1.       AMERICA'S CareerInfoNet - Informed Career Decisions

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Career Choice

2. This is the gist of the talk prepared for the Teachers Teach Teachers Presentation on Oct. 10, 2000

  Square Peg in a Round Hole:

Careers Guidance

Let me outline my plan for the morning.  I would like to initially speak to you about the relevance of careers guidance within the present educational context.  Then I’ll list some of my favorite web sites that you are “free” to visit to find additional information.  We would then spend some time to complete a paper and pencil inventory on learning styles.  I will like to take a few minutes in the end to answer some of your questions and provide feedback on what you have gained from this talk.  Please feel free at any time to interrupt my talk if you have any questions.

The title is not to be dismissed as "just another cliché" - as there is so much home truth in clichés too. Over 2500 years ago, Heraclitus was supposed to have remarked…

‘The only constant is change’

It has been estimated that in the 21st century, the average job seeker would have changed jobs about eight times and career four times.  Although this sounds like a mantra for the year 2000, it was prophesied in the late 1960s by British cybernetician Sir Leon Bagrit. 

To compound the problem further technology seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. Another mastermind of cybernetics, Norbert Weiner has summarized this appropriately:

‘to live effectively is to live with adequate information’  

I believe gathering career information by networking and doing research in high school would give the students more power to control their lives later. To quote from the National Curriculum Handbook for teachers in England: Key Stages 3 & 4 (1999)

‘Careers education contributes to pupils' personal effectiveness through its emphasis on transferable skills such as decision making, handling information critically, self-awareness, action  planning and review, negotiating and self-presentation.  Pupils can use these skills to manage their self-development and career  exploration as well as their career plans, decisions and routes.’

In this part of the world, private institutions do not budget for providing guidance.  In any case most of the students who graduate from the schools do go on to universities and the school is not under any pressure for providing such service.  Nevertheless, the importance of careers education in the UK can be seen and understood from the staggering 84 million pounds increase in the budget from 134 million pounds to 218 million pounds earmarked in The Competitiveness White Paper.

The seriousness of this is evident from the ongoing Pilot scheme of the UK government’s intention to provide a personal advisor for every student from the academic year 2001 onwards under the umbrella of Connexions.  It is their belief that though this and Citizenship the students would be suitably equipped for adult life.   The concept of a personal advisor to every student has been in vogue in the US for a long time now. 

It's unfortunate that most people do not put much thought into their choice of their career. It is a very complex decision to make and maybe the complexity of it turns people off.   The dilemma in this process was corroborated when I found from my readings on educational literature that there are well over sixty factors that have been cited which could influence one's career choice.  For convenience, I have classified most of these factors under three categories:

·         Personal

·         Social

·         Institutional

You would find the major factors listed under the first website suggested on page 4.  When I spoke to some of the students at Emirates International School about how their institution had/had not helped them making their career decisions, it was very heartening to see the students say with confidence that the challenging IB curriculum had given them a head start, and the EIS clientele along with their teacher’s encouragement was of immense help too.  Some of them did moan that we do not have a system of personalized careers guidance in this school and that they would have liked to have received more personalized guidance and work experience through the aegis of the school. 

Research has repeatedly shown that a comprehensive careers education program in the high school helps motivate the students to:

·         earn higher grades

·         experience the school in a more positive atmosphere

·         derive a greater satisfaction in learning  

The ideal careers education program must kindle a spark in the students by helping them identify their passion in life.  Often I have been queried at social gatherings why I had chosen to become a teacher.  The answer had always been that education was my passion even from school.  On examining this answer further during my dissertation work, I found that it could well have been the inspiration provided by my English teacher who taught us briefly for about eight months in Grade 10.  I certainly held him in awe and possibly absorbed some of the power he had as an excellent teacher. In my opinion the students at school tend to hold a greater amount of curiosity.  Therefore it was vital to funnel them with wisdom so that they can slowly narrow their interests over time.     

As a word of caution, in all this it is important to bear in mind that there are always people with multiple interests and may deliberately want to pursue several careers during their lives.  Researchers such as Hodkinson (1995) have called for a need for discretion while guiding young people make their ‘correct’ career decisions when they leave school

I believe careers guidance is an integral part of education. The choice of careers was mainly the choice of the family elders, sometimes, the directives of the head of the family. In the Gulf News of October 7, 2000 Dr. confirmed this It was always the “doctor, lawyer, engineer” syndrome and the children were willy-nilly fitted into the chosen compartment – (a little like Procrustes, I am afraid.)

In my family, I know of two persons who abandoned medical school midway - one after he first year, and the other after the third year. They realized that they were just not cut out to be doctors. One went on to head an insurance company, and the other has majored in robotics.

A cousin of mine joined the most renowned college of catering technology at Manipal in India - but not even a year has gone by - and he is back home. Reason - he could not get through the Food and Beverages part of it because he swooned or threw up whenever he had to witness the cutting of meat and poultry.

Sometimes we think that the children are getting enough information, guidance and advice about their future careers, but in actual fact, it is not enough.  There is a wealth of information on the web and the careers room in a school.   After speaking to some of the students last year I realized that they needed to be guided even here and it was not enough for them to have information available. It is easy to get lost in this information jungle!  My point in all this talk is to let you go away thinking about this:  

The issue Square Peg in a Round Hole is not about careers alone, it

is all about choices - the right choices. It is not about just a "job" but

about "job satisfaction". It is not about finding a Career, but about

finding oneself.

This does not mean that I am overlooking the monetary aspect of a career. It is just that today there are so many choices available, and many lucrative professions other than the usual careers that have for decades straitjacketed the students once they graduate from Grade 12.  The Canadian Embassy’s Education Advisor had at one time last year remarked that she has always been surprised at the consistency of the parents and students’ stereotypes.

It is an increasingly stressful world, and it is necessary to find happiness in what you do. What is going to make a child succeed is the guidance he gets through school, and out of school.

Of course children are ably guided by their parents and nurturing adults. But every so often we find that parents cannot always be objective about the child's interests, abilities, passions and talents. Whereas at school, the teacher or advisor would have the objectivity of a third person in viewing the child without any "parallax errors" - so to speak.

Careers guidance plays a pivotal role, not only in offering advise, information and assistance to the students, but also in shaping them to fit into the future world – a world that would be their arena when they become responsible adults.

The advisor has a whole repertoire of resource material. Not only can the advisor assess the talent, capacity, interests and skills of the child, but he/she can also administer certain tests that can help focus on salient features of the quest for careers.

These tests are today widely used in some parts of the world to provide some signposts for the individual’s personality and aptitude.  They are presently not favor in some other parts of the world but the students I had spoken to repeatedly remark how useful they found these tests to be.  We have to bear in mind that all tests basically discriminate. Notwithstanding the mental make-up of the student at the time of taking a test, they do raise questions of reliability and validity.  Nevertheless I believe that its use could be justified on the following scores:

1. More than half of the sixty factors mentioned at the beginning influencing career choices were personal.  Only a sixth was institutional and the remaining third was ‘social’.

2.  Testing would be appropriate if the ethical consideration can be upheld and an

        appropriate feedback given while reporting.

    3. Testing tends to be frowned upon even in the west only because a clear           

        rationale is not always given.

But here too, there are pitfalls if we think that they are exhaustive, and not illustrative.

Meanwhile thanks for reading through this and do visit the battery of Career Interest Inventories under the Tests Link in my webpage.