Where Career Advice Might Live in Our Life

Most of us have tripped into our careers. Even those who went into professions like law and accountancy tell of taking up the training as nothing else had happened for them.

Why is it that most of us have not experienced career advice? In schools it is usual that the careers teacher is doing that job as one part of a wider portfolio. And that role is often administrative as the expectation is that there is a library of information that students can access. In universities it is not much better. One of the UK’s top universities requires students to pre-book a session where the student then has 15 minutes help with their cv. It is probably useful advice. How useful is it in the context of career advising as we might want it?

In business schools the students invest significantly for their programmes. The full-time MBA is paid for by the student who has also the opportunity cost of not working. The benefit and risk issues is significant to them. The part-time MBAs at business schools are over 2 years and are usually sponsored by the employer of the student. There is less risk to the student; they continue to be paid and their job continues after their MBA has been completed.

In these business schools, careers advice and support is critical to the full-time student. The student needs to understand fully the level of support that they will get throughout their course as the course budget gets squeezed by the costs of all the other components of the programmes. On the part-time MBA, the employers are skeptical (scared?) of any career advice lest the students walk away after the MBA is completed.

The stages above are just 3 examples of where career advice is useful. Some people are fortunate that they have access to good advice. They may have a parent or parents who take an interest and who are able to encourage their offspring down an appropriate channel. Sometimes there is a teacher or a mentor who has specific experience that is helpful. For most, though, the career issue is not prevalent until it lurches into view at key moments – when one leaves school or university or when when has finished that Masters.

These examples are obvious as they are at “rite of passage” points in our lives or where we may have taken a key decision to invest in our career. What would happen if careers were more central to our learning experiences at these key stages?

The best careers advice is achieved by understanding the capabilities of an individual. In a school context this is often well understood by the teaching community as they are working with the students regularly in an academic, pastoral and ex curricula way. They are also measuring regularly to feedback to students and parents and also to relevant external bodies. The wherewithal to undertake good career advice is there. Most schools are not resourced to provide it.

The main issue seems to be that, as a society, we do not value careers as an important subject. Whether it is in schools or with people in work who are careering (rather than controlling) in their careers, the lack of value pertains. Some people do take proactive action and they broadly fall into 2 camps – they are in pain and distress because they have lost their jobs or they are bored and frustrated and know that they have to move out of what they are doing.

Taking care of your career is a lifelong responsibility. The earlier that we can value that notion and learn how to take care of it, the better it will be for the whole of one’s working life.

Career Advice For Children Or Teenagers

In today’s society getting the right careers advice for children / kids and teenagers, is highly recommended. Many of the most successful adults today were fortunate enough to have been given some form of careers advice while they were still young. This gave them an advantage over many of their peers as they already knew and had a direction to head in when they had finished their secondary level of education.

When we are young we all dream of:

Becoming a scientist
Becoming a farmer
Working with the medical services
Working with the fire services
Working with the police services
Becoming a professional sports person
Becoming an architect
Becoming an astronaut
Owning a business
Becoming an actor

or one of the many other types of work that are available.

However, as we all know, there are hundreds, thousands if not millions of distractions that are available to take our attention away from the path that will lead us to that dream job or career that we always wanted.

Very often life turns out very differently from what we had originally expected and we end up accepting jobs or careers that are very distant from what we actually wanted to do when we became adults.

From an early age children should be encouraged to think about the following:

What do they enjoy doing?
What do they want to do when they are older?
Do they understand what their parents / carers do?
Do they understand how different jobs make up the society that they live in?
The importance of being a positive and constructive member of society.
The results of not being a positive and constructive member of society.
Enjoying childhood and teenage years while still remembering that they will one day become an adult.

Many people may think that these issues are too difficult for some children / kids to cope with. That is true. However, many children do have the mental capacity to identify with things that affect them but are not necessarily in front of them. Adults should encourage the children in their charge to think at the level most suited to that child. Careers advice for children can begin at any age. For example if a child shows an interest in art for example, it may be a good idea to take the child to an art gallery which could broaden the child’s thinking.

Or if a child shows interest in design, it might be possible to obtain some design equipment for them, or take them to a place where design is done at a professional level. They could even be taken to a trade or fashion show so they could see the end results of the design process.

Another important thing to remember:

Is the child or teenager naturally good at something?

This is often a major factor that is widely overlooked by parents and carers.

For example many children / kids and teenagers today want to be involved in the music industry. Adults usually think that this is a stage that the child or teenager will grow out of. However we also forget that it is usually ourselves that encourage them to learn musical instruments when they are young and we become upset or annoyed when they don’t pursue or wish to continue their musical education.

What could help in this kind of situation is to provide the necessary careers advice for children and teenagers about this and help them learn what is REALLY involved in becoming a professional musician. Once they have realised that it is not as easy as TV leads us to believe, they will either become serious about that intention or they will rethink their plans.

The most important thing to remember is to continually encourage the child to be successful at whatever they eventually choose to do. This will give them the self confidence necessary to achieve the best they can at their chosen career or profession.

Also remember that careers advice for children and teenagers could involve discussing further education. This is often looked at as a last resort for a youth who has not decided what s/he wants to do, when it is not. Further education can often provide the required foundation for youths that DO know what they want to do, and also for youths that Don’t. Either way it is an excellent subject to discuss with them.

Adults sometimes overburden children and teenagers with talk about ‘the future’. This could eventually have a negative effect on the childs’ or teenagers’ choice when choosing what to do.

Many people often have failed job or career dreams that they knowingly or unknowingly ‘dump’ onto youths. Adults often say things like

‘I wanted to be a… but… wouldn’t let me’
‘If I had been offered the chances that you have I’d be a… by now’
‘If I hadn’t had children, I could have been a… by now’.
‘There weren’t any opportunities when I was your age’
‘If I’d known what I know now I’d have become a… ‘

This MUST be avoided. Remember children and teenagers are very impressionable and can detect when there is resentment in what someone is saying. This could lead them to not want to talk about careers and jobs as they may think it upsets the adult.

A final note: Always be positive and constructive when providing careers advice for children / kids and teenagers. It is a good thing to point out what could happen if they don’t do well at school, college, university, or don’t make good career choices, however don’t let this be the main topic or subject of your discussions.

They must be taught that receiving careers advice is a good thing and providing they listen and carefully consider what is being advised, they will have a better chance of leading a happier, more fulfilling, enjoyable and worthwhile life. Remember it is their life, NOT yours.

Harry F James has over 10 years experience of designing and delivering Personal Development courses, offering career advice and guidance, team building and helping people into work.