It started a few years ago, back in school, when I overheard one of my teachers, looking visibly annoyed, scolding a friend of mine. I still remember the words, for it’s a commonly prevalent ideology even today –  “If you don’t study well, you will end up becoming a motor mechanic or driver”. Seeing how degradingly she spoke of the professions, I knocked them off from my list of potential career in the future, immediately.

As lazy and amusing the back bencher life looks, the reality is far different. Believe it or not, a back bencher faces much more stress and competition than toppers of the class. Statements such as “You will fail in life”, “You will end up becoming a beggar when you grow up” are casually, constantly, and quite often carelessly hurled at the back benchers, ending up making them question their abilities and confidence. If these remarks don’t do enough damage already, the constant comparison with classmates and siblings studying in the same school, add to the pressure further.

Back benchers are often told in class, that they may see no bright future, and will end up becoming a mechanic, driver, shop keeper, salesman, in short, they will end up becoming someone who is not a doctor, engineer, or civil servant. The message that goes across, not just to the back benchers, but the whole class, is that any profession that does not involve a stethoscope and scalpel, or engineering tools and public service, is disrespectful an disgusting.

Just when a backbencher hopes to find freedom in the hallways of college, from the clutches of imposed, apparently disrespectful professional predictions, reality hits them again. The expectations and predictions, soon change to direct questions like “What do  you want to do in life?” “Will you be moving to a different county?” “Will you go the business way?”. But what answer do you expect from students of schools that constantly teach what students cannot become, not what they can. By schools I don’t mean the 0.5% of elite schools that don’t usually encourage average, normal professions, but the rest 99.5 that most of us come from.

Most of such students aim for a white collar job, a job that looks powerful, and puts them ahead of their friends when it comes to social status, a job that lets them tick off the checklist of a house, a car and a foreign trip perhaps. But what nobody speaks about, is the pressure and the stress it comes with. This desire to be an engineer or doctor, doesn’t stem from ambition, but the constant subconscious conditioning of teachers, parents and the society at large. In the end, every student that  grows up being told indirectly, that only a white collar job is respectable, ends up growing up to want the job. Not everyone gets to bag such jobs however, and end up adjusting with other jobs, thus shaping their career by chance, and not by choice.

A few weeks ago, I accompanied a friend, to a premium car showroom, for a sales inquiry. I was thrilled to be there. Right from the entrance of the showroom, the ambiance and reputation of the brand made me look forward to an elite experience. However, I was utterly disappointed, the moment our conversation with the Sales Manager began. His communication skills and presentation were terrible, far beneath the standards one would expect from a reputed brand’s associate. He had an entirely different sales pitch on the phone from the one he presented to us in person. In the end, his lack of co-ordination ended up wasting our time and energy. I was surprised, as I had a similar experience during a car purchase years ago. So, what is the gap here, and why?

Someone in my family fell sick, and I went out to buy the prescribed medicines. A particular tablet mentioned in the prescription, was no where to be found in drug stores. I called up the hospital emergency, to find out if I could buy a replacement. The person in the emergency department, who answered my phone, sounded extremely sleepy, and annoyed over the 1 am call. I told him why I called, and even before taking the details, he mumbled a random tabelt’s name for replacement, and hung up the phone. Realizing how this behavior was  unethical for a medical professional, I called him up again, and asked him what made him think it was okay to suggest a tablet, without taking the patient’s basic information, and if he realized that an uninformed decision like his, could cost a patient their life? Yet again, he was extremely rude, asked me to go to the hospital directly, and hung up again. So, what is the gap here, and why?

If Rebecca from the movie “The confessions of a shopaholic” were a man, that would be me. I’ve been to several shopping avenues, not just in my city, but other metros in the country too. Irrespective of the retail outlet I go to, or the brand I intend to buy, I have never ever come across a professional, who could guide me with my shopping properly. Robotically walking around with just the basic skills needed to appear helpful, it makes me realize that these professionals take up such jobs to make money, and not build a career. It’s saddening to see these professionals not maintain basic hygiene or dressing sense, and struggle hard to communicate in a common language. So, what is the gap here, and why?

If everyone tries to become an IAS, IPS, Doctor, Lawyer, Pilot, or Engineer, who will support and groom professionals like these, that everyone interacts with on a daily basis?

Why do we ignore the fact that there is a concept called multiple intelligence, and that people have different IQ and EQ? Why do we not acknowledge that everyone has a skill unique to them, and given a chance to hone it, can do their best with it? Why do we not understand, support and hone a student’s unique abilities, but instead force them to fit into a mould? Why do we lay rules set in stone, expect every child to grow up the same way, learn and behave the same way, and end up humiliating them for their supposed weaknesses when they are different from others? Why do we mistake differences for disabilities? Why do we not embrace uniqueness and help children plan careers that would best suit their intelligence and abilities. Why do we make students believe, that only a few careers depict success, and the rest mean failure? Why are we so harsh on our growing children? Why do we not help them embrace their skills and strengthen it, but end up forcing them to follow the herd? If only we could show even half the amount of unconditional love to children at homes and schools, like we show our pets. Would that be too much to ask for?

I am honestly concerned seeing people choose and stay in wrong professions. They are all being forced to do a job they nowhere relate to. Such professionals lack fundamental accountability. They end up needing strong managers to supervise and manage their work. These managers in turn, come up with innovative KPIs to increase employee productivity, but is that where the gap truly is? How do we get the best out of employees who never even wanted to be in the profession in the first place?

Why can't teachers and employers always be in sync to connect education with employment?

In every other profession, we come across people who are in the job by chance, and not by choice. Offices and workplaces are filled with people who don’t like the work they do, aren’t passionate about it, or carry a different dream in their hearts, but carry on, because that has always been the norm, because that is what parents, teachers and society taught them. Is it fair then, to expect quality work and service from this lot? Are only the so called respected professions such as engineering, medicine, and civil services, dream careers and marks of success? If so, why do we have so many uninterested professionals with no drive in these fields too?

Almost every profession in the country is filled with uninterested, demotivated minds. It’s time to question, have we as a nation, been continuously gambling with peoples aspirations, intelligences, dreams, desires and ambitions, by forcing a set standard of professional success, and respectable careers?

Schools, teachers, parents and society, are you listening? Isn’t it time we fix this?