For most students seeking admission to college or university, the goal really is securing a job and starting a career. This usually means finding a job that provides security against unemployment, pays well, and offers opportunities for growth over the years spent in building their careers. The college/university education is really a means to that end.
That’s where career counselling comes in – to guide students towards appropriate careers. Mind you, this applies to a minority of students in India as most Indian students do not have access to career counselling. Here’s how the process normally works for students who have the orientation and motivation to meet counsellors:
- Students look for careers that match their interests, aptitudes, talents and high school education.
- Career counsellors identify careers that match student needs and aspirations – sometimes with help from aptitude and psychometric tests – and recommend appropriate careers as well as college/university programmes to the students.
- Students choose one career from the set of career options recommended, and pursue it through college/university and by picking up degrees, diplomas, certificates to build their knowledge and credentials.
- Students are hired by organisations either through campus interviews or by applying to jobs on their own or by using their (parents’) networks.
A good job is almost always one that’s in a large reputed organisation or in the government. Jobs of both types offer a combination of security, pay, anticipated opportunities for growth and career advancement. Every other type of job possesses a lower priority. A college/university education – and the degrees that come with it – simply prepares the students to meet this goal. This means college/university education and the counselling/recommendation career counsellors offer prepare students to enter the workforce in the best possible ways.
However, in the past ten years, the global economy and the nature of work – and, in turn, the job market – have changed substantially. But within this universe, higher education reforms, curricula and faculty have failed to stay abreast with technology in the industry. Much of the education and the degrees students obtain from colleges and universities are outdated with reference to what the employers demand from their fresh recruits.
Even if a small portion of fresh graduates and post-graduates are able to find employment in reputed organisations, these once-coveted jobs no longer offer guarantee in terms of security that the employees seek. In terms of employment, what matters today are not only degrees that employees carry with them to their jobs, but also a mindset for continuous learning, innovation and self-improvement throughout their lives.
Considering India’s growing student population, this is a huge opportunity for career counsellors. Career counselling no longer needs to be in a rut with a handful of options for students, using the same-old counselling scripts and methodology. Rather, career counselling opens up many more careers, jobs, courses, programmes, qualifications, colleges, universities, skills and experiences that employers and the industry seek. Thereby helping students make informed decisions about their careers.
To counsel students well, counsellors themselves need to stay abreast with and ahead of changes and innovations in higher education, careers, industry diversification, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship, student aspirations and mindsets, and counselling techniques. If career counsellors do this well, they can add much-needed value to this universe of higher education, jobs and careers – and create an important niche for themselves and their profession.
The good news is, career counselling in India is coming of age. It is being recognised as an important aspect of career building for students. Since colleges and universities in India are still not geared up to offer career counselling to their students, career counsellors are setting up their own private consulting ventures. This is an urban phenomenon at the moment and yet to become popular with students and their parents. Even school and college teachers aren’t informed enough to recommend names of career counsellors to their students when their students turn to them for advice.
As a response to this lack of information exchange between schools/colleges, students and their parents, career counsellors have begun marketing themselves to schools and colleges.