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General

Which profession?


The Bar, the operating theatre or the pulpit?

[jotted notes he left on the footstool next to the sofa]

As the Ryder Cup gets underway, the Commonwealth games and the sixth series of The Apprentice all bolt to a start, my thoughts turn to a familiar time in almost everyone’s life.

When I was growing up, most kids I played with had an aspiration of one kind or another. You know that youthful phase when your career aspirations begin to take shape and you begin to discuss with your friends about what you want to do when you grow up (or what your Parents think you should do).

Some kids wanted to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, or accountants. A good number wanted to be  bus/ truck drivers or mechanics. While yet a considerable bunch wanted to be musicians, footballers or politicians. All naive aspirations with virtually no financial driver attached to them. Certainly none that I can remember, although arguably-and with hindsight, one of the reasons parents encouraged their children to consider certain professions was probably  financial in nature.

However, what I do clearly remember is that the majority of the kids wanted to be doctors or lawyers. Further, and interestingly, nobody wanted to be a clergyman. Seriously, not a single one. Neither was there any mention of anyone wanting to be a writer or to work in a veterinary, with some of the older lads poking fun at the veterinary, for reasons that weren’t completely clear then. It was quite weird because even businessmen were viewed quite suspiciously.

As such, I couldn’t tell you why nobody considered authorship or the clergy,  except that perhaps not as many parents talked about such professions as an option. Personally, nobody suggested to me what I should do and not even my Parents said a word. The only thing as far as career options were concerned was a passing comment my sister made that I would make a good lawyer because I was too stubborn.

Nowadays, when someone asks me what the most promising profession is, I tell them to go study any engineering major. Whether its environmental, manufacturing or electrical. And for second option computer science or some other information technology related subjects would do just fine. They will get a job of their choice and put their skills to a constructive profession- and nobody will accuse or make fun of them, not too oftenly anyway.

Inevitably, some want to know why I suggest these professions, and are surprised when I tell them that there are too many Lawyers about- and quite a high number have credibility issues that makes the profession a subject of parodies of all sorts- think about how many jokes there are about engineers, and compare them with those about lawyers. In addition there are not as many companies in certain countries to support all the accountants that are undergoing training in those countries- I’ve got 3 friends who are all qualified accountants and who are currently unemployed / employed in a subject area other than accounting. In contrast, there are far too few technical people physically building or making something of useful purpose to society. For example its probably quite surprising – or inevitable, depending on how you decide to interpret the facts – that the UK, which spearheaded the industrial revolution around early 1700’s is now roughly 140’s on the CIA industrial growth / production scale.

What could have led to this apocalyptic fall? Could it be an increased focus on a ‘services economy’ instead of a manufacturing one ? Even so, the UK remains the 6th Largest economy, behind France and ahead of Italy, although with countries like Brazil and India powering forward at impressive rates, that could also change.

Further, the world is too reliant on Asia as a producer of all kinds of consumer goods, and without meddling too much with the economics of it all, I doubt it is a sensible thing; What then would happen if for some streak of misfortune, the boom in Asia led to a bust, as has been seen in the recent global financial crisis? Someone would have to fill the void, otherwise millions of jobs would be lost, yet if there is no alternative at hand, who then would fill that void?

To put it a different way, I can’t get over how South Korea found itself among the 20 largest economies in the world, when just 40 years ago, their GDP per capita was comparable to some countries in Africa. I think there are probably some important lessons to be learned there.

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