Career, counseling and you

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Anuya (name changed) had just finished her 10th standard and was not sure what subjects she should take up. Being a class topper, her parents’ first choice was science and mathematics but she did not like these subjects. She went to a career counselor, her aptitude and personality test results showed her creative side was very strong. However, her parents asked her to take up the science stream. She did very well in her PUC; later when she did not want to become an engineer her parents forced her to take up medicine.
nuya was not really interested in medicine and wanted to get into writing. Even after repeated efforts by the counselor, family pressure made her join MBBS. Post that, her parents wanted her to continue with medicine and that is when she put her foot down.
She came back to counselors, this time more determined. She wanted to do something that dealt with children and writing. After guidance, she did her post graduation in child psychology and simultaneously kept writing for various publications on child psychology and childrens issues.
She is now the editor of a leading medical journal based in Delhi and writes columns on childrens health and related issues.

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Ali Khwaja, Chairman of Banjara Academy, RT Nagar in North Bengaluru, narrates this anecdote as one of the many success stories of people who follow their interests. The Banjara Academy was formed in 1993 and apart from offering courses on counseling, the academy provides free career counseling for individuals who require it.

It is June-July, and this year is like every other year, with exams over and new choices to be made.

Oxford College students

Newly joined IT diploma students of Oxford College, from left: Mohammad Wasim, Kirti, Afsar Baig, Prathiba Murthy and Kalai. They are all planning to specialise in hardware networking. (Pic: : Supriya Khandekar)

With the range of career options available, there is as much confusion about making the right choice. This is where counseling and guidance come into picture, and many youngsters head to such centres.

Tissy Mariam Thomas, a psychiatrist and a counselor at Christ College in south Bangalore says that career counseling institutes provide various aptitude and personality tests for students.  Some examples are Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), that helps understand personality preferences, David’s Battery of Differential Ability (DBDA), Differential Aptitude Test and so on. These can help judge the interests and aptitude a child shows and the strong points of his/her personality.

iReboot, a Indiranagar based startup, is organising “What Next?” an event for students and parents who want to stay informed about emerging career options. Scheduled on 15th and 16th August at St Joseph’s Indian School, the programme would allow children and parents to explore possibilities in careers other than the regular engineering, computer science and medicine.

Mukta Darera, founder of iReboot says: “Not all parents are open to professions like Radio Jockey, journalist, Disk Jockey or modelling. We are calling people from respective industries to share their experiences.” This programme she says is an initiative to let children take up off-beat professions, if not full-time but part-time. “Most people these days prefer taking up off-beat professions as part-time jobs with their regular work,” she adds. For more see here.

After exploring the strong personality traits, the counselor determines the intensity of each trait. “Mostly, adolescents do not show very strong inclinations for any particular interest. In such cases an array of options depending on the various strong points needs to be provided. No person can be judged or guided on only one interest,” she adds.

The trend appears to have clearly been on the rise. Annapurna Murthy of Manasa Consultants, a career counseling organisation in JP Nagar, says that in the 80’s people had no idea of career counseling, but today a majority of Bangaloreans (whose children go to private schools) are aware of this. Annapurna has been counseling for more than 25 years.But even when parents and youngsters go to counseling centres, old pre-conceptions prevail. “We are unable to get over the traditional perception of ‘what has good scope’; for most children and more so for parents, career selection is based on how much scope does the choice of career have,” explains Khwaja.

Khwaja says that people come saying – ‘Because my child has scored 90 per cent in his 10th grade, he should take up science (whether he has the interest or not) and then all fields will be open for him’. They also say that ‘my child has no interest in science subjects and because art has no scope he should take commerce’, he notes. “This should not be the approach”, he says flatly.

“As a result, this child who takes up commerce because of such reasons, once he reaches PUC starts feeling that the only thing he can do now is B Com, BBM, CA, CS and so on. Career choice is not about this. People do not want to think deep,” says Khwaja.

 

“The first thing that needs to be understood is that career has to be selected on basis of what you are good at and not on what has how much scope. It is entirely person centric,” says Khwaja. He further adds that this is much more applicable today than it was some time back, because at that time there was a traditional way in which our society functioned and hierarchy held a lot of importance. For example, a government official’s son had to be a government officer.

Understanding counseling

Misconceptions about counseling and guidance exist, says Tissy, clarifying that counseling involves most of the psychological aspect of choosing a career. “Counseling ends at assessment of the right direction for the child. Career guidance comes only after that, at this level the child is guided to various institutions where s/he can get the desired training.”
Most counselors feel counseling should start at the very beginning of adolescence when the child starts thinking about his/her future. While Tissy feels it should begin as early as at the age of 13 or 14. Khwaja thinks it is best to counsel a child when he enters 10th standard.

