Choosing a career in changing times

AUGUST 14 — It is a norm to ask a student what they would want to be when they grow up. In the past, most people had standard notions of a successful career. It was normally about taking up a profession in the medical, engineering or legal field. The non-academically inclined child would tend to choose a technical or vocational field. However, times are changing very fast now and newer professions are appearing on the marketplace at a rapid pace. Employers expectations are extremely high — in tandem with the job requisites; they expect job seekers to have core 21st century competencies like critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills and leadership. The question is — has the current education system prepared students for the demands of these employers? There are thousands of school leavers and graduates entering the job market annually — what is the level of preparedness to match these ever-increasing needs and expectations of the work place?

Given this new scenario, parents and students alike face the mammoth task of choosing a course of study which has a good return of investment and also gives them job satisfaction. They have the unenviable task of ploughing through loads of information contained online or in glossy and attractive brochures, handbooks and handouts in order to decipher and make sense of what is on offer. This is normally done in the context of their particular circumstances or situation. There are several factors to consider here before making a wise decision. Too often, students are influenced by their peers and by the lure or promise of an ensuing affluent lifestyle that is dangled in front of them by some institutions. It is firstly important to check out the contents and agenda of the desired program and its curriculum. Some programs may have the same generic name, but the contents may not reflect that. Upon closer inspection, the curriculum might be vastly different in content and delivery mode.

It takes a trained and discerning eye to make the differentiation and distinction obvious. The curriculum needs to be assessed hand in hand with the quality and reputation of the faculty teachers. Ensuring that they have proper credentials and qualifications to deliver the content is crucial. Other factors which would come into play for consideration would be affordability and consequently necessary funding to undertake those courses. Tuition fees differ too with similar courses depending on a university’s reputation or brand name, real or perceived. Unfortunately, aptitude and passion for a particular discipline or field seems to have taken the backstage. They seem to come into play much later in the decision-making process, when it should be otherwise. There are those who settle for any degree — not taking into account employability issues and future prospects for the field in question — and regretting later. These considerations are left to the apparently distant future and parents and students think they should cross the bridge only when they come to it. What they do not realise is the future is not that distant and that within a few years they will need to procure a job after graduation and be able to fill a need in the economy at that point in time.

Career guidance and counselling are necessities which should be undergone as a pre-requisite before going into a journey of career exploration. It is of utmost importance that you discover your true passion and love for a subject. Psychometric tests do help, but more importantly feedback and input from teachers, parents and coaches play a very essential part in the final choice. The role of the parents contributes immensely to a child’s career path. Of course, there is the danger that parents, in their eagerness to give the best for their children, may subconsciously extrapolate their own dreams on to their children without paying due attention to their child’s natural attributes. It would be a lucky coincidence if the parent’s chosen field is in tandem with the child’s aptitude, passion and interest but more often than not, this is not the case.  Thus, it often happens that some of us discover our calling much later in life by trial and error. However, given today’s fast paced life and the rapid rate of change, it is crucial not to meander needlessly. There are many students who settle for any course for various reasons by default and not by design, hoping that life will eventually take them towards where their real talent and passion lies. Given modern conditions it is absolutely essential that the process of discovering one’s passion should be speedy and accurate. It is better that some time is spent at the outset in self-reflection and gathering feedback before an important choice in field of study and ensuing career is made. Parents who had given an upbringing of analysis and self-reflection to their children will find that it is much easier for them when these crucial decisions are made as their children are ready for these decisions.

It is commonplace to see huge investments made by parents or the government not achieving the intended purpose. Many students find out after taking on a first job that they are not fit for the job or do not like it at all. If the student abandons the discipline they are trained in or struggles in their area of so-called trained expertise, this will result in dissatisfaction in their careers and they moving on to new areas which they may be unprepared, thus resulting in further career tragedy. It is therefore imperative for career guidance personnel, counsellors and educational institutions in general to provide and facilitate student’s choice of career at an early stage. It is vital to guide the students in the suitable direction in order to maximise the student’s potential and equip them with a very important stepping stone to choosing the right path which will lead to success: ie their careers. Students must be able to unleash their talents and find meaning in their chosen field. New emerging fields should be explored and students should spend adequate time in examining all the feasible options available to them before taking the plunge and settling into their course of study. Only then will students enjoy and excel at their chosen fields of study and look forward eagerly to applying their knowledge in their chosen careers at a later date. We at GUC are waiting for students to come eagerly to us with a clear frame of mind in terms of their future contribution in society so that we can help mould that successful career and fulfil the ultimate needs of a student.

* Dr K. Puniamurthy is the Registrar of Genovasi University College.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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