John Bartolo
Director at Mcast
The importance of professional career guidance and counselling
‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’ – Confucius
The natural question facing most students who have completed secondary and post-secondary school, is ‘What’s next?’. Many factors may influence a student’s choice of training programme/ career, including parents, friends, teachers, exam results and assessments, work experiences and job experiences.
Parental influence is very strong and can be both positive and negative. Parents can be a rich source of support, yet at times this support can be an obstacle if students are expected to be loyal to an often rigid set of values. Students sometimes suppress their true wishes for the sake of their family and end up prolonging or not achieving their own educational and career satisfaction.
Achieving a clear understanding of one’s own personal identity and characteristics and potential capabilities are crucial aspects to establish one’s personal occupational life paths. By understanding one’s self-concept, one can proceed to develop reachable personal goals. Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) lessons can help in this regard.
Confucius said: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” A person’s self-concept is the vital force that establishes a career pattern one will follow throughout life. Although this can be reviewed and changed, self-concept is a key factor to career selection because individuals want jobs and careers that are compatible with their self-image.
Professional career guidance and counselling can help individuals realise their aspirations by providing them with a better understanding of their career prospects and learning needs.
Hui (2002) described guidance as helping students in their whole-person development, and counselling as helping students to cope with distress and confusion. Herr et al. (2004) said that counselling is a more therapeutic and personalised intervention, whereas guidance “embraces a larger range of activities”.
European Council resolution 2008 recommends that EU Member States should provide citizens access with lifelong guidance to develop career management skills such as professional and effective communication, budget management, critical thinking and project development. Such skills can help them adapt their career path both at places of learning as well as in work environments, while providing an effective response to issues affecting individuals, groups and enterprises.
For Watts and Kidd, educational and vocational guidance are highly personal and involve helping students make choices relating to learning and work. However, once the guidance becomes personal, it can also be used to deal with issues that are neither educational nor vocational.
Guidance is certainly not solely about giving information. We are living in a technological era, and information on education, training and employment opportunities is available at a click of a button. A variety of career guidance tools and tests are available but these are in no way a replacement for one-to-one career guidance and counselling sessions.
How are responses, both verbal and non-verbal, which are crucial in the process of a career guidance and counselling session, going to be detected and worked upon on in an online career guidance test? It is important to acknowledge and emphasise the validity of such tests, but only as a tool to assist and contribute to the process of a career guidance session, not to replace such a service.
Information on education, training and validation of aptitudes and skills must be reliable and competently delivered by qualified career guidance and counsellors who can adapt it to a client’s profile. The process should include the combination of targeted information, careful assessment and validation of skills and support for career planning. All this can bring positive change for individuals, particularly those in danger of exclusion.
Career guidance and counselling can reach groups such as disadvantaged people, young people disengaged from education as well as the unemployed. It can also prevent youngsters from leaving school early and becoming ‘Neets’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training). It can support and facilitate mentoring and tutoring activities for students struggling with their course work and at risk of dropping out from education and training. This service also supports educational, social and labour integration of migrant learners into education and training programmes, allowing for faster inclusion and productivity.
Thus, a well-coordinated guidance and counselling system generates coherence of education, training and employability support, and most importantly, clarifies available options for a person’s self-actualisation and fulfilment. It also helps people and organisations adapt and be productive under different economic and social conditions, while linking individuals’ aspirations and enterprises with both national and international economic and social goals.