In the digitally connected modern world, we are moving away from the notion of viewing work and life as two separate components. Work is increasingly being embraced as a subset of life and we are moving towards the understanding that the quality of one’s work directly impacts the overall quality of one’s life.
We spend 70% of our adult lives working, thus it becomes critical that our work be something that we don’t just excel at, but also love and something that adds value to us and makes our lives enriching.
Evolution of careers
For the longest time, careers were viewed as one big milestone, a broad field or profession that people chose to pursue. However, with time, the definition of career has evolved, and careers have now come to be viewed as a journey that evolves with time and encompasses two or three big arches and multiple smaller branches. The concept of careers has become more fluid and people around the world increasingly move from one field to another. Multidisciplinary fields attract more talent than ever, and skills are becoming more important than degrees and certificates. Rapid advancement in technology gives birth to novel careers every day. And it is this new world with its overwhelming platter of choices that makes career guidance more pertinent than ever.
Why career guidance?
Career guidance refers to availing the services of a trained professional on matters of career choice and navigation. There are several types of career guidance professionals, specialising in career counselling, education counselling, abroad admissions, coaching etc. And it’s important to choose the right kind at different stages as per your needs.
If you look at the current ecosystem, most decisions are taken in consultation with people around us in an ad-hoc fashion, and while it is advisable to talk to a lot of people about their career choices and understand different perspectives, this approach has two major drawbacks:
Everybody may not have access to these professionals
Professionals/ students in one field may not be fully aware of the scope and developments in other fields
One way to solve this is to take the services of a career counsellor or coach. Another way could be to explore resources or repositories specially designed for this purpose that are available on the internet. Exploration can also be facilitated by means of experiential learning, through virtual or real project-based internships, simulations, and games. It also helps to talk to seniors who have gone through similar exploration journeys and their approaches and decision-making frameworks.
Advantages of career counselling:
Career counselling helps with solidifying one’s roadmap- whether you have no idea about future career prospects or even if you have already made a decision
It is agnostic of board or curriculum- it augments education counselling and helps make more informed decisions around college/ or career
Most schools don’t offer career counselling as part of the curriculum, and teachers/ parents may not be completely equipped. Hence, it helps to avail services of a professional.
Given the increasing number of choices today and rapidly evolving career paths, a career counsellor could help with streamlining the decision-making process
Any career guidance program broadly has 3 components:
Knowing oneself- Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses, interests and skills, learning style and personality traits
Knowing one’s choices- Understanding the different career options available to one depending on their subjects, interests and/or past experiences
Career Matching- What career paths would suit one the best and charting journeys to strive for them
What is the right time to start?
Ideally, parents should start talking to their kids about career choices from as early as grade 8. This helps students to actively plan their career journeys rather than reactively opt for colleges and streams later as per the availability. Starting early also helps in developing the right decision-making framework early on in life that can be iterated with time.
And ideally, the process goes on for as long as one’s career. Most top-level executives appreciate the importance of career coaching and avail of its benefits.
Start at home
Take your kid to work with you for a day. Usually, most employers let you bring your children to work. Use this opportunity to introduce your kid to the concept of work, career, and workplace. Show them around, and let them shadow you. Tell them about your work, your typical day, what you like about your work, and what you do not, tell them about your co-workers. Have them make notes about it. When they are back, ask them to write an article about their day and share it with their friends.
Where can these services be availed?
In India alone, there are over 15,000 trained career professionals who offer their services through online and offline platforms. In addition to these counsellors, there are also platforms that let students explore multiple careers through internships- virtual and real. At Know Thy Choice, we help students with a detailed understanding of their career choices, explore multiple career paths and visualize their journeys, and enable them to get mentorship through near peers.
What to expect from counselling sessions
Career Counsellors or career coaches are trained professionals who could have a root in psychology or education or may have done certification in career coaching.
Usually, career counsellors deploy tools to assess a candidate before starting with the process. It includes qualitative and quantitative methods. They may ask students and parents to answer (oral/ written) questions to understand their profile, expectations, and aspirations. Quantitative methods may include psychometric assessments to evaluate students’ interests, personalities, learning styles, and aptitudes among other factors.
These aspects together enable a counsellor to recommend career paths in sync with a child’s aptitude and interests. Once done, counsellors, parents and students may sit down together to chart out detailed roadmaps with milestones for 2-3 career options, and how to explore them.
Internships as a way of Exploring Careers
The industry landscape is fast evolving and educational institutions may be unable to keep pace with this rapid change. In such a scenario, very often, students have wrong perceptions and expectations of what a career may entail. Internships and live projects are fantastic ways to overcome this asymmetry.
After a few counselling sessions, work with the counsellor to shortlist a few career options with your child. This would depend on a lot of factors- their personality, interests, aptitude and so on. Once these options are out there, internships are an effective way to explore and zero down on which one the student may like better.
Internships could be real or virtual. As part of real internships, students may find an opportunity to assist professionals and watch them closely and see what they do. This helps them understand the nuances and challenges of that field. It also helps them closely see other associated career options. In a situation where a student is inclined towards a field, but not sure of exactly what they may want to do, this method proves effective, as it exposes one to many careers aligned with the same interest. For example, if you like literature, working with a publisher may give you exposure to multiple career paths, like writing, editing, and publishing. However, while this may cover some breadth, it might not be the best way to get hands-on in-depth knowledge of a field. Virtual internships may be more effective in that case.
Virtual internships or live projects are usually conducted under the guidance of industry professionals, and they let students explore the different dimensions of a career. For example, if you are an aspiring architect, a virtual internship will help you work under the guidance of a professional architect, try out modelling, and introduce you to different concepts of architecture.
Reaching out to students and mentors from different fields is another effective way to make informed career decisions. It becomes all the more powerful if students are able to identify with these students or experts. Initially, it helps to reach out to multiple people from different streams to learn about diverse fields. These people could be reached through formal means or informally through one’s network.
Once settled on a career choice, it helps to identify a couple of mentors from that field. Ask them if they are willing to mentor. Set out calls with them on a regular basis (weekly/ biweekly/ monthly). These calls serve as opportunities to set effective goals, review them, track goals, and ask for specific guidance. The mentors also serve as accountability partners and keep you true to your goals.
In many a case, it is possible that you may have the same mentor through different stages of your life, or you may have different mentors for different stages.
Do At Home:
Give the student (or your kid) a piece of paper and a pen. And ask them to write down all the careers or jobs they know. Once done, ask them what they understand from each of these jobs or careers. When they have done that, ask them to identify people around them (parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, friends’ parents, neighbours, school seniors, and so on) who may be in similar jobs and ask them to interview them- understand what their days are typically like, what are the hard parts about their jobs, what did they do to get there, and so on. These interviews will help them form a basic understanding of these jobs.
Role of Parents
Parents are as important a stakeholder in the counselling process as students. Parents should accompany students for all sessions (unless otherwise stated by the counsellor for specific sessions) and clearly outline their expectations. But most importantly, parents should keep an open mind around their kids’ career decisions and provide an environment where students can decide independently for themselves. As parents, it’s important to remember that we are enablers, and our role is to empower our kids to take decisions that serve them best.
Career guidance is an iterative process and should not be limited to a couple of sessions. It is important that the counsellor and parents arrive at a periodic cadence and roadmap that evolves with time. It should not be done in a silo, and it is important to keep exchanging notes between counsellors, parents, students, and teachers. If used effectively, career guidance could help your child lead a more fulfilling and happy life.