How to zero-in on the right guidance

LEAD THE WAY

How to zero-in on the right guidance

In an age of early interventions, are parents scrambling to find career counsellors? Dr George Varghese provides a simple rule book to follow during the search for the ‘right’ career counsellor

We have become habitual of waking up only when the water reaches our necks. We have also made a habit of following the herd.

“My friend took her child to the career counsellor, and so I should too, otherwise my son/daughter will fall behind,” is a common thought process. We no longer ‘do’ because we see the value in the action, but because we get alarmed and don’t want to be left behind in the rat race. So let’s look at gaining the right perspective of consulting a career counsellor for children.

When to take the right career guidance depends on the development of the child’s brain at a particular age. For example, when a child is in Class 7, he/she tends to dislike certain subjects. These are usually subjects that he/she is weak at. They also start building a self-concept and this turns out to be the stepping stone towards their career.

At this juncture, a student needs a career counsellor to identify his/her true areas of interests and subjects he/she is weak at. A career counsellor also guides students on how to improve study habits. Modules on better adjustment at school and home become an integral part of counselling.

By the time the student turns 15 years old, he/she is in a better position to choose the right course of study and have an understanding of his/her interests. Through career assessments, a counsellor can help the child discover his/her aptitude. Based on this, the child would be able to understand which are the best careers for him/her, and then select the right course of study.

The next important milestone comes after the completion of Class 12. Again, students are at a loss. This is also a cornerstone for students to decide on their career choices and select the right graduation/post-graduation courses. After this stage, it is too late to visit a career counsellor, as the individual could lose valuable time from pursuing the wrong course.

Counselling should ideally begin at the age of 12. Shaping a child’s habits at this age will take them a long way and help them throughout his/her life. It also helps the child to develop a positive self-image and adjust better to his/her school.

The ‘right’ counsellor

There are career counselors available, right from someone in your building to your society or in a professional office close to home or far off but how do you find one who is best suited to provide guidance? Follow these steps and they will lead you to the right counsellor. Always check for the following pointers in a counsellor:

- Education

A bachelor’s degree in any discipline is a must. Further specialised courses or education in a discipline related to counselling is important.

- Experience

A career counsellor must have at least five years of experience practising, training, and developing instructional design for groups and individuals. Work experience is a must. Exposure to varied careers and backgrounds is a plus.  

- Having the ‘right’ knowledge

Career counseling is a stream which requires multiple skills. A counsellor must have a thorough understanding of human behaviour, performance, personalities along with psychological research skills. The counsellor should be able to offer in-depth knowledge on career options and related courses. He/she must:

- Be able to interpret aptitude tests and guide the individual towards  the right career

- Be able to provide further knowledge on career trends, job market, growth opportunities, compensation and benefits of particular career choices

- Be able to train an individual to acquire skills required for career success.

- Not attached to a coaching class/educational institute. In such cases, there will always be a vested interest to convince the student to enrol.

- Have a neutral perspective regarding all courses and institutes and only recommend courses based on the pure requirements of the child, with the latter’s best interests at heart

- Have strong referrals/recommendations

It is important to know what past clients have said about the career counsellor. If a lot of people are recommending a particular career counselor, in all probability, he/she will be good. You can find online ratings for counsellors. Watch out for the manufactured ratings though.

Following the ‘right’ process

The right approach towards career counseling is as important as all other factors. What kind of information is the counsellor asking for, what are the methods used for identifying the right career and how does he/she guide a student to make the right decisions at an early stage? These are all questions to be asked before you select the career counsellor.

Most counsellors focus on education, courses, and marks attained by the student, and base their decision on these factors. These are educational counsellors and not career counsellors. The latter involves addressing issues such as job-related factors, management principles and the ability of an individual to perform. The student’s decisions are based on occupational interests and inclinations, rather than on grades.

Tip: Some counsellors use tools for career assessment. It is important to find out whether certified tools and techniques are being used.

(The author is chairman and CEO of V Solve Group.)

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