The difference in journeys: Why you failed and why he succeeded

In the previous blog, I discussed a problem that existed for many students in their teenage and quite a lot of seasoned professionals as well; the problem that they simply did not know what they wanted to do in their lives. However, I believe this may actually not be the problem but the result of the problem. Not knowing what to do is perfectly fine till the time you are aware of your own skills and interests and are able to make a conscious decision to back them.

Taking this forward, I approached Mr. Vanshaj Kaul who is a Public Policy Expert. With around seven years of experience in public policy development, he quit his Public-Sector job for the sake of his “passion” to study International Development. So, he went ahead and enrolled in world’s third ranked school to pursue his dreams. This was the turning point for Mr. Kaul because this is the time when he actually followed his passion to fulfil his dreams. This is a guest blog written by him pointing at the difference in journeys – “Why you failed and why he succeeded.

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What do you think is more important, the destination or the journey? The degree or the journey you traverse to get one?  Well, I believe it is the latter! Confused how? Let’s understand this by trying to make a distinction between me and one of my friends. With all things being equal, what was it that differentiated me from Sumit for the better part of our careers?

As for me, when I was 16, I liked understanding why there were conflicts in the world and why and how public policies were formed. I loved reading about the interplay between history and politics and how and why today politics is motivated by history. I could learn a language easily and was good at public speaking even though I was petrified at the idea of the same. With the benefit of hindsight, I can articulate that I should’ve studied politics or something that dealt with public policies which I ended up studying eventually. But for a 16-year-old me, it was difficult to articulate what my interests could mean and lead to. My social connections, friends & family were as ill equipped as I was, to make meaning out of my interest back then. So I ended up getting an Engineering Degree as most of my friends, but did that help me become a professional engineer? Well, I hate to say this but the answers is No!

To understand why not, I interviewed a friend of mine, Mr Sumit Parashar who is a graduate of IIT-K and now studies and is a researcher at the Paris School of Economics. Let me share a quick summary of the interview on how he got it right the first time and how it was the best thing for him.

As per Sumit, he made a sound analysis of what he wanted to do; he interacted with not just his peers but also professional economists. He then researched the skills he would need to be an economist and tried to co-relate it with his interests. His parents played a key role in giving him the freedom to explore what he wanted to do. In Sumit’s words, the ability to communicate his thoughts and interests is what made the difference for him. When in-fact he realized what he wanted to do, it actually motivated him to work hard and get through IIT-K. Everything since then has helped him climb the stairs, the professional connections he made, the non-academic skills he gained, the friends he made. So when he graduated, everything was in the right place for him, he had the skills, the social contacts and the resources he wanted to  work for a company he wanted to while doing something he liked.

Now let’s move forward and see how different was my scenario?

I was not motivated to get into the best engineering college, even when I graduated, since I wasn’t passionate about the subject, I had not worked to gain the requisite skills that I would use in the professional world. I rarely participated in seminars etc that would give me the right social & professional contacts, hence I failed miserably at building the right network. I was good academically but that’s not enough. I never made the extra effort to learn more, get more out of my degree because I wasn’t passionate about it. Whereas when Sumit graduated, since he liked what he studied, not only were his skills honed in a better manner, but he had the right social & professional contacts which eventually helped him get into the right jobs. His friends were already working in most of the companies he would probably work. He knew the right people in the right places already and knew how to navigate his way through because professionals already trusted his skills coming from a good school.

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For development economists, this is a perpetual trap, once you start on the wrong foot, it is difficult to get out of the trap. We reached different destinations as graduates but was it the degree that mattered? I don’t believe so, it was the fact that he enjoyed his subject and picked all the right things in his journey whereas I just wanted to finish it. But all said and done, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself and to evaluate your own capabilities and be ready to make the tough choices even if it means quitting your comfort zone.

-Vanshaj Kaul

vanshaj.kaul@sciencespo.fr 

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