How can a student identify the right career?

HK Education & Careers Expo 2008 教育及職業博覽 2008

Most of the students choose their careers by chance. Not choice. Do you agree?

The first step in choosing the right career is taken before joining the junior college. This is when students need to decide if they want to take science or commerce (mostly) and a few schools might offer arts.

Generally, if a student is good in studies (mathematics, science) or if they want to become engineers/doctors, they take science. Many of them are pushed into this stream by parents. Commerce maybe the choice of students who want to specialize in the financial stream (though I know many who did their Engineering, then did an MBA and are now in the financial stream) or want to join their family business. I don’t know much about specializing in arts, as schools around me don’t offer it.

The next two years, students study hard to get into the best engineering/medial colleges or colleges that offer B.Com. Automatically after finishing their junior college, they join in a college that has a good track record for placements, good starting salaries, etc. Some of them take up B.Sc, BA, Nursing and other courses as well.

These decisions are made based on the marks scored by the students and the amount of investment that their parents are willing to make.

Though students might specialize in different streams, there is no guarantee that they will work in the stream they majored in. So, an electrical engineer might take up a job as a software developer while an electronics student becomes a software tester. Some of them study even further (specialize technically or do an MBA) to become a lecturer, take up research oriented jobs or join as an entry level management trainee. Many come back to the software industry, too.

So, basically what we are looking at, is the fact that people don’t have much of a choice while deciding on their careers. Factors like their performance in college, job availability, salary, company profile, location, etc. decide on what career they choose. Once they are affixed to one career, they stay in it lifelong (even though they might shift jobs) so that they get better job prospects, a decent salary and a social status.

This is what is happening here. But, is this the way for a student to select a career?

Let us admit that most of us are clueless at the time of taking up our first job. We are just thrilled to earn something by ourselves and after a point of time we get thrilled every time our salary increases or we get promoted.

But, do we really look into the ‘career’ aspect while in a job? Are we doing what we want to do? Are we doing what we are good at? Are we developing the skills required to excel in our career?

No, we don’t. Because we consider a career to be same as a job. But, are these two the same?

Where does this cycle start? At the junior college/college level, right? If students are sufficiently educated about all the options they have in front of them, will they be able to choose the right career? If the students are exposed to career counseling based on their aptitude, will they be able to take a better decision? Can an aptitude test give a general direction to students on some careers that might suit them better?

Can parents help their children in selecting the right careers for themselves? Parents surely know where their child’s talents/abilities lie, but they still push their children into ‘monetarily’ lucrative careers, don’t they?

Is it just better to leave everything to chance and allow situations to drive people into various directions, as determined by the market-forces?

I know I have not given a good solution to the question. I invite the readers to offer their suggestions on this important topic. How can a student identify the right career?

Destination Infinity

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (Copyright free image).

PS: Don’t you think we need a site (US dept of labor) like this that has various occupations listed along with key points about the profession and can be a reference for students?

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20 Replies to “How can a student identify the right career?”

  1. I think this shud start early from school, know the plus points of a kid and teachers need to be taught how to find out.

    here in UK it is good kids know for sure where or what they want ot do and they are pushed towards that , rather then forced to become a engineer or a doctor..

    1. I guess this engineering/medicine trend will change in India too once these courses become too costly (we are almost there) and not enough jobs are available for these people (we’ll be there once the software segment becomes inviable).

      Destination Infinity

  2. I think it starts with the pressure from parents and the society.
    The school I went to very often had seminars about the different fields we could take,from army to fashion to photography. Infact we also had a seminar from a Career Guru once. But its about the expectations of the parents. No parent wants their kid to be a food photographer or a full time blogger,they only want him to be a doctor or an engineer

    1. Good to know that your school encouraged various career options. In my school, 99% of the students took up engineering or medicine. One might as well call it a marks factory. OK, but it was equally due to parents/students, as much as it was due to the school.

      I really wish that the students who took up off-beat careers succeed so much/are so happy that all these engg/doc candidates keep mulling over their poor selection of careers.