“This is the time he is not busy with exams, nor is the child worried for results but certainly knows that this year will be a stepping stone. Therefore, it is necessary for the child to realise his interests,” he says.

Some counseling organisations

  • Manasa Consultants, JP Nagar, 98450-58349
  • Banjara Academy, R.T. Nagar, Ph: 23535787, 23535766
  • The Promise Foundation, Koramangala, Ph:25711129
  • Value Lanes Counselling Centre, Ulsoor Ph: 66490817
  • Global Infowings, Koramangala, Ph: 25522789, 25522949

What about stigma? Tissy feels that people are not open to get counseled as they feel it is something to do with mental illness. “At the same time parents feel, ‘I know my child better. It is my incapability if I need a stranger to guide my child. This approach often restricts parents from opening up to counseling”, she says.

Her views are countered by Prachi Murarka, a PG student of psychology, Christ College. Prachi who went in for counseling after her 10th, 12th and even after graduation feels, “Counseling for more personal issues and relationships can still be considered taboo, but career counseling is no longer that.”

She argues that with numerous career options, increasing awareness, competitiveness and confusion, people do not feel shy to go for career counseling. “I was amongst those who are very confused about their field of interest”, she giggles, and says that with proper guidance at the counseling centre, she was able to make the right choices and realise her interests. “I am very happy about choosing psychology as a subject in my masters,” she adds.

A time of confusion

Rashi Mitra joined Christ college to do her graduation in Economics last month. She completed her 12th standard from Delhi Public School (Korba, Chhatissgarh) in March and the months following that she was busy giving entrance exams for engineering. “I always wanted to go for Civil Services and am interested in Arts,” she says. After her 10th standard she was forced by her parents to take up science considering her meritorious performance. She came out with flying colours even after her 12th standard and Engineering was the obvious choice for her parents. “They want me to become an engineer, but I want to study Economics,”, she adds.

After completing over a month in Christ college studying Economics, she has now got a call from Narsee Monjee Institute, Mumbai because she cleared their engineering test. Rashi is now in a fix. Her parents do not want her to let go of the opportunity from a prestigious college. She does not know what lies ahead.

Avanti Sharma, a 10th grade student of Kendriya Vidyalaya is also amongst those who are confused about their career choices. “I love painting, writing and I am a very creative person. But I don’t know what subjects I can take up (in PUC) with these interests. My parents want me to take up Maths and Science,” she says. She wants to go for counselling after completing her PU to get into some professional course.

Her parents are open to her taking up a course of her choice but only after she completes her PU with Maths and Science. “This will keep all options open for her,” says her mother, Shubha Sharma. For now, Avanti is taking up science in her PU course.

While some are confused about what career to chose, others do not seem to need counselling to help them set goals. Kislay Dubey from RT Nagar who cleared JEE last year in his second attempt and is now at IIT, Kharagpur says, “I had always wanted to study in IIT.” he says. He however did not have the slightest clue of what engineering is all about before he entered IIT. “I wanted to be here because it was IIT,” he smiles. He had not considered career counselling.

New and off-beat, and the recession googly

Prachi feels that while more and more of her friends are considering career guidance they are also doing so to know about new and off-beat courses. In the same vein, Annapurna of Manasa Consultants says: “Sometimes students are forced to take up engineering and medicine, this is totally wrong. I expose people to other courses like paramedical, speech therapy, pharma, physiotherapy and so on.”

Annapurna says that there are no entrance exams for such courses. These courses are provided by Rajiv Gandhi University and a lot of other institutes. “At the same time now everyone wants to do MBA, BBA,” she adds. She feels people are opting less often for humanities mostly due to lack of awareness and the IT hype. “But due to recession, people don’t want to take up engineering. They are taking up a few courses like fashion designing, textile, psychology, designing, fine arts,” she adds.

Books on career counseling and guidance

  • The essential guide to careers in India by Usha Albuquerque
  • Alternate career choices by Usha Albuquerque
  • The career guide for creative and unconventional people by Carol Eikleberry
  • After SSLC what next? by Ameen-e-Mudassar

Khwaja adds: “I have people coming to my office saying I don’t want my son to become an software engineer because there was a recession last year. The same person would have sworn in for this field three years back, however much I would have convinced him that time not to put his child into software, he would not have listened.”

Annapurna says that educational institutions need to be more open to counselling, and that the state government too, on its part should make aptitude tests compulsory.

“In the end, deciding a career is not merely deciding on how much you will earn with it but how much satisfaction you will get. Ten times, recession might come and things might change, but the thing is to lay a strong foundation,” concludes Khwaja.