Addressing the Dilemmas of College and Career Counseling
As a 9th grade student, my mother asked me, “What do you want to become when you grow older?” and my response was “Molly Abraham”. My mother was surprised that I named my math teacher rather than mentioning a lucrative profession like engineering or medicine. She exclaimed immediately, “Son, I don’t want you to starve.” Her worries on my line of profession were justified and I could understand where she came from. The situation of academicians and teachers was quite dismal a few decades back, and the trend still continues in some sections of the society. Teachers received tremendous respect, but they collected a measly paycheque.The Fear Factor
My mother inadvertently had sown the seeds of fear (of financial turmoil) with the profession called “teaching,” and I was obliged to choose a safer career in engineering. Such fear-based decision making with careers is at the heart of our challenge today. It’s no surprise that we have ended with a world full of grumpy 35-year-olds who are doing things they don’t like, or young people choosing a career or college only because of historical data (with their family or friends) and not passion. The pertinent challenge is also that most people fail to realize the enormity of career and college counseling in school. Ideally every school needs to factor in a college and career-counseling department that will go a long way in grooming these young individuals towards a gratifying career path.
I was fortunate that I took up teaching and advising on careers after an engineering degree. And I have enjoyed every moment of my life over the last twenty years doing what I love.Changing The Tide
Change is inevitable and it is required at frequent intervals in order to evolve and progress. Below are some steps that can accelerate the process and ensure that students are able to make informed career decisions. These are also some points that academicians and counselors need to be cognizant of, in order to groom and guide young pupils towards a rewarding career.
- When past and future collide: We live in a world where a product or service launched three months ago becomes obsolete today. The same rule applies to education trends as well. Before students select careers, they need to go to the right source – which is a career counselor. While parents will be decision-makers, they may not always have information that is updated. Career decisions need to be made looking at the future, and not the past. This is where schools need to step in with a counseling department and ensure that the counselor is given the required tools in order to stay ahead of the game.
- Counseling needs to begin early: Most people assume that their children mature themselves towards career-related conversations by 12th grade, but this is only a misconception. The ideal time to start with counseling is grade 8 or 9, as this is the time when a child ponders about his passions and professional interests. This is the perfect time when the student can start exploring and preparing for his future and pave his path smoothly towards a career of choice.
- It’s not always about the aptitude: Aptitude tests are not the “be all and end all” with choosing careers. It is only an exercise to point students in certain directions, which need to be explored fully.
- Accepting diversity and convergence: Increasingly, fields of study are converging, be it Physics and Psychology or Agriculture and Economics or Biology and Mathematics – we need to acknowledge and understand this change to make an appropriate career decision. While static information will continue to make its presence felt, students need to accept diversity and be courageous in their choices else they risk pursuing careers that will become redundant.
I still remember how tough it was for me to explain to my father-in-law about my profession and what I do. It took him nine years to fully understand the significance of my work – and he is an accomplished scientist who retired from a premiere research institution. This says a lot about where we are even with a basic understanding of this profession. Whether it is rural or urban India, the reality is the same. The difference is, in rural India, people are humbler and acknowledge their ignorance – while in urban India, there is a resistance to accept that. Let us invoke that “childlike” attitude towards careers and open the doors to joyous living.