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A counsellor’s advice: How to plan your career

Shivani Manchanda
Career Consultant & Director, Career Track, Mumbai

HAVE you have ever tried on shoes that are not your own? Doesn’t feel too comfortable, isn’t it? Careers are a little like that. When they don’t fit your personality, it feels like being a round peg in a square hole. But when they are, you feel comfortable and successful.

Research suggests that many students take the easy way out and either depend heavily on their parents and teachers to make their academic decision, or get swayed by attractive, persuasive, paid-for advertising by educational institutions.

So what is wrong with that? Nothing, if you want to live your parent’s life 20 years, hence. Or if the money from advertisements were to come into your pockets!

Also Read: How students make or break their careers

Why involve parents
The great thing about parents is that they have had diverse experiences plus they may have hopefully learned from their mistakes. In addition, the exposure they have to different careers is sometimes far greater than yours. All that can be a huge asset because at 20 you have a person at age 50 on your side.

Parents also have the additional benefit of knowing you intimately. But while parents put some excellent resources like knowledge and wisdom on the table, sometimes they curtail choice and self-determination by lack of willingness to take a chance on unique abilities and skill set of the student.

Thinking ahead
The other problem of relying solely on parents for advice is that their knowledge base may be restricted to their exposure. If they don’;t know any environmentalists – they might believe environment-based careers to be a non-starter. The question to be answered is: will environment be a hot issue when I am in the job market?’ When economies are so dynamic, career options cannot be far behind.

Ask yourself: Do I want a career for the past or the future? Read newspapers and magazines to build your database about future trends. If gas emissions and carbon footprints are being discussed the world over, don’t wait for the jobs to be advertised. Do an environment course, now.

What advertisers claim
Let’s look at another big career influence – advertisements. About 45 percent go by advertisements and publicity around an institution to make up their mind. But remember that they are designed to influence the purchasing behaviour of the consumer, in this case the student’;s family. By definition it is a paid medium whether it comes as an advertorial or an advertisement.

As such it needs to be viewed as a marketing device with all its hyperboles. The ranking statistics that the adverts quote can sometimes also be ‘fixed’. Just like the clichéd glass that can be half full or half empty, ranking can be used to prove any point.

Advertisements can be a useful means of gathering information about diverse courses. But just as eating a dozen low calorie cookies will not make you slim, adverts need not deliver a 100 percent of what you are looking for.

Knowledge is power
Good research is key to successful planning. The excellent range of courses in government universities should not be ignored just because they don’t advertise. But is career planning only about where to do a certain course? Is there not a more vital question to be answered? That is, how best should you integrate your strengths, special skills and interests with the growing needs of the economy?

One of the major ingredients in the decision-making is your own self, your abilities, capabilities, interests, aptitude and passion. These are the things that make you unique.

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