know. If we have taken a decision ourselves, we often tend to give the same advice to people as a way to convince ourselves that it’s the right one. And this could lead to huge problems.
Let’s take a specific example to understand it a bit better, one which is very common in college, but you’ll get the gist as it applies to all situations. Let’s talk about when someone from college is trying to decide whether to write CAT and go for an MBA immediately after graduating from college or may be work for some time and consider an MBA later. Now, an IIM person who went for an MBA immediately will (most likely) tell you all the pros of an MBA from an IIM, and will tell you the huge salary you may get in your first job right after it, and blah blah, while another person who started working in a startup will tell you why working will make more sense before an MBA and will tell you all the cool things in the startup world! Another person who went abroad for GMAT will have a whole different story altogether, and may advise completely against the decision of an MBA from India. So how do you as an advisee make sense of all of this? Who’s speaking the truth? Which one makes most sense?
Well, the answer is none of them. Nobody is right or wrong. While advising, all of us tend to get slightly biased towards the decision we took ourselves, so be very careful while receiving any advice from anyone. Just try to take as much information as possible, and then you’re on your own. Whatever you decide after getting and analysing the information you have is the right decision for you at that time, no matter what anyone says.
Note that good advisers will never tell you things like – “you should go for this”, or “I strongly feel this is the way for you” and so on. If you feel that they’re trying to make you form an opinion about something, you should probably stop right there. Good advisers will just give you as much information about something from their own experience, will tell you the different factors to consider, and can probably help you in arriving at a decision. They won’t hesitate to tell you all the cons of their own decision. And they will never enforce their own opinion on you. Because trust me, nobody knows you enough to make a decision for you, and good advisers know that. So form your own opinions, and if your opinion turns out to be the odd one out, let it be. You’re the only one on the right track for all you know.
2. Be true to yourself.
While seeking advice, make sure you give the adviser genuine information about yourself. The adviser can only help you if he knows the truth. For instance, if you’re really confused about what to do in life, accepting the fact outright will only help you (by the way, it’s absolutely normal to be confused at this moment, those who aren’t probably haven’t considered all the options). If money matters a lot to you, then you should accept that and be completely open about it. Remember, accepting the truth and not being afraid of saying it, no matter whatever it is, is actually taking a stand from a position of strength, not weakness. And this is exactly the way forward in life, and not just while taking advice.
3. Be all the more super-cautious of advice from your ‘trusted’ seniors.
There are those few people in our lives whom we trust a lot for seeking life advice. It can be a senior and a good friend from college who got a great job, or could be our immediate manager who’s a really good person. But when we ask them for advice, we again subconsciously tend to believe, on some level, that whatever they say is right. But this can be a huge mistake again. While we should definitely welcome whatever they have to say, but we also have to be smart enough to take everything with a pinch of salt at the same time. I’m stressing on this because it’s very easy to form strong opinions right after you’ve talked to a person you trust. But remember, life advice is something ‘nobody‘ can give you. All they can give you is information and their ‘own‘ opinions. It’s you who has to take the decision by considering and analysing all the factors that affect you.
4. Talk to as many people as possible from as many diverse backgrounds, even ones whom you have never spoken to.
Well, I keep saying that you need to get as much information as possible before you take up a decision. So how do you get that? Well, one obvious way is to speak to as many people as possible. You can even try connecting to a few strangers over LinkedIn whom you think will have something valuable to add. Taking the same CAT example from before, don’t just talk to people who took CAT, but also talk to those who considered it and didn’t (may be they decided to work, may be they took the GRE or GMAT). All of them will have different perspectives, pros and cons about everything . Get as much information from them, and then take a good amount of time trying to analyse what will suit you best.
5. Life is a constant work in progress of figuring out who you are, and what you like, but it’ll only make sense if you’re the one taking control of your decisions.
Here’s another reason to not let people make decisions for you. Any decision you take now might not feel like the right one a few years down the line. Your feelings, likes, dislikes, priorities etc. all change with time. You might realize in a few years that money doesn’t matter to you as much as you thought it did during college placements; or maybe it does even more so. You might feel that working for startups is not as much fun as was hyped during college years, or maybe you’ll love it even more. The thing is – things change. So while making a decision, know that you might eventually realize that you would want things to change again, and it’s only but natural, because you experience new things and keep evolving as humans. But it’s very important at every stage of your life to keep arriving at decisions on your own. Because the learnings that come with your own decisions, even the not-so-good ones, are a 100% far more valuable than the ones which were not yours completely.
6. There is nothing life changing or life defining about anything in this world. It’s all a trap!
Haha! I really have a big laugh when I think about the placement season back in Roorkee. It was so hyped by everybody. The entire environment just changes, with all negative, scary vibes all around. Somebody gets placed on Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3, and your facebook posts are filled with #placed posts of your friends while you stay awake at night preparing for the next company that is coming, and then you don’t even get selected for that and feel like your life is falling apart! Lol!
Been there? Well, I certainly have! And I’m not laughing at your misery (I don’t have the rights, I was there myself) but at the fact that it’s all a trap. Don’t fall into it. There is no life defining moment in your life. The society just makes it seem so. I mean now when you think about your board exams in school, does it really matter if you’d have got a 75% instead of a 92%? Definitely not so much as was hyped when we were there, right? Same thing happens for all the life events. Trust me, just around a year down the line from when you sit for your placements, you’ll realize it does not matter if you got placed in Dec or Feb or not at all. Just give your best. Even the ones who have already been placed, remember that life isn’t over. Keep exploring yourself and try to figure out your interests, things that truly make you happy. And for those who got rejected by a company, be it for over-competence or the lack of it, thank god because you definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed working there. There is a reason you weren’t selected, and there is a reason why it all happened. Don’t get caught up in the moment and feel depressed. I remember after I was rejected by a company in college, my senior who worked there told me – “Dude, you dodged a bullet!”. And I couldn’t make much sense of it then. But it all makes so much sense now. Know that everything will happen for a reason! And many things are not as important as they appear to be.
By the way, here is something I should probably let you know. Remember, I’m not trying to scare you at all. Because there is nothing to be scared about. But more than half of the population from college, literally, start hating their jobs in less than 6 months after they start working and feel trapped. Most of them quit and look for a different job while others continue for some more time. And I guarantee you no other senior from college will tell you otherwise. The placement season is a big joke. The entire “what’s-gonna-happen-in-life-after-college” conundrum and the stress that comes with it is a big trap! Don’t fall for it. Life is very simple and it turns out the way you want it to. But only if you truly be yourself.
Well, hopefully, that made sense to you. If you have any questions at all, shoot them in the comments below and I can try to offer my best advice.
But yes, like I always say, this article too is my own opinion. Feel free to accept or reject it and form your own!
Cheers and all the best!