Dear Mentor:

Should I worry about recessions or discipline saturation?

I am completing my graduation with B.Sc. (electronics) this year and wanted to pursue a career in computers. But the recession has scared me off. Although the market is building up, I fear - thinking long term - the same thing to happen again. My B.Sc. scores are good and I have most of the options open, if a career change is needed. Should I go on with the computer branch? If yes, which is more secure and better: programming, administration or any other? After spending nearly 3 years in graduation, what alternative careers can you suggest that has some bright prospects and not much saturation?

Future Concerns, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India

Dear Future Concerns:

Let us deal with the recession first. We keep getting this issue over and over again. For the longest time, India had had a closed economy through central planning that was devoid of global or free market pressures. Thus India had never really faced a recession or economic slowdown, that is, until now. In free competitive markets such as the US or Canada or Western Europe, recessions have long been a part of life. Although an economic recession is never pleasant, people in such economies are more aware of its implication.

Recessions occur due to supply and demand imbalances. When demand exceeds supply, economic growth occurs, and when supply exceeds demand, the recessions or economic slowdowns occur. The ups and downs in the economy are called economic cycles, a well-known and understood phenomenon. Historically, the down cycle is of much shorter duration than an up cycle. An economic downturn is a healthy phenomenon through which the market reinvigorates itself as it aligns the supply and demand. This in turn forms the platform for greater growth.

While economic slowdowns are unpredictable and short-term, your personal growth through education and career is for a lifetime. One should not base long-tern personal decisions about education and career on the current economic conditions. The economic slowdown or growth would end sooner or later, but the question remains whether your learning would be valuable. In our view, your decision should be independent of the current economic conditions.

You did, however, raise a different issue that should be of concern while making choices for education and career, and that is market saturation in a particular field. Whether a particular field is on the rise or in a decline is a very relevant issue, but not always easy to predict.

Given your situation, you can pursue further education or employment. For education, you can continue in the current field of electronics, computer engineering, computer science, or an MBA. All these choices, in our view, have good future prospects. However, all these fields will evolve over a period of time and your ability to respond through that evolution will determine your success much more than your college education will.

To emphasize this point, let's state it another way. It is not just your education, once and for all, that would determine your success in the long-term. Education gives you a start for a career. Your ability to adapt and learn with changing market demands for talent and skills will determine your success in the long run.

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