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Career counseling: Making better decisions

Post by on Monday, December 27, 2021

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The introduction of the academic sphere in our life just 2-3 years after we are born shows the importance that education has in our life. Education is the source through which we first decide upon a career path and then move towards the ultimate goal of exploring that career by taking up a job.

Choosing a career is often mistaken with deciding what one wants to do in order to earn a living. We may think that career only is limited to the workplace but our occupations tend to have a great effect on other domains of life such as our family life, relationships with friends and on our own emotional health.

As emphasized by Imbimbo (1994) there is an existence of interconnections between work roles and other life roles. In India, career choices were associated with caste, culture and the social background. But with the changing times children specifically in urban India are free to choose the career they wish to pursue though parental pressure is very common. As each individual is different from the other in terms of their personality types, life circumstances, developmental stages, gender, age therefore this may have an influence on the career selection. 

The initiation of the vocational guidance movement by Frank Parson in 1990 marked the beginning of counseling as a profession. According to Parsons it is better to choose a vocation rather than just search for a job. A huge amount of research and theory began to be formulated in the field of career counseling as his views gained acceptance and distinction.

Career counseling is described as the process which enables people to recognize and utilize their resources to make career-related decisions and manage career-related issues (Hill & Nathan, 2006).

According to the National Career Development Association of the U.S., it is also defined as a process of assisting individuals in the development of a life-career with a focus on the definition of the worker role and how that role interacts with other life roles.

Unlike coaching which helps an individual to improve their current career, the main agenda of career counseling is to make the clients help decide upon the right direction they wish to choose as their career. Many other terms have been used to refer to career counseling such as occupational reading, vocational guidance and vocational counseling.

The word ‘career’ in career counseling provides a modern stance and is much comprehensive. The two divisions which are working for career development and counseling are the National Career Development Association (NCDA) and the National Employment Counselors Association (NECA) under the American Psychological Association.

There are three important aspects of career counseling. Firstly, in contrast with other counseling approaches which deal with internal events, career counseling is related to both the inner as well as the outer space of the individual.

Secondly, being counseled about one’s career can be therapeutic towards the individual in relation to other non-career issues the person is facing in their lives and make the person in general more confident, adjusting & mindful.

Lastly, as career counseling focuses on both work and personal lives of the individual requiring counselors to refer to both career development and personality theories for helping the person who is receiving counseling.

There are some important skills that are essential for a career counselor such as active listening, non-judgmental attitude, some understanding skills in order to develop a feeling of empathy towards the client and good observational skills. When helping the clients coming up with career related concerns, the counselors must take care of other factors as well such as the avocational interests like stage in life, maturity, gender, family responsibilities, civic duties, etc.  

The model of career-counseling stages and tasks given by Kidd’s views the career-counseling process being comprised of four stages, with associated tasks.

The first stage is that of building the relationship with the client where the main task is to establish the working alliance. This helps the client understand that career counseling is a work of collaboration and that the client needs to be an active participant of it so as to gain successful results from the counselling process. Bordin (1979) used the term working alliance to describe the quality of the relationship established early on between the counsellor and the client.

In the second stage, enabling clients’ self-understanding, helping clients assess their attributes and their situation is the key task. Many clients gain important insights through the counseling process itself as structured assessment techniques and tools are often used at this stage to further enhance the career choice development.

The third stage is the one of exploring new perspectives which involves challenging and information giving on the part of the counsellor.  In the last stage, forming strategies and plans, reviewing progress and goal setting are the main interventions. 

There are certain theories of career counseling which have been used very well in this field. The first is the Trait and the Factor theory. It deals with the matching of the factors inherent in each occupation with that of the assessed traits present within the clients. This approach takes into account the uniqueness of people. There are six categories personality styles and occupational space can be grouped into that are realistic, investigative, artistic, social enterprising, and conventional.

This particular theory may help the clients to learn self-management skills but the counselors using this approach may not keep in mind the psychological realities of decision making and may give a lot of emphasis to the information provided by the tests.  The second are the developmental theories which give emphasis to the importance of life span in making career related decisions and on decisions that are influenced by the various life events of an individual.

This paradigm of career counseling makes the counselor take into account the aptitude and the interest of the clients in the form of life experiences. The third theory is the social-cognitive theory which assumes that self-efficacy and interests associated with each other and this can be improved through modeling, observation and by performance enactment. 

There is a need to provide career guidance to diverse people such as those who are unemployed, people from the different strata of the society, people with any kind of disability and school children. Career development gains the utmost peak during the high school time when children have to choose the stream which they may like to opt out of the various options provided by the school. Adolescents need people with greater life experiences to interact with them so that they get an idea what these streams may look like because all of this is very new for the child.

The adolescent population is provided with career counseling a little but the pre-school children unfortunately do not receive any guidance. The awareness about the wide range of careers can be done by taking the children on field visits to manufacturing industries or the office settings so as to widen their horizon for choosing careers in the future.

There are also various techniques that can be useful for adolescents to make wise career choices such as the use of guided fantasies in which the person imagines a typical day in the future such as mid-career change, retirement, etc. Internships and youth apprenticeship may also help have a clarity in mind as these methods provide working in the real settings where the individual plans to work.

Adults may also seek career counseling in times where there is any problem that they are having in their job or when people have faced any kind of trauma that hampers their working efficiency in any case. 

Steps have started to be taken up for career guidance now and the most important evidence for it is one of the states in India; recently a scheme called the Youth for Education Scheme (2021) has been launched by the Delhi government. According to this an official statement has been released on June 14, 2021 and the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia has held a meeting for re-evaluating the Youth for Education scheme launched in the national capital.

Under this scheme, some mentors will be approved who will be providing career counselling to the students of class 10th and 12th because they are crucial years for making career choices. The age group of these mentors will be in the age group of 20-30 years. This scheme will ensure that the students will get right mentoring thereby clearing their doubts regarding life and career choices. One to one interaction with each of the children is the main goal that will be fulfilled through this scheme. Individual preferences will be considered and counselling will be provided to the students under this scheme. The scheme will act as a source of emotional support to the child on the part of the mentors and the child will feel a sense of security as these mentors will be the most expert people in the various career fields. 

Career counseling is a way to clarity for all the age groups of people and provides a new direction to life.

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