How to decide if something is worth your time
I wrote a post recently called “10 ideas for a side project” and after I shared that, a lot of people asked me how they can be sure if something is worth their time or not. I also had a few juniors asking me if they should intern this summer, attend summer school, study for the CAT or do something else altogether. While I’m always in favour of trying new things, I have to say that not every opportunity is worth the time and effort it demands in return. So, how do you calculate the ROI of taking something up? Here are a few questions that might help…
Who will you get to work with?
Whenever I took something up in college, I almost always learnt more from the people I was working with, than the actual work that I was doing. If you’re taking something up, make sure the people you’ll get to work with are people you can learn from and people you’d like to pick up traits from. For example, when I interned at IIM Ahmedabad, I wasn’t very sure what my day to day work would be like, but I knew I’d get to meet some interesting entrepreneurs from the Indian tech space (and I did!) so I jumped at the opportunity.
What will you learn from it?
Whether it’s an internship or a society you’re joining, you’ll want to make sure that the skills you pick up from it are the sort you actually want to learn. When you start, you won’t master things right away of course, but you’d want to make sure the time and effort you’re putting into something is actually worth it. If you don’t actually care all that much about the markets, it makes no sense to join the Finance and Investment Cell of your college, just cause you see a lot of other people joining it.
What are the long term benefits of taking it up?
A lot of things don’t have mind blowing advantages right away. Take blogging as an example; you start out small by sharing your thoughts and maybe your Mom is the only one who religiously follows your posts in the beginning. But think about the long term benefits. You can learn things like SEO and CMS, build a platform you can leverage to meet new people and even make a bit of side income from it.
What could you be doing instead?
At the end of the day, it’s all about the opportunity cost of doing anything. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it means “the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. Time is a limited resource and you can only do so many things at a time. By taking up an internship over the summer, are you missing out on the opportunity to really and truly work on setting up your freelance web designing path? Does it make sense to squeeze in a Brand Ambassador program (even if they’re giving you coupons 😛 ) while neglecting your academics? If your time is better spent elsewhere, then you might want to think twice before signing up for something.
What factors are “non negotiable” for you?
These are factors that you don’t want to compromise on. This could be something like wanting to do a paid gig or perhaps joining something that won’t require you to travel across the city (cause who likes traffic and/or public transport, right?) It could also be a requirement like wanting to work with a well known brand. Whatever it is, make your list of non negotiable factors and evaluate the opportunity accordingly.
How easy is it for you get out of it if you don’t like it?
All said and done, at times you can only find out if something is worth doing when you actually, you know, do it. Some things are easier to get out of than others. Like when I took up a course at the King’s College London Delhi Summer School program, it was a commitment of 3 weeks and Rs.25,000. I couldn’t have tried it for two days and then quit. So I had to be very sure of my decision. If it’s like a passion project, that might be easier to leave if you realise that it really isn’t your cup of tea.
Have you done your research?
This is pretty much the most important question because it’ll help you answer all the other questions on the list. How will you know who else is involved in this initiative? How will you know what growth and the learning curve looks like? By doing your research, of course. Read up about it thoroughly online. Email people who’ve done the same program before. Read reviews and pay special attention to critical ones. Discuss it with your mentors, seniors, friends, parents or whoever you think can ask you the right questions to get to the right answer.
What’s an important decision that you’ve had to make in the recent past? What did you keep in mind while making that decision? I’d love to hear your story, so leave it in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!