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A career counsellor to navigate your child through a plethora of choices

A career counsellor will help whether you are a school student trying to figure out which stream to take or a working professional wanting to further career prospects or switch jobs
Many of us are married to our jobs and end up spending more hours at office than with family. One needs to make the right career choice to be happy, and a good counsellor can help you choose one based on your interests, aptitude and ability.

When should you start thinking about your profession? Class nine is the ideal time, says Hyderabad-based Padmavathi Devananda, Career Counsellor at Aca Sports Counselling. “Before that, the child is still evolving and exploring things. But by class nine, some shape begins to take place and you can start channelising the child's talent and energy in a certain direction. Those interested in Ivy League universities need to build their resume from class ninth onwards. However, some kids make up their mind and respond in class 11 and that is totally fine.”

Ideally, a psychometric test must be taken as soon as the child reaches class nine. Counsellors claim that even though it is not 100 per cent correct but is 90 per cent still there. Once in class 10 or 11, this may be repeated as kids change their minds sometimes.

Soft factors like guidance from elder siblings about what they ought to pursue also has an influence on the younger one. Devananda points out:  “Never compare your younger one with the elder. Always encourage the child to pursue the passion s/he has--someone interested in computer games, for all you know, may make an app or a game one day.”

What about extracurricular activities? Sports, debates, music, arts--it’s always best to seize any opportunity that enhances personality and adds up to the resume. Social work can be a star attraction in your curriculum vitae. Experts advise that you can simply scout for NGOs in your neighbourhood to start working with. Says Alok Bansal, Delhi-based Career Counsellor & Consultant, Study Abroad: “Working with an NGO should not be done just for the sake of resume--there should be some genuine interest. It enhances your learning, allows you to empathize with people and develop your skills, gives you a very different perspective. The minimum number of hours you need to devote to an NGO is three a week and you should ideally have six months' experience.”

The way to go

A student can approach a career counsellor either within or outside the school. A psychometric test is available offline and online and can range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for an hour. Then there are mentorship packages for those seeking a career coach for the next four years. Says counsellor Bansal: “When we run mentorship packages for students, we are setting the goal and trying to understand where they need to be 15 years from now. The idea is to plan and accordingly decide on which path to take – be it shadowing a CEO, engaging in an entrepreneurship development programme, intern with a media house if necessary–-steps that go way beyond academics.” Students are advised on how to build their profile for university admission, future job requirements and the extra-curricular activities that will give them an edge. Says Amrita Dass, Career Consultant & Founder Director, Institute for Career Studies (ICS): “As compared to pre Covid times, today there are many more questions about internships and online courses, especially those delivered by top universities and professors-–some are free of cost. Students also want to know more about NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 and when the demarcation of Arts, Commerce and Science will be replaced by an interdisciplinary approach to subjects – and how to make such choices.” 

"A growth mindset is important. Covid has taught us to set up ‘safety nets’. A strong ‘Plan B’ must be in place,” Dass adds.

After ascertaining the career, and if it’s professional courses such as engineering, medicine, IAS, legal, education, the big question is about specialised classes such as Vidya Mandir, Akash and FIITJEE. Has it come to a point where you can’t clear any entrance exam without coaching? Says online education entrepreneur and an IIT-ian Taran Singh, CEO of Melvano: “I don’t think it’s impossible to crack any entrance exam without coaching. Some of my friends and seniors who were toppers relied on just self-learning. It all boils down to self-discipline. However, most students lack persistence, perseverance and consistency--and it’s a lot easier to fall into a well-structured format.” 

The value add a good coaching institute provides is that it helps in better understanding of each concept, applying it and answering in limited time with institutes giving mock tests and practice of 200-300 questions in every chapter. Singh says, “Students think in a very linear method, but in competitive exams like JEE and NEET, questions will not be straight forward, and the same concept can be framed in a different way. The advantage of a good coaching is it gets you to practice edgy, complex questions and understand time management.” How to decide on which coaching institute is another big question. Singh advises not to be taken in by ads and the best way is word of mouth from alumni. “Have a candid chat with two or three of alumni of a cross section of best institutes that you have shortlisted. This will give you the real picture,” he says.

Trending careers

The 2020 job market has largely been dominated by either pure play technology or   technology combined with some other function. Says Rahul Dasondi, CareerAchiever360: “The top career options include Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, data science, cyber security, cloud computing and robotics. Besides, there will always be scope for essential services and hence healthcare professionals, paramedical, legal, business administration, and education.”

