Helping youth start careers of choice
In India, nearly 1 million youth enter the workforce every month. However, few have found rewarding career paths of their choice, with almost half of all the undergraduate students enrolled in the least employable disciplines. (Source: World Bank and AISHE, 2017-2018)
Today, young people require a better understanding of their strengths, interests, and opportunities to make sustainable career choices. As facilitators and mentors, providing more holistic career guidance beyond standardized quizzes and one-time interviews can help youth build that awareness. We list a few such career guidance practices below:
Be prepared for upcoming and unconventional choices
While the path to becoming a doctor, engineer, or civil service officer is well-known, a student has little clarity if her career choices are slightly different.
Say a student wants to be a graphic designer. If she has access to the Internet, she may be able to figure out what she needs to study but determining the appropriate colleges, alternative (and more affordable) routes, and exposure opportunities can be difficult.
Therefore, stay updated on the wide variety of employment routes present today. From a private job or internship to online content creation and freelancing – having an awareness of the right opportunities for students can make a significant difference in guiding them.
Vishakha, who has been a facilitator with Medha for nearly 4 years, recalls, “One of my students wanted to study interior design, but her parents had little idea about the field. They wanted her to make a more conventional, and therefore to them, less risky, career choice.
After a few discussions, I connected her with a professional interior designer in Varanasi to do an internship. This way, she could get exposure in the field and build clarity before making a long-term commitment.”
Respond to youth’s unique strengths and weaknesses
Amidst diverse career opportunities, it can get complicated for a student to make a confident career choice. In such cases, it is essential to not just go by a student’s mark sheet but to help her explore her unique strengths and interests.
Activity-based programs can help a student play by her strengths while understanding her weaknesses. This self-awareness can help her reason both conventionally popular (and highly competitive) choices like government jobs, against trending ones like entrepreneurship, for herself.
When guiding a student, taking a 360-degree view of what will affect her decision-making helps – from financial status, preference for home location, and parents’ consent to things like a preferred growth trajectory.
Poonam, a facilitator at Medha, shares, “Gayatri, a student from Gorakhpur, had experienced mistreatment from people for being differently-abled. It had poorly affected her confidence. In guiding her in her career, I also became a friend who encouraged her to stay confident.
Eventually, Gayatri recognized her potential to encourage and help other people. She also worked with the Times of India in a campaign that helps victims of floods.”
Support youth in the longer run
Often, a one-time engagement is not enough to successfully help students navigate their professional lives. By being present in their digital lives or checking in from time to time, we can be responsive to sudden changes in a student’s career trajectory. Sometimes, these changes can represent more significant personal challenges that a student may be trying to resolve alone – getting as serious as workplace harassment or a sudden, personal loss.
Sonali, a Medha facilitator in Gorakhpur, and Vishakha both recall instances where young women found it difficult to concentrate on their careers due to harassment in college or a difficult, personal loss. By lending an ear, staying connected, and making space for solutions, they enabled students to build back their confidence, tackle challenging situations, and never give up on their talents.
Young people’s career paths can be diverse enough to reflect their unique interests and choices. However, it is key to provide more wholesome career guidance that supports youth through their career journeys.