Career Development as an Academic Discipline

Career planning aims at capacity building, and personality development of youth in consonance with their interests, aptitude and personality traits
"All this has resulted in a less stable and more uncertain career environment that presents significant challenges for career development." [Representational Image]
"All this has resulted in a less stable and more uncertain career environment that presents significant challenges for career development." [Representational Image] Pxhere [Creative Commons]

Post-pandemic world has thrown up a career landscape that is immensely turbulent, unpredictable, diverse and challenging. Factors that have contributed to this drastically changed environment include economic slump, technological advancements, workforce diversity, market demand, revised policies, changing lifestyles and other societal influences.

Technological advances in particular have ushered into an ever-rising knowledge economy and have influenced not only the types of jobs available but also how work is done (e.g., virtual teams, online meetings), where work is done (e.g., telecommuting from home, office or public places like parks), and the scope of work (e.g., global access to potential buyers and suppliers).

All this has resulted in a less stable and more uncertain career environment that presents significant challenges for career development. Under these circumstances we need to keep pace with the fast-changing times and global trends and accordingly align the career goals and objectives of our students to suit the needs and demands of contemporary job markets and help them build the flexibilities that they need to thrive in a constantly changing work environment. We need to continually evolve our career development science and its knowledge to meet the challenges of the global, technologically advanced, demand-driven career landscape.

Career development is not just about counselling, placement and job selection. It needs to be studied as a science and established as a full-fledged academic discipline since it is based upon well studied psychosocial development theories and concepts like person-environment interaction including work adjustment theory and Holland’s Model, Social Cognitive Models including Social Learning and Social Efficacy Theory, Decision-making Models including personality approaches, Roe’s personality theory and other psychodynamic perspectives on career development including issues related to gender, culture and ethnicity.

Holland’s RIASEC Conceptual Framework that was put forth way back in 1958 by the American psychologist John Holland classifies personalities into six categories of Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional and accordingly describes their suitable choices for career selection commensurate to their personality, temperament, interests and inclinations.

If we follow such a logistic model, the possibilities of making errors in career selection will be drastically minimised that can otherwise prove disastrous for the person if not done in an appropriate manner.

Since work encompasses more than just financial security, our students need to seek occupations that enhance their sense of self-awareness and aptly define who they are, owing to the fact that so much of a person’s self-esteem depends upon his success at work.

A whole lot of assessment tools and instruments are available online/offline to help career counsellors identify talent of their students, develop their potential and enhance their occupational/organisational performance. Some of them include Myers Briggs Assessment, Psychometrics 360, Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) Assessment, Strong Interest Inventory Assessment, FIRO Assessments, Work Personality Index, Job Match Assessment, Employee Reliability Inventory etc.

Psychometric testing and analysis is one such significant and useful tool used for ascertaining the psyche and personality traits of an individual for selection of a suitable career in tune with his likes and dislikes, interests and beliefs, inborn characteristics and most compatible personality traits. Advantages of psychometric testing are that it allows a holistic psychological profiling and objective assessment of candidates that can be followed by an efficient counselling process.

It is a reliable and credible method of assessing all career options, prioritising and comparing them with each other and finally selecting one out of a whole lot of them for accomplishment of one’s career goals and ambitions.

Apart from psychometric testing a whole gamut of activities can be undertaken under the domain of career planning and development to help the students choose the best career option that include Career Mapping, Career Indexing, Skill Gap Analysis and Collaborative Context Analysis.

Career mapping

It is important for our educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities to track and map the career of all their students not only for maintaining connectivity and collecting constant feedback from them but also to learn from their decisions and experiences and to analyse the effectiveness and appropriateness of their choices vis-à-vis their career and jobs so that valuable lessons could be drawn for future.

Usually, students tend to forget their colleges and universities and the institutions too tend to forget their students once they get their degrees and pass-out from them, whereas it would have served the mutual interests of both of them to maintain a constant rapport and communication between them for assisting each other in improved decision and policy making.

Every educational institution needs to maintain a logbook and a complete database with all requisite details of their alumni besides having a fully functional alumni association since the alumni can serve as dependable mentors and do the hand-holding of existing students by providing them necessary support in terms of information, guidance, counselling, financial assistance or by simply extending their intellectual and moral support to them as and when needed.

Career indexing

A paradigm shift has occurred in the number and type of career choices available to students in the contemporary times. A whole lot of new choices have emerged and a vast number of old choices have become obsolete and redundant.

Under these circumstances when thousands of career choices are available to students at every stage of their career and even greater number of job opportunities are available to them after they graduate, there is need for a vibrant and user-friendly portal that lists all career choices and job opportunities for easy browsing of the aspirants.

There is need to index all upcoming and current career options at school, college and university levels so that the students could utilise the same at their own convenience from the comforts of their home. Career and job opportunities should be classified at such portals into local, national and international level apart from giving full information about the colleges and universities, scholarships and fellowships, subject combinations and other available facilities.

These portals can also facilitate psychometric testing of students with a view to select a career that suits their personality, interests, values and insights. Career Indexing tool must allow the students to shortlist suitable career options, prioritise their chosen options, compare them with other options available, consider non-personal and external factors like demand in the job market and finally after goal-defining devise appropriate strategic action plan for achieving those career goals.

Skill-gap analysis

Though huge armies of students are passing out successfully from our higher education institutions every year, mostly it has been found that they lack the necessary skill sets, mindsets, abilities and competencies that are required and demanded by the job markets.

While they possess impressive merit and credentials, that does not stand them in a good stead while searching for a job of their own choice because they lack the necessary communication skills, IT proficiency, computational and quantitative skills, business and foundational skills that are essential in the modern times.

Therefore, there is need to undertake a comprehensive skill-gap analysis of our youth and identify areas of insufficiency as well as the areas needed for their upskilling that would enhance their employability in the job markets. Our career counselling centres need to have such experts who are well-trained in undertaking skill-gap analysis.

Collaborative context analysis

Once we are done with career mapping, indexing and skill-gap analysis we need to undertake a context analysis of the local job markets, their demand analysis, qualification, training and experience requirements, pay packages offered and sustainability in collaboration with local industry partners and other stakeholders. By maintaining a constant liaison with the local and national industry our career counselling centres need to have a readymade list of job opportunities available along with their essential and desirable requirements. Accordingly, our education needs to be made practice-based, demand-driven, locally and socially relevant, context-based and skill-enabled.

There are very few higher educational institutions in India that offer career planning/development/guidance as a diploma or a degree course. However, owing to its long-term implications on the individuals and societies there is need to establish it as a full-fledged academic discipline and thoroughly study all its dimensions.

In fact a lot of research can be done on the psychosocial, cultural, ethnic, demographic, geographical, anthropological and economic factors that affect career development of individuals and on the instruments needed to assess their personalities, choices and interests essential for guiding them in making appropriate career choices at different stages of their lives.

Precision, reliability and effectiveness of such instruments needs to be measured statistically leaving little scope for making errors in career guidance.

Career development as an academic discipline can help us dwell into various aspects like career development models and theories, career resources including organizations and other sources of information, career assessment and ethical career counselling practices, technology related to career planning, developing and implementing a career development programme for diverse populations.

As narrated by B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine, “Think of yourself not as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiselling and scraping and polishing”. This is exactly what career development discipline will be aimed to do.

(Author teaches at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and is also Director, Centre for Career Planning and Counselling, University of Kashmir)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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