When you talk about career counselling, I suspect a lot of people think back to their school days when a guidance counsellor said, “You should do this job one day.” But it’s a far broader world, isn’t it?
Career counselling entails much more than merely choosing a job and hoping to stay in that job for the rest of one’s life. Choosing a career is seen by many as trying to find a way to integrate into society, say as a teacher or a plumber, and also about making a social contribution.
Today, career counsellors believe that it is essential to identify a person’s original “pain”. This provides the starting point and life plot of every person’s career and life career story.
Career counsellors endeavour to help people deal with their pain – and empower them to use this pain to help others. In the process, people can heal themselves and make social contributions. Some people understandably grapple with the contention that every life story starts with pain. research, and others’, suggests that very high career achievers understand the value of pain to any life story: the more you hurt and struggle, the more you have to strive to prove yourself.
Why is career counselling so important?
Once people know where they are headed, they mostly become motivated to work hard to realise their goals.
People consult career counsellors when they face a “natural” crossroads: having to choose a school, university, field of study or one from a number of employment opportunities. A second group consults career counsellors when they begin to doubt whether they have made the appropriate choice in terms of schools, subjects, universities, careers or employers. In all these cases, the future is already upon them: “the old” – what used to work – no longer does.
Workers are being confronted increasingly in the postmodern era with the impact of change on the workplace. They have to face and deal with repeated work-related crossroads and transitions. They hesitate because they are uncertain about the way forward. Career counsellors then enable them to recount their career life story. This allows them to listen to themselves by revisiting instances when they faced a crossroads. And by listening to themselves, they become able to deal with their current crossroads.
Whose responsibility is it to set up career counselling mechanisms? Individual schools and universities? Does the government have a role to play?
I should think that everything starts with the government. But a host of other stakeholders are also responsible: education and labour departments; primary, secondary and tertiary training institutions; professional bodies and qualifications authorities; and youth development agencies, private practitioners and non-profit organisations.
The role of parents, teachers, role models and a person’s peer group also shouldn’t be underestimated. Society has a collective responsibility to ensure that every person be granted access to career counselling. In fact, postmodern career counselling can help “invisible” and “unvoiced” people who are desperately in need of career counselling become “visible” and listened to.