Top misconceptions about career counseling

The most daunting prospect for a 15-year-old (Class X) is to step over the threshold into a counselor’s room…

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The most daunting prospect for a 15-year-old (Class X) is to step over the threshold into a counselor’s room. I have had these young adults quizzing me whether I can read their ‘mind’, look into their ‘soul’ or just get to know their inner secrets… those obviously not known to their parents!

In order to dispel these myths a counseling center should be welcoming and therefore invite a student to want to step in and feel comfortable. The world of careers is exciting though sometimes daunting and certain misconceptions creep into its space. Lets look at a few:

* Career Counseling should start three months before the student leaves school: Actually that is too late. The student has already chosen a path of academia in terms of stream selection and any change is most likely not possible. CBSE and ISC boards do not usually allow change of stream after the middle of Class XI.Counseling should be introduced in Class IX with a follow up in a group setting annually and individual sessions as per the needs of the student.

* Career Counseling is limited to aptitude testing: Aptitude tests should be done in conjunction with interest inventories and personality tests. Even then these tests results provide only a part picture with respect to choice of academic and career paths. It is important to discuss the same with a counselor and a one on one interaction is essential.

* Counseling centers are synonymous with coaching centers: This is a very common myth in India that if a student is taking coaching for an entrance examination the centre should also provide me with counseling regarding my career path. The two skills are completely different: One is academic and the other is guidance. The former should be dealt with by a teacher and the latter by a trained counselor.

* Careers are limited to the Top Ten that are popular: Today’s global world has a hundred thousand different careers and each has a skill requirement specific to itself. Therefore the most important task for a counselor is information dissemination and for a student to collect relevant information, apply this to their own aptitudes and interests and make informed choices.

* Career Counselors are encyclopedia’s: With the scope of career counseling increasing phenomenally it is not possible for a single individual to have all the required information. Schools/colleges should be encouraged to make a career soft board with contributions by the students. This will lead to learning as well as sharing. At times this results in detailed research by the students and can facilitate decision making.

* Counseling is a school activity: Finally one of greatest myths in the Indian educational sector is that counselors are necessary till school and in college the student is an adult and can make appropriate choices. In fact college students not only need guidance for career paths but also internships and job placements.

Therefore career counseling is a holistic activity which should be included as an integral part of the school/college curriculum. The scope of career counseling can be extended to incorporate areas like volunteering and its impact on profile building and short term work experience for a student to see the real world to facilitate decision making.

Educational institutes need to take cognizance of the fact that counseling should have trained individuals with skills to understand students and be empathetic to their needs. Early guidance with regular interventions can have positive and beneficial outcomes.

By Kanika Marwaha, Director, University Options.

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First published on: 19-01-2015 at 11:39 IST