Aswini Anburajan, Judge Business School Creating an alternate reality

What do I want to be when I grow up? The average of students on my MBA programme is 30, but most of are still asking that question.

This week at Judge we’re taking a break from classes to focus on personal and professional development with the theme being “Enquire Within.” To me the theme boils down to the same question I was asked when I was five in kindergarten. And the answer feels just as huge, distant, unfathomable and whimsical.

But there are different layers to the question now too. In the common room at the Juge I hear friends asking questions like, “Is the money worth the time? Am I too old to be hired? What country should I work in? Do I have the time and room to explore?”

The irony of course is that we won’t know until we try. I won’t know if trying to work for a boutique consulting firm focused on media is the right thing to do if I want to head a television network one day, or change the business model for news media or save the world. (Just a few things on my to do list ).

I won’t know if I feel creatively fulfilled, if the money is worth the time, if I’m passionate about the work until I try to do the work. Which is of course what makes it all so scary. I could make the wrong choice. I could fail.

A bit pessimistic and maybe realistic, but no one wants the big question in life to be a downer. So here’s my bright note/idea on careers for this week. We started with a lecture by Prof Srikumar Rao on happiness and personal mastery. The key takeaway: build an alternate reality that contradicts a mental model and try living it for a few weeks.

So here’s mine: it’s okay if I don’t know what I want to do or be when I grow up. It’s okay if I go to lots of careers presentations and get excited and want to dabble in different things. It’s possible that a job can have all the things I’m looking for – money, work-life balance, creativity, passion and wonderful colleagues. And I can get a job like that at the end of my MBA.

A tall order, but according to Prof Rao it’s what we think we can’t achieve that limits us. We collect evidence for the reality we want to construct, not the other way around. So now I just need to keep my eyes peeled. Apparently it takes 3 to 8 weeks for an alternate reality to set-in. Stay tuned…