Career counselling & coaching services have become so popular, that it almost makes you feel guilty if you don’t spend on them. But is it actually beneficial? Will it even help you choose the right career? Is career counselling & coaching worth the cost in India? Read below to find out!
The Importance of Career Guidance in India
India is one of the most populous countries of the world. Anyone who can pay for it values education. And everyone from the rich to poor cares about improving their quality of life. And yet, the process of choosing one’s career is one of the most overlooked things in this country.
For a poor country, it comes as no surprise that Indians have been driven by payscale when it comes to choosing their children’s careers. And as a culture where families are close-knit, it also makes sense that parents are the decision makers in everyone’s career choices.
The good thing is that, for over a decade now, both youngsters and parents have started giving serious thought to career selection. But unfortunately, if you’re a parent, you’re limited by your personal experiences and knowledge. It’s a common scenario these days when there’s a random career your child dreams up, trying to convince you and you know nothing about it! Your choices are limited.
How do you help your child? So it keeps coming down to paying career counselors for their service. And whether you like it or not, you have to trust their guidance. This is where it starts getting challenging.
Is Career Counselling & Coaching Worth the Cost in India?
So today, I want to start a conversation about the importance of career counselling in India and understanding whether these services are helpful or not. To answer this question, let me first take you over the challenges of career counselling in India. Once you understand these concerns, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether spending on career counselling & coaching is worth it for you.
10 Reasons Why Career Counselling in India is Challenging
1. India has no history of choosing careers for job satisfaction
India is a very young country. In the post independence era, we’re barely the 4th or 5th generation of people. We’re the first timers who have actually grown up with financial security enough to be able to think of career options. Before this, Indians had to choose whatever job opportunities they found. Choices weren’t a thing. Careers weren’t a thing either. There were just jobs and salaries.
2. Parents make the decisions but provide limited career options
It’s also only now that India is seeing its first or second generation of parents who are genuinely trying to find a career option for kids they are interested in. Before this, parents only recommended (or forced) options of becoming a doctor or engineer.
3. There is a general lack of available guidance
Career counselling industry in India is not structured at all. One usually has to find whatever service is available in their city, or go with whatever one’s school is offering.
4. The concept of career counselling in itself is flawed in India
No matter how qualified or experienced one is, they can’t make a decision or perfect suggestion for you in a matter of a day. Choosing a career requires a wealth of knowledge to browse different options, so you can understand what’s required to take up a certain career, both in terms of academic qualifications and skills. And there’s no proper knowledge bank available anywhere about different career options available that a youngster can learn from. This leaves both the youth and their parents helpless.
5. Career counselors may be biased in their recommendations
Even professional career counselors have limited knowledge. They may not have an understanding of upcoming careers. They’re usually full of common buzzwords that are already “trendy” in India. Moreover, they frequently have ties with institutes where they get a commission for suggesting a particular college, new course or university.
6. Career counselors have limited knowledge of jobs of the automated future
Career counselling doesn’t consider job automation risks 10 years ahead! In the next decade or so, job safety will be one of the most important factors while choosing a career. Similarly, career counselors also don’t consider how well-paying a particular job will be by the time the child graduates. For example, ten years ago, MBA was considered a sought-after choice! However, these days there are so many MBAs in India that graduates from low-ranked colleges struggle to even find a job.
7. Career options still have positive or negative preconceptions in India
Most schools and parents still don’t invest time or energy to help their child find the right career for them. For a lot of parents, it’s about joining a family business, or whatever your grades qualify you for. Lots of degrees like BA and careers like acting or cooking are still looked down upon.
8. Choosing a career for life before 12th creates an urgency, leading to rushed decisions
One of the most important challenges is that career choice has to be made at high school level. From then on, it’s pretty much set for a student for their lifetime. It’s difficult to find jobs if you change your mind after college. And even colleges don’t offer cross-registration classes. For example, a B.Com student isn’t allowed to take a class in architecture and so on.
So learning and skill-building opportunities are very limited and this also limits your work opportunities in the future. That’s why career counselors start seeming like gods or doctors who will “find a cure” for you. You feel guilty about not spending on them even if it still leaves you unsure.
9. Success of career counselling services has never been proven at all
Career counselling is almost always a standardized service, not individualized. And career selection is a very personal thing, full of nuances and complications. It requires lots of knowledge about different options and time to think them over. So results are never satisfactory for students. Furthermore, there’s no data available for their success rates at all to prove how helpful or unhelpful career counselling services are.
10. Career choices require rethinking, experience and self-analysis over years
Lastly, career counselling isn’t even something one should have to pay for. A paid service makes the counselors focus on a target-driven methodology where they develop a standardized test and limited results. So they can focus on immediate client satisfaction and their own fee. Whereas career selection is a continuous process that keeps happening throughout high school to college and even when you become a professional. It’s a personal investment that needs time and serious thinking. Career counselling is an iterative process.
So perhaps, instead of career-choice tests or one-on-one sessions, one should be encouraged to meet professionals and take up short duration courses to understand whether a career is right for them or not, and vice versa. Unfortunately, such courses are not offered by colleges in India. Well, I do hope to start them one day, where you can understand how a particular course or career will be like day in and day out.
Is Career Guidance or Career Counselling & Coaching Worth It?
To sum it up, career counselling can be a helpful experience if you don’t know what your options are or have no idea about your career direction at all. If you already have some general idea, but are confused about it, it can be semi-valuable to have a second opinion. However, if you’re expecting someone to magically find out your dream career in an hour-long meeting, then career counselling will be a complete waste of money for you.
Career coaching can leave some students downright confused and uninspired, so the best alternative is to spend some time understanding your potential, capabilities and the types of careers that interest you. Because you know yourself the best, you’ll first need to understand what your motivations are, and what you really want from your career. Only then, will you be able to get the most out of a career coach. Also, if you’re already very sure of what you want to do, it’s an expensive and unhelpful guidance that you don’t need.
So all in all, I hope these reasons can make a case for why paying for career counselling service in India may not always be helpful. Does it really work? Comment below with your thoughts. If you have a positive personal experience that helped you build a long and successful career, let me know below.
Shilpa Ahuja is the editor of Career Nuts. She has a Masters in Design Studies (MDesS) degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, class of 2011. Shilpa is an entrepreneur and founder of Shilpa Ahuja Digital Media, an online publishing company that includes HowtoGetinto-Harvard.com, a Harvard admissions guide and ShilpaAhuja.com, one of India’s most-read digital fashion magazines. She is also the creator of SlubShop, a trend-based online fashion store, and Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She also has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Chandigarh College of Architecture (B.Arch), class of 2007. She has worked in interior project management for The Park hotels and in graphic design and education technologies for Harvard Law School. Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa enjoys art, creative writing, fashion and travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh. Her work has been published in University of Fashion blog, Jet Airways magazine, Chandigarh Times and Indian Design & Interiors magazine. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”.