In a career fair that I participated in a couple of weeks ago, a student walked to my stand and shared with me the following short story. “I have always wanted to take a career in finance or related fields because of my flair in math and numbers. I think I am a very structured person with a love for methods and details. I scored an aggregate A-. However, some members of my family feel that finance is not as prestigious considering my grade. My uncle says he is lonely as an only medic in the family and would like company. And the company is me. That is why I am here.”
I could not hide my dismay! My heart broke to imagine the many students who are lost due to ‘advice’ from everyone and anyone. A recent research attributed college and university dropout rate at over 37%. One of the key reasons for this is lack of guidance-based instructions in our education system, obsession with grades and lack of understanding of post school options.
Immediately I encouraged the young man to take a career psychometric test. He came out strong in love for structures, procedures, methods, details and had natural way with numbers. He was very low in social dynamics that may have required him to communicate with others, listen to them, empathize and generally be around them. Now what sort of a doctor would this young man have would made, if, we only looked at his grades?
These, ladies and gentlemen are the predicament that thousands of our students face. One of the purposes of education is to prepare students for careers and skills to become productive citizens when they finish school. However, there are many reports showing gaps in student’s transition from either basic education to tertiary or to the world of work. These reports have intimated that thousands of college students lack basic skills and competences to get assimilated to the world of work.
What then is the problem? The science of career guidance intimates that career planning must start with knowledge of self! It says that everyone is unique and has a purpose to serve the world. With over 7.5 billion human beings on the planet, not one person looks like the other or behaves like the other. What we have are commonalities within groups, but every member of the group has unique interests, talents, personality and traits. It therefore defeats reason to expect one to behave exactly like the other.
If then, careers begin with me or you, key questions to reflect on are: what are my natural gifts and talents? What are my interests, strengths & abilities? What is my personality type? Important to note in the reflection is that interests, personality, talents and traits are inborn, but skills are learnt.
Knowing the answers to these questions unlocks a world of increased possibilities. No matter what grade you got, you must be able to know what your personality is to get the right fit to a course, whether in university, Technical & Vocational Educational Institutions (TVET), other colleges, apprenticeships, disciplined forces or temporary work for those undecided.
Allow me to talk a little on post school options. Many parents, teachers, students feel like only the university pathway gives one success. The answer is NO. Post school options are universities, colleges and TVETs, apprenticeships (learning on the job), disciplined forces and work. What matters is that the student understands their interests, entry level requirements for each pathway which can be attained at certificate level, diploma and/or degree level.
Research has shown that those who work in environments that match their interest and personality are more productive, innovative and generally happier. For example, if you are driven by concrete results, drawn to tasks that require great dexterity and physical endurance, you are likely to enjoy working manually with hands, such as fixing and assembling objects. You may enjoy careers like engineering, building and construction, cookery, plumbing, carpentry, agriculture, among others.
If you are a people person, then you will excel in a role that requires interaction with others (e.g., teaching, human resources, police officers etc). If you are an introvert but detailed and structured, you may be better off in a role that doesn’t require a lot of social interaction to be productive like data analyst, financial analyst, among others.
Artistic persons express themselves through creative means such as music, drawing and art. They mostly feel the need to express their ideas and feelings through artistic means and want the independence to do so. They tend to be interested in activities that permit them to be intuitive and imaginative and may not have a desire to be a part of projects that are too conventional, with strict methods that allow for little improvisation. This is why this group is mostly misunderstood the world over. They are found in writing careers, performing arts, culinary arts, designs, music among others.
Career guidance and counselling from a competent career practitioner cannot therefore be overstated. The practitioners can see the connection between you, course, industry requirements, skills required, skills to be learnt and many other career readiness skills. One way of knowing one’s interest is by use of validated and scientifically proven assessments tools. There are either paid or free services. For example, Discover Your Career, has an online psychometric test that assesses vocational interests, talents and abilities, and provides information and advice that can be useful for exploring career and areas of study among young people.
Generally, career guidance and counselling help young people reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications and abilities; educational options and job market, how they relate to what they know about themselves.; teaches them how to plan and make decisions about work and learning and provides knowledge of available pathways for further education and training.
A career counsellor can help a student pick the right career that aligns to their personality, provide the right information and resources, helps them gain confidence and insight, helps them change negative behaviour patterns, eliminates career related frustrations therefore bringing stability. The huge gap in Kenya has always been competent professionals in career guidance.
Another better way is to take a Career and College Readiness course. This is an online transitional course for youth leaving high school into life after high school. The course is designed to impart skills to anyone aspiring to join tertiary education or any post-secondary training locally or internationally and other post high school options available. It is able to answer questions like; Who am I? What next after high school? What are the different types of post high school options? What is College success? What if i don't go to college? The course takes Four (4) Weeks and has interactive activities to enrich learning experiences. It has helped many discover unlimited possibilities!