When initially approached by the editors of this magazine, I was asked to write about the reasons why our youth should aspire to careers that are financially satisfying. I will argue that one must strive to find a career that balances one’s goals in life. However, the advantages brought onto one in terms of wealth, power, prominence in society and security far outweigh the rewards of being just happy with life.
Most of us have likely come to the realization that money never comes easy. Wealth and savings come about from many years of hard work in post-secondary education and then in its application in the real world. Clearly, the reason we are willing to sacrifice such time and effort is to reap the rewards that follow later in life. So we exchange years of a relatively arduous living in our youth for the much sought after rewards of wealth later on.
What are these rewards then? One obvious reward is a high standard of living. We can buy bigger houses, luxury cars, travel the world, dine in fancy restaurants, and indulge ourselves in the materialistic world to the fullest. Wealth invariably attracts a superior package in terms of the opposite sex. The children who come out of this union end up with the advantages of a stable roof over their heads and plentiful food on the table.
There are other aspects of financially rewarding careers that tend to be ignored by our youth when they start the difficult decision process in their teenage years. Foremost is power and prominence in society. The skills that are taught and used in obtaining a high paying job or in pursuing wealth are also beneficial in the development and consolidation of personal power. These include the skills of people management, politics, assertiveness and speech.
Wealth helps to ensure oneself a place in society and community. Contributions to society can then be more feasible and valuable. Back in our Third World motherlands, there was no limit to what money could accomplish thanks to the widespread practice of corruption. While this is not necessarily the case here in the West, invariably those who have wealth also have closer connections to the upper echelons of society, enabling power and influence unattainable by the common man or woman.
Society also benefits from the growing wealth of its citizens. These people are usually more educated and tolerant of the diversity of mankind. Some become philanthropists. Some pursue the funding of personally important causes. Others will continue to be misers and miss out on the opportunity to make a visible difference in the modern world.
Our youth have decisions to make very early on in life about the rest of their lives. There is a substantial temptation to live the laissez-faire life and to not bother with university nor college education. The reckoning is that things will fall into place in this land of opportunity where a suitable job will be found.
The truth is far from this. Economies can become unstable and stagnant. The demand for labour is never permanent. Those without the valuable skills taught in institutions of higher learning will be the first to be disappointed by a downturn in the economy. Thus, career planning must start very early and a university education is a must for a financially stable life.
Much time and effort needs to be spent in high school researching potential careers. As children of parents raised in Eastern societies, we often tend to aim towards the traditional career paths of engineering and medicine. While not taking anything away from either of these choices, there are a vast number of careers that will suit anyone who thinks they have the skills to be an engineer or doctor but are not completely satisfied with either job description.
At this point, we need to examine our priorities and goals in life. These include both mental and financial priorities. I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive goals. Having a lot of money can be mentally satisfying. And though we may encounter increasing levels of stress with higher paying and busier careers, nevertheless stress is ever present. The poor man’s stress is simply different from that of the rich man.
Hindsight is 20/20 and so I am able to base these observations only in retrospect. Early on in high school, my parents told me to focus on becoming a doctor. I never felt I could disappoint them and became one. Secondary to my parent’s wish, the most significant factor in my motivation to follow this career path was money. Financial security was of paramount importance to me.
Although I also wanted to contribute to my community and society, I initially believed that the respect and mental rewards of medicine were overrated. That was before medical residency and the practical application of my new skills. I now believe that it if it was solely financial security that I was interested in, then I should have considered another career path as there are far more lucrative careers out there.
Yet, there are few careers like medicine where you can see the direct application of knowledge and skills resulting in service to your community. The mental rewards can be immediate. On the other hand, stress is now an everyday reality. As I get accustomed to stressful situations, new levels of stress are introduced.
Are there careers with low levels of stress and superior mental satisfaction? I suppose the closest one comes to pure mental satisfaction is if he or she is in a career that has fully matched their personal interests and skills. Financial security on the other hand is something that requires hard work to achieve.
In the end, these two concepts are not exclusive of each other. Although mental satisfaction is something that is very difficult to gauge and must be done on a case by case basis, the financial aspects of career paths should be researched well. Thus, since the accumulation of wealth provides more advantages than disadvantages in life, youth must be encouraged to make the most of this capitalist world.
- Mahesan S.