Saturday, May 29, 2010

Career Councelling - Let them choose. We would facilitate.

Today I bumped into an over-joyed emotion on FaceBook from a very sweet cousin of mine, saying 'my results are out'. The immediate question to my mind was, "how do I diplomatically get out the examination that he is referring to?" He sure is a sweet cousin of mine, but I had no clue of his exact age and the class he is in. The reason is my 10 years stay in Mumbai chasing big dreams, chasing whatever looks interesting and whatever promises to pay-off.

The next instant, he perhaps understood my dilemna thousands of kilometres away in Duliajan, Assam, the message pops in saying, 'Class X - 90%'. I quickly replied "Congratulations". I was overjoyed. At the same time, I felt a little stuck thinking, "he must be now burdened with expectations to choose science and become a doctor or an engineer."

This brought me back to my thoughts to one of my earlier blogs about where I want to be vs where I am. It brought me to thinking about career councelling, or for a better word, the importance of career assessment.

I often lament saying, "We need to better career councelling in India". But today I am quite stuck thinking, how do you give career advice? What is career councelling when it comes to the elders of a family guiding the young ones in the family?

This blog is an effort to understand our responsibilities as parents, elders, seniors, to guide our sweet young energetic ones towards cultivating dreams for themselves and towards achieving them.

Career councelling is mostly a self discovery process. So the first rule of thumb is that we can not impose our thoughts of a good career to our sweet young ones. (I am quite liking this term - SYO). We have to help them discover themselves, their interest and their passion. No career or means of livelihood is a bad career. It can only be a bad choice.

That makes it clear that as elders, we need to facilitate choice and the act of choosing, and not choose for our SYOs.

The act of choosing is a serious business. It needs a clear responsible mind, hardwork, discipline, honesty, introspection and respect and all other such human virtues. This is where we elders should come in, in whatever capacity possible.

We can instill good values in our SYOs and make them responsible citizens.

Standing up for one's own mistakes, understanding the value for each penny earned, knowing to do his/her own homework, binding his/her own books with the brown cover and labelling each book, washing the tiffin box himself, making his own school bag with the books that is required by the class routine for the next day, keeping a diary, and many other such seemingly mundane routines actually make a SYO feel responsible or makes him responsible.

He needs to get a clear sense of his responsibilities vs his elders' (mostly parents) responsibilities. He should be clear that he is not going to get imposed with a career choice. That is his responsibility to choose.

As I said, the act of choosing is lot of hardwork and discipline. One has to be aware of the options to choose from. Here, we elders have a big role to play. We have to give an unbiased view of all the possible career options that our SYO has.

The keyword here is 'unbiased'. For instance, farming is not a bad career option as compared to being a doctor. Singer Lucky Ali is a passionate farmer. However, it is our duty that we provide a summary for each of the career options to the best of our abilities without being judgemental. For an emerging economy such as India, a necessary element of the summary should be about possible family life in a particular career chosen. In our ambition to be a high flying MNC executive, we forget that we might have to become migrant labourers staying away from our extended families, which many may not want to in the long run.

To my mind, one of the biggest task that we have today is to demystify medicine and engineering as career options. It feels so regressive to me to predict that when you are little older than a toddler, you want to become a pilot and when you are giving your board exams, you want to be an engineer or a doctor. It is saddening to see all the IITians going for IIMs, which clearly shows a lack of focus in terms of career planning. Moreover, it is Government spending (subsidies) going waste.

Secondly, to choose well, our SYO has to be aware of his own self, interests and aptitude. There are a number of online assessment test to get to know one's own interests and aptitude. Let me share an interesting link which I found while researching on online assessment tools. Although these can help in knowing oneself, but it has to be complimented with self introspection, observing elders'/others' career and lifestyle, lots of reading and exposure to all possible media, especially the Internet.

I remember my days when I passed my class XII. I rebelled not to study medicine or engineering just because everyone wants me to be doing one of the two. That probably was a childish emotion but I know the reason now. Thank God that my parents always supported me in whatever I wanted to do. Otherwise, it could have been worse.

This blog is just a summary of my opinion of the responsibilities that we elders have towards our SYOs. There is lots to read on the Internet. It is the everyday parenting that counts in giving the wings to our SYOs to fly towards their dreams.