As children, we are often asked the question, “What do you want to become when you grow old?” but seldom has anyone asked the question “Could I help you in selecting the right career path?”
With passing time, the nature of competition and the world of careers have changed radically. Robotics and machinery have further impacted this by replacing muscle work in the manufacturing sector and similarly tasks that involve brainwork are being taken over by computers and artificial intelligence. The shift in the jobs and careers space may be daunting for students and this is the primary reason why there is a need to start thinking about careers early on. We as entrepreneurs, professionals and counsellors need to advice and support these pupils, so that they become happier human beings.
On one hand, we need expert career counsellors who can guide these students but from another perspective, students need to explore their career options earlier. In order to prepare for the future of careers, students need to dwell deeper and investigate as to how they envision themselves 15-20 years later. If a student aspires to be a dentist, he/she can feel free to interview a 35-year-old dentist or a mass media student can spend a day with a journalist to gauge their career scope and comfort level. The youth need to begin exploring right from Class 8 or 9 and sustain the process up until Class 12, so that they have a better understanding of two main elements - career counselling and college exploration.
A Fresh Perspective
Barring the competition, it is important to look at career counselling with a fresh pair of lenses. We need to shape the careers of these young individuals and be the guiding force in helping them choose wisely. The recent Open Doors 2016 report released by Institute of International Education found that there has been a spike of +24.9% of Indian students who have chosen to study in the U.S. While the fast growth is gratifying, this also demands the need for qualified and mature professionals who can guide them to a suitable career path and not mere guidance for the sake of targets and growth. Career counsellors play a pivotal role in this process and they are not only providing advice but also shaping the lives of these young people.
Earlier the Better
As the above adage goes, earlier is definitely better. While a high school student may be baffled on what to study, let alone the matter of a career choice; it is the choice of studies that will take him or her to the next level. This is where career counselling could intervene and open up wider avenues based on the skills, aptitude and individual aspirations. With growing peer pressure and influence from family members overpowering the youth’s mind, a career counsellor can immensely help in alleviating all the confusion and stress. An early start to this process will only help in a smoother career trajectory ahead.
Schooling them Right
Early career counselling can be made possible only if there are appropriate amount of avenues and outlets. In India particularly, many parents don’t take their child to career counsellors due to a variety of reasons. The reasons may be due to a lack of knowledge, unavailability of counsellors or even budgetary constraints. This is where schools could step in and incorporate career counselling at the right time when these students need it the most. Parents also need to be understanding and avoid pressurising their children on taking up professional paths that don’t match their children’s personality and passion. We need to promote flexibility and exploration versus rigidity and definitiveness. It is only flexibility that will give rise to exploration and creative thinking; whereas rigidity will transpire into repetitive actions.
With the ever-evolving education sector, it is preparedness and right guidance that can help students pursue their passions early in life. Eventually, the idea is to move in a direction wherein we stop asking children what they want to be and instead ask them how we can help in building their careers.
(The writer Ganesh Kohli is an Educator since 20 years)