      Destination Infinity

  3. There is a huge difference between jobs and career. A job is a 9 to 5 position you take up, that pays your bills and keep occupied through the day. You are less bothered about progression and planning and getting head, as much as you are about getting through the day-to-day stuff.

    A career is one where the jobs work in successful progression. Ambition comes into play as well as a job title and succession, possibly there is a career-path visible, which one can work towards attaining.

    The trouble is, our educational system leaves little options for kids to experiment. It puts the confused kids into streamlined straightjacketed choices…. it’s either science, or arts or commerce. Maybe I am good with journalism, but I am also good with physics but bad with maths. There is no stream which allows me to pursue, say, biology and english, and computer science as electives together. Most often the sad part is that kids have their careers chosen for them, and not vice versa.

    Half way through life kids wonder what they are doing in the profession they are in.

    1. The lack of a flexible system where students can selectively study what they are good at and what they are interested in, is a good point. I think its time to have a common syllabus up to 8th Standard and then allow students to specialize in anything they like/are good at, after that. The system should also evolve beyond the I-lecture You-listen approach that is currently prevalent.

      Destination Infinity

  4. It’s always doctor or engineer in India. Parents & Society have hardly recognized or appreciated a career in performing arts / sports etc. The career option is injected into the young minds even when they are in 3rd grade. Honestly, while I still think Indian education system is the best, sometimes it makes me feel sick. We’ve become the global production house of Engineers!!!

    1. I don’t think Indian education system is anywhere near ‘best’. It’s competitive, and that’s the only advantage. The mentality of wanting to become an engineer comes from the parents/students, for reasons other than gaining knowledge/skills in that field. That is what hurting us the most, now.

      Destination Infinity

  5. The other comments contain what I wanted to say. My niece is good in music and she has got a good taste in selecting colours. So many of us asked her to take music seriously or go for interior decoration course or fashion designing. Her father insisted on engg. and she is an engineer now and is in a good job. But she is not very happy about it.

    1. That’s what happens at every house (almost). Parents always choose security over passion/risks and they have a good reason for doing it. They have gone through the rough edges of their own careers and think that an alternative career is going to be even more difficult. It’s sheer ignorance in play and the opportunities and the renumeration provided by certain careers (like a translator) are underestimated these days, as these are new (and hence unknown). Of course, some careers are more difficult than others, but they do have their benefits, which people don’t want to see.

      Destination Infinity

  6. I have not read all the comments but I think the first step is an aptitude test. These tests should be taken at regular intervals so that one can test one’s grown and development. One particular skill can translate into numerous careers. For example a calculative and quick thinking mind need not just go into a finance related career but also law if the verbal ability is also present. The worst thing is to become a square peg in a round hole and one does that if one goes by market forces. This means a waste of talent, and also failure for the person concerned.

    1. You know, there is a joke that students might copy even the aptitude test questions! 🙂

      I agree that being struck up in careers to which one is not naturally suited is a waste of time and will result in the person becoming bitter, irrespective of how much salary they get. High time people realized this!

      Destination Infinity

  7. I don’t think every parent knows their children abilities and limitations and that’s why so many suicides happen. Good and capable career counselors must be there from school level only.

    1. Parents do have a good idea about their children, but suicides happen because they thrust their thoughts and wants on the kids. I am not sure how effective career counselors can be (esp. in a society like ours) but its worth a try.

      Destination Infinity

    1. The issue is, during school days children are quite ignorant of the career options available to them (this is changing rapidly though) and parents keep insisting on certain careers of their choice. I feel that the engineering and software industry should lose the glitter/sheen they have now. Then, many people will start thinking about a right career…

      Destination Infinity

  8. i agree with bikram veer ji that this should start from school itself .. students should be made to learn to realize their potential so that they can later opt for career of their choice ..!

  9. There is no any point to force our children and student to select their career as per our choice. While selecting a career its much more important for us to understand what our kids are interested in or what they want to do.

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