Postgrad Poblem

Jun 20th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, aptitude, Career advice, career challenges, career choices, challenges, fear, grad school, mentor, office problems, personality, post graduate, problem, success, taboo

PracticaL Mentor

I recently received a request for advice on selecting a postgraduate course of study.  My colleague, who I met though Yahoo.answers.com, has an under graduate degree in accounting and, is currently employed by a small accounting firm.  Recently he enrolled in PGDIBO (Post graduate diploma in International Business Operation) at IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University.) Now he is questioning his decision because it may make a bad impression to suddenly shift to International Business.

Postgraduate school may be an opportunity to enhance and refine focus on an existing career field or to broaden your education to include additional skill sets. For example, although there are undergraduate pre-law curriculums, law school students may have undergraduate degrees in career fields ranging from accounting to zoology.  The same is true for many other postgraduate fields of study.  In addition, many people have postgraduate degrees in several different areas of study.  So there is no set rule that postgraduate work has to be in the same area as the undergraduate degree.  Most post graduate students select there area of study based on the interests and career goals.

Most career fields have two general paths: specialist and generalist. Specialists focus on refining their skills in a narrowly defined area, while generalists have a more broad based skill sets.  Both paths are essential.  An example is the medical field where there are general practitioners and specialist.  When a patient is not feeling well they usually go to a general practitioner to determine the nature of the aliment.  The general practitioner has the knowledge to diagnose a wide range of aliments and diseases. Depending on the severity of the diagnoses the general practitioner may treat the patient, or refer the patient to a specialist for detailed examination and treatment.  Most career fields are similar in structure.  The decision to become a generalist or a specialist depends on individual career goals, interests, aptitude and personality.

So how does one decide which path to follow?  There are aptitude and personality tests available to help identify which career path fits best with your interests, aptitude, and personality.  While these analysis tools give valuable information, your decision should be based on your individual own individual analysis.  Asking yourself questions and thinking about what type of work you would enjoy? Do you like interacting with people? Are you a detail person? Often a SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis will help identify which factors carry the most weight in your decision process.  I often hear high school students say they want to become rock stars, because rock stars make a lot of money and have a fun life style.  If the primary goal is to make money, perhaps some research would provide them with other career paths that have better odds of achieving their goal.  The percentages of becoming a rock star or a professional athlete are slim and require a huge amount of natural ability.

Many undergraduate students work in their chosen career fields for a while before going to graduate school.  This affords them an opportunity to determine what they like and don’t like about their work routine.  In addition, they have a chance to observe the benefits and drawbacks of being a generalist or a specialist.  In many business fields upper management positions are filled with generalist, while research and academia favor specialist.  Also after working in an industry for a few years, one knows if they enjoy their work or not.  You spend more time on the job than anywhere else, so it is important to enjoy and derive satisfaction from what you do.  After 40 years in the work force it is my observation that is better to make less money and enjoy your work, than to be miserable for the sake of a few more dollars.  In most cases, it ends up those who sacrifice job satisfaction in pursuit of a higher paycheck end up in the same place as those who did what they enjoyed.

My advice to, my colleague who is struggling with his decision to pursue an international business degree when his career field is accounting is to consider why you chose accounting in the first place and why you feel international business would enhance your career goals.  In my opinion, international business would sustainably broaden your employment opportunities in this global economy, and especially in India. My impression is that although you are a good accountant, it may not afford you the job satisfaction that management or business may offer you.  Accounting is a very valuable undergraduate course to lay the foundation for upper management, but accounting is often considered a specialty field with less opportunity to advance to management or decision making positions.  Personally, I have an engineering undergraduate degree, and obtained an MBA to broaden my career choices and opportunities.  There was some peer and professional pressure to stick with engineering, but the MBA opened the door to international negotiations and strategic planning opportunities, which were more rewarding to me than specializing in engineering.  In conclusion, in my opinion, it is better to take some risk to pursue a career you enjoy.  You can still keep your accounting job if you find you do not like international business, so the risk is minimal.

The PracticaL Mentor

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