Choosing a career path is one of the most critical decisions in a person’s life. Yet, it is often not given the attention and priority that it merits. Young people are typically confused regarding their career choices and may end up making decisions that they later regret or are not satisfied with. According to a 2010 survey by Deloitte, around 80 per cent people in the USA are not passionate about the work they do. The situation is predictably worse in developing countries, where there are fewer varieties of jobs available, less awareness regarding career prospects, and fewer entrepreneurship opportunities.
In our society, there is much emphasis on academics: parents are eager for their children to do well in their studies, many students sit through private tuitions after school hours, and academic performance is typically considered the main criterion for determining a child’s level of intelligence. Despite this academics-oriented lifestyle among students, there is very little focus on their career counselling – something we now need to address, in order to help young people thrive professionally.
Why Career Counselling is Necessary from an Early Age
Children are typically not in a position to determine a career path for themselves. Their exposure to various professions is largely through electronic media and curriculum books that give them a rather vague, and sometimes inaccurate, understanding of these jobs. Without gaining practical exposure to professional life, it is indeed very difficult to decide what careers they wish to pursue. Besides, the current digital age is characterized by unpredictability with a rapidly changing workforce landscape. A job in demand today may not fare so well in the coming decades. This is why the role of parents, teachers, and professional career counsellors is so critical in helping the children make sound career choices.
The process of career counselling should start in primary school and continue through high school and college. Very often, the only “career counselling” students receive in our society is when applying for their university admissions. By then, it is usually too late, as students’ choices are already restricted by the subjects they studied in high school or college. Besides, they may be hesitant to go for a career path different from that of their peers or one not recommended by their teachers. Without receiving career guidance based on their particular strengths and interests, students typically opt for professions based on their market repute or simply “go with the flow” – do what everyone else is doing. As a result, many students end up with the wrong career choice – one that does not interest or suit them, where they are unlikely to thrive, or where the market is already saturated. On the other hand, if students have a firm career preference by the time they enter high school, there is greater clarity in their thought process, and they are more likely to be confident about the choices they eventually make.
This is an excerpt from the print issue.
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