Most of us have tripped into our careers. Even those who went into professions like law and accountancy tell of taking up the training as nothing else had happened for them.
Why is it that most of us have not experienced career advice? In schools it is usual that the careers teacher is doing that job as one part of a wider portfolio. And that role is often administrative as the expectation is that there is a library of information that students can access. In universities it is not much better. One of the UK’s top universities requires students to pre-book a session where the student then has 15 minutes help with their cv. It is probably useful advice. How useful is it in the context of career advising as we might want it?
In business schools the students invest significantly for their programmes. The full-time MBA is paid for by the student who has also the opportunity cost of not working. The benefit and risk issues is significant to them. The part-time MBAs at business schools are over 2 years and are usually sponsored by the employer of the student. There is less risk to the student; they continue to be paid and their job continues after their MBA has been completed.
In these business schools, careers advice and support is critical to the full-time student. The student needs to understand fully the level of support that they will get throughout their course as the course budget gets squeezed by the costs of all the other components of the programmes. On the part-time MBA, the employers are skeptical (scared?) of any career advice lest the students walk away after the MBA is completed.
The stages above are just 3 examples of where career advice is useful. Some people are fortunate that they have access to good advice. They may have a parent or parents who take an interest and who are able to encourage their offspring down an appropriate channel. Sometimes there is a teacher or a mentor who has specific experience that is helpful. For most, though, the career issue is not prevalent until it lurches into view at key moments – when one leaves school or university or when when has finished that Masters.
These examples are obvious as they are at “rite of passage” points in our lives or where we may have taken a key decision to invest in our career. What would happen if careers were more central to our learning experiences at these key stages?
The best careers advice is achieved by understanding the capabilities of an individual. In a school context this is often well understood by the teaching community as they are working with the students regularly in an academic, pastoral and ex curricula way. They are also measuring regularly to feedback to students and parents and also to relevant external bodies. The wherewithal to undertake good career advice is there. Most schools are not resourced to provide it.
The main issue seems to be that, as a society, we do not value careers as an important subject. Whether it is in schools or with people in work who are careering (rather than controlling) in their careers, the lack of value pertains. Some people do take proactive action and they broadly fall into 2 camps – they are in pain and distress because they have lost their jobs or they are bored and frustrated and know that they have to move out of what they are doing.
Taking care of your career is a lifelong responsibility. The earlier that we can value that notion and learn how to take care of it, the better it will be for the whole of one’s working life.