What do you want to be when you grow up? Which one of us hasn't faced that question when we were younger? Most of us probably had an answer. Teacher! Fireman! Astronaut! The choices seemed endless then. But the question takes on a whole new significance for students fresh out of Class X or Class XII.
In a world filled with career choices ranging from medicine to mass communications, engineering to event management, marine biology to information technology, the confusion teenagers face over which career to pick is understandable. A large number of students continue to choose a career based merely on the fact that their friends are doing the same thing or because their parents told them to do so. This, however, may not be the best way to go about it.
If you've just taken your Class X/ Class XII board exams, and are trying to decide on a profession, the first thing you need to realise is that every individual is different. Not everyone can be a doctor or an engineer (not everyone wants to be one!) -- and that's okay!
Choosing a field of study that is not really suited to your interests or skills could prove disastrous. And that's where career counselling comes in.
What is career counselling?
Career counselling helps students discover their true potential and interest in various subjects in order to help them choose the right career. Several institutes, including schools and colleges, today offer career counselling through a series of aptitude and IQ tests. The tests usually have multiple-choice questions, which don't need to be prepared for in any way.
Then comes a face-to-face interview with a career guidance counsellor. The interview provides the student with the opportunity to clear any doubts or queries he/ she may have regarding career options and educational courses. It also allows the counsellor to further judge the aptitude of the student, thus building on the preliminary results of the written tests.
Varsha Rebello, manager and senior counsellor, Career Launcher India, says, "Career counselling is the guidance given to a student on the road he/she should take to achieve his/her goals. The advice and counselling provided is based on three deciding factors -- personality, aptitude and interest. The counsellor is trained in administering tests that determine the aptitude and skills of a child, his/her personality traits and subjects of interest."
Today, the choice is vast, ranging from the ever-popular engineering, medicine and management streams, to talent-centric fields such as fine arts or music.
As you try to decide the career you want to pursue -- based on which you will need to decide your further course of study -- do remember that the most important factor is interest. If you are not interested in a subject, creating a successful career in that field will be an uphill task.
Whether or not you would be any good at a profession in your area of interest is the next consideration, and an important one. Here again, speaking with a career guidance counsellor can help.
"Today, it has become very important to get the right guidance. There are so many career choices and, at the age of 16 or 18, a youngster cannot judge where his choice will take him in life. For this, he needs to be guided by the right person," says Rebello.
"Friends and family can very often provide incorrect guidance, because their parameters of judging a career choice might differ. A counsellor is objective while giving guidance, with no considerations other than aptitude and interest. Do remember, however, that counselling tests are not etched in stone; they are guidelines to better understand one's own career path," she says.
In a society like ours, career choices tend to be influenced by factors such as respectability attached to certain professions, peer pressure, fads and also the lack of value attached to some careers.
It is, therefore, important for the student and his/ her family to understand that the right profession is the one that the person is more likely to excel in, be it biotechnical engineering or fashion design. It is unfair to believe that every child will be able to study medicine or that an interest in fine arts can be nothing more than a mere hobby.
Says Rebello, "Students don't just need to know which stream to take; they also need to know which career he/ she is best suited to. Keeping the career goal in mind, we backtrack to the stream he/ she should be taking. It is important for people to have a career that they will be happy with and it should also be able to take them to their ultimate career goal in life.
"I come across students who are so confused about what they want to do, parents who do not know the latest trends and openings in education, the authoritarian view of the elders of the family... Then, when the result of the test comes, it is as clear as daylight what the child is good at." says Rebello.
"Recently, one student wanted to pursue law as a career, but her father was not very keen on it. He told her that if the results of the tests favoured a career in law, she could pursue it. The results showed her keen interest in the field and her father needed no more convincing."
Another case Rebello cites concerns a boy who wanted to pursue medicine but his family wanted him to do engineering. His results showed that he would excel in either career. After speaking to a counsellor, he homed in on engineering, because he could make a career in that stream faster.
Career counselling aims at discussing the pros and cons of each profession with the student and the family, so that a well-informed decision can be taken jointly.
Pratyusha Suryakant, 18, sought career counselling a few years ago. "Following the tests, I was told I would do well in a creative field such as advertising, fine arts or architecture. They gave me a comprehensive report on the right fields for me in comparison to others. The data was supported with statistics, pie charts and diagrams that gave me a complete view on possible career options. They also gave me a number of books to refer to. These books gave me a deeper understanding of my fields of interest. These tests really helped me. Today, I am keen on studying architecture. I've given the necessary entrance exams and am now waiting for the results."
In an increasingly competitive world that also offers innumerable career choices, career counselling gives students guidance based on the individual's abilities and interests. So, if you are confused about which field to step into, or concerned about whether you are suited to a particular career, seeking the help of a career counsellor might just give you the clarity you need.