By Hina Haqani
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius)
This quote utterly states what wonders can happen if one chooses a career of one’s own interest and that too in advance of course. Career planning is an ongoing process of choosing a career that fits with one’s own unique set of interests, abilities, personal attributes and values. It’s about thinking, exploring and being proactive about setting educational plans so that one can make informed career choices rather than relying completely on happenstance.
I have been advising many young individuals about their careers for a few years now. In fact, the first experience about lack of career awareness is that of myself which resonates with stories of many other individuals who I have interacted with.
My love for Astronomy dates back in 2001 when I was in my 10th grade. I chose to acquire a degree in Physics just for the love of Astronomy and never discussed my plans with anyone probably because I felt there was no reliable source to guide me. It was merely into 1st semester of my bachelor’s degree when I realized there is a lot more to this field of science than just Astronomy and so physics is not my cup of tea. Luckily, I passed my first semester with good grades, and completed my degree.
Later, when I started my job hunt, I realized that the society doesn’t give women this opportunity that they can work as engineers. That was the first time I regretted going unplanned. I still strongly feel if I had ever realized the importance of career planning and had a mentor to guide me, I would have taken an informed decision and would have been more prepared to face these challenges.
As part of my professional duties, since I landed up being a career adviser, I meet a lot of students who come to me for career guidance. I would like to share some observations here:
- Most of them start planning too late; losing many good educational opportunities.
- They don’t treat technical and vocational careers as an ‘option’ due to lack of professionalism in these fields.
- They think that career is merely about making money and they should go into such fields which would help them to get the fattest salary check, without reflecting back on their own aptitude for it.
- Many think that MBBS or nursing are the only respectable options in medical sciences because they hardly know about allied health fields and their lucrativeness.
- Social sciences and humanities fit into a lot of student’s interests and aptitude but there is not much passion for excelling in such fields because of myopic perspectives.
- Their aspirations are mostly dominated by peer pressure, immediate family or successful people within their social domains and completely irrespective of what they actually are interested in and capable off.
In Pakistan, unfortunately, only a small percentage of students are able to get the professional advice for their careers. As per Institute of Social and Policy Sciences, Pakistan’s study in 2007-08, 18.38% access higher secondary education from private institutes where they may have proper or partial career advising services. Whereas, remaining 81.62% goes to public higher secondary schools, which apparently has no career advising facilities. Hence, a very small percentage of school going children is assumed to have awareness about their dream careers.
I have a few recommendations for young individuals, professionals, families, community and the macro-level stake holders associated with the matter.
- Individuals: Try to take hold of your dreams, and stay focused. Try to grab any career advice as you can from professionals, as social pressures cannot always follows good luck.
- Professionals: Nobody has the right to impose their thinking on individuals, we are educated people, its out duty to guide our youngsters in the true light
- Families: Every child is special and unique. An Indian movie, Taary Zameen Per is a true example. Our success and our failures should not determine our children’s career interests.
- Community: Pakistan is and should remain a nation of leaders! So this is for all the leaders in the communities to ponder on establishing sustainable structures within where students can get access to such guidance and also develop a support mechanism which helps them in achieving their dreams.
- Macro-level Stake Holders: a) improve access of education; b) encourage potential professionals to get proper training in career advising/counseling. c) Formulate policies and strategies that provide guidance on how career advising platforms can be established and sustained. d) Scale-up the image of technical and vocational careers and also strengthen existing and establish new platforms for technical and vocational education.