It is true that many professionals worldwide are unhappy with their jobs. A study by TimesJobs found that 60 per cent Indians hate their jobs. While there are several reasons for this unhappiness, there is one that has been grossly overlooked. A study in 2014 revealed that one of the biggest reasons for this unhappiness was the guidance (or the lack of it) that young people received through high school (classes nine to 12).
It is time to wake up and fix a broken system. Career and college counselling is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity, just like the teaching of mathematics or English. Setting up a dedicated counselling department within all schools is the first and foremost step. The career counsellors in these departments should be equipped with up-to-date knowledge, tools and comprehensive guidelines on best practices. Schools need to arrange frequent workshops and seminars by guest speakers, and encourage counselling sessions for students.
As rigidity breeds repetitiveness and flexibility breeds creativity, we need to let students discover their “true calling” and help them select the right career path. Parents need to accept, acknowledge and allow their child to experiment. They need to first understand their child’s interest and remain open to the plethora of new courses available today. If a student wants to explore humanities or music as a career, then he or she should be encouraged.
And, yes, career counselling never ends. You need it for job satisfaction, to adapt to the numerous changes in the workplace, to match your skills with the demands of the job market, and to attune your personal career goals to the realities of a professional career.One of the soundest ways for students to ensure that they will be happy in their careers is by experiencing the practical elements with their subjects, even in high school. During the time I spent teaching, I found that the more a theoretical concept became alive and visible in the real world, the better the student learnt it. Every page of an academic book can be as exciting as reading Harry Potter or as torturous as being tied to a chair.
The industry today is engaging with students through structured seminars and forums to equip them with complete knowhow of different career options. Most schools are now showing interest in setting up in-house career counselling departments or having a regular professional counsellor. While it is not mandatory to have career counselling in every school, the CBSE board and some state governments have taken steps to mandate counselling for every student. According to a study conducted by The International Career & College Counseling (IC3) Conference in 2017, 56 per cent of universities feel that high schools need to play a bigger role in the smooth transition of students to universities. A whopping 98 per cent of universities feel that more information and counselling at the school level would better prepare students for university.
The career landscape is in flux at the moment, with several established choices virtually on the verge of extinction, and many new ones getting a foothold. It is estimated that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. These changes are inevitable and students have to be prepared in order to excel in their careers and find sustained happiness.
The author is chair, IC3 Conference; president and chief mentor, KIC UnivAssist; and a former high school college counsellor.