But apart from these trending careers, there is place for everybody who is a genius. Says Bansal: “You have to be the best in whatever you do and then many doors will open for you. For example, if you are good in geography, make sure you dominate that field and there will be no dearth of opportunities.” Irrespective of the profession you choose, three types of skills are required--technological, social science and life skills. Today nobody can survive without understanding technological or programming skills or technology," says Bansal. “If I am a doctor and I am into computational biology, I have to look at genome sequencing and can’t only live with doing biology- I have to know what AI and ML is all about. If I am psychologist and I need to judge people with psychometric testing, but I have no tech knowhow, I will not thrive. Second is social science skills which means you should be aware about what is happening around you and  be comfortable interacting with people in large groups. Third is life skills.”

What’s important is the ability to continuously upgrade one’s skills, being agile, and being able to change track when necessary. Says Arjun Mohan, CEO-India, upGrad, “Today, the industry is no longer rigid to have professionals with pre-requisite degrees in the said domain but are switching gears to a skill-based hiring approach. Another important domain is digital marketing, which is no longer confined to traditional aspects of social media and content marketing. In fact, digital literacy is now taking up the overall ecosystem, given the huge amount of data that is getting generated. The requirement for 'experienced marketers' is getting replaced by the demand for 'data-driven marketers’.”

Technical skills such as coding, programming languages, augmented analytics tools will be required on resumes. Many good universities do not even consider the marks but evaluate the child on other parameters. Says Parimal Mandke, Acting President-NIIT University: “In our selection process, marks are essential but not everything. Our conversation goes beyond curriculum and we assess the child on 5Cs of comprehension, communication, curiosity, critical thinking and collaboration. Recently AICTE has given the choice to institutions to not ask for physics and maths for admission to colleges of engineering programmes. They have now come this far. And this is consistent with NEP. Marks are fast becoming obsolete as things are moving so fast and everything getting replaced by a newer technology. The biggest ability is adaptability.”

Obsolete careers

Obliterated seems like a very strong word, but there are certain career options that might take a back seat in the coming future. With automated technologies replacing a lot of manual-human involvements/interventions, we will soon have a world in which machines will drive businesses and the knowledge of technical and practical skills will become the key to survive career redundancy. Says upGrad’s Mohan, “This is one of the key reasons we emphasise and believe in the concept of lifelong learning and upskilling. In today’s world, it is all about what more a person brings to the table rather than just skills they are expected to have.” 

Superficial knowledge will not lead anyone, anywhere. NIIT’s Mandke says, “Now end-to-end programming is required, not just backend software. One should know everything and there is room for only a full stack engineer. Singular skills of just a programmer or software developer are out. Even in network engineers, testing has moved to higher order testing.” 
In the area of computer science, the computer hardware engineering is fading completely and the lines between software and hardware are getting merged. Today even in IoT, it is the software that is playing the role as it’s all about the way these devices are connected and the way they talk to each other. Positions like principal data scientist or deep learning engineers or data quality analyst, behind scenes algorithm, solutions architect, Conversational AI developers or AI chatbot engineers, Robotic Process Automation engineers and data science are on the radar.

Generalist or specialist? 

If you are a genius in a certain field and are sure of becoming a super specialist in that field only, then its fine. Else one should develop a length and breadth of skills across the board. Says Bansal, “Some years back when telecom boom happened, people started talking about telecom management as a course, which is actually a subset of a larger MBA. Today no one talks about it. If you become a super specialist in a particular area there could be problems going forward because world is evolving at a very fast pace.”

Ask any career coach what are the values, dreams and aspirations of today’s generation. Says Bansal: “First and foremost, students want a lot of independence--they want to be rich, they don’t want to follow a set pattern or path. They idolise and are glamour struck by all the bigwigs such as startup kings, YouTube stars and celebrities. Unfortunately, there is too much information and information overload is the problem. They spend a lot of time on social media and money is a big motivator. I have observed that they talk among themselves, but communication channels are often broken between parents and kids.”

Good parenting is as much a part of achieving your child’s career goals as much as the grooming in that field. Says Hyderabad based Padmavathi Devananda, “At least one of the two parents have to give time in these formative years when the child is from 8-12 and 13-19 years – you have to handhold, monitor their friendships, find out about their dreams. As parents, you should allow them that window to explore and find over dinner table conversations, casual chat during a long drive or a freewheeling chat over cup of coffee, what is going on inside the mind of your child.” She concludes by saying - if you can handle their emotions and make them emotionally secure, rest is just a cakewalk. Be assured the child will be successful and happy, both.

Table: Investing in your child’s future by roping in a good career counsellor
Career counselling service Fee (Rs)
Psychometric test   500-5,000
Stream selector test 500-3,000
Advanced one-to-one career guidance 3,600
Counselling over 3 months with a 1-year follow-up, with six mentoring and handholding sessions, admission alerts, career alerts   6,500
Mentorship package (annual)   Rs 35,000-50,000 per year or 2-4 lakh for 4 years
Source: Market Research



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