Akshay, a Class XII student, wants to make his name as a stand-up comedian. And though some people initially found this strange, if not funny, the counsellors at Big Leap 2012 felt that he had every chance of making it good. Big Leap, an annual inter-school career counselling fair organised by Delhi Public School (DPS), Sushant Lok, helps students “find” themselves. It also helps parents get on the right track, and not pressure their children to take up careers that they would rather not.
For instance, Akshay’s parents feel that their son has embarked on an uncertain path, and want him to focus on becoming an engineer. But his heart is not in it. And those, including his music teacher, who have been entertained by his songs and self-made jokes, feel that Akshay should be allowed to pursue his muse.
Akshay is not alone in this. Many children struggle to convince their parents that times have changed, and that offbeat options can earn them not only name and fame, but also help them lead more contented lives. But are the parents convinced? Nine out of ten, the answer is NO. Pervin Malhotra, a renowned Career Counsellor, said at one of the Big Leap sessions, “Parents often get carried away by the publicity given to specific courses. They should understand that education is not just about a child’s livelihood, but about making the life of the child.”
Pervin feels fairs like Big Leap are of great help to both students and their parents. This is the second time that it was held in the School, and saw the participation of over 600 parents. Fifteen of them, who attended the counselling session on “Career in Sports”, said they profited greatly from the experience. Says Sunita Nagpal, Headmistress, DPS Sushant Lok, “The students from various schools interact not only with career counsellors, but also with professionals from diverse fields. The counselling is offered free of cost. Our sole aim is to help students make informed decisions, and guide parents about other emerging career options.”
Fans and Critics
Big Leap 2011 too had proved to be a boon for many students, such as Arjun Sharma, a science topper from DPS Sushant Lok. “The Fair not only helped me to pick science and technology as a career, but also gave me information about the scholarship options that science students could avail of,” says Arjun. He is currently studying engineering at St. Stephens College (Delhi University), and gets an annual scholarship of Rs. 80,000 from the Department of Science and Technology.
Similarly, Sarthak, who passed out from Summer Fields School, was helped in picking drumming as a career. The boy, who had been drumming for several years just for fun, now takes it a lot more seriously. Says he, “I love beating the drums, but I never knew that one can make a career out of drumming. Initially eyebrows were raised at my career-choice, but after I stood second in the country in the entrance test conducted by the Academy of Contemporary Music, University of Central Oklahoma, my parents started encouraging me.”
Yet not all students are as enthusiastic about the fair. Indeed some, like Chitra, a student of class XI, feel that career fairs only lead to more confusion. “When too many people tell you too many things, you get confused. I have taken up science subjects, but today after attending a session on ‘Career in Fashion”, I am having second thoughts. Fashion designing fascinates me a lot, but I am not sure it is the right decision at this point of time.” Naman, another student of Class XI, spoke in much the same vein. Says he, “My parents want me to prepare for the civil services exams, but I want to study law. There are too many people telling me a lot of things. It is not only confusing it doesn’t allow me to concentrate on my studies. I will now decide only after my XII Board exams.”
Then again, there are those who feel that career fairs have lost their relevance because of the information overspill in the media and Internet. However, Bhattacharya, an alumnus of IIT and IIM who took up a session on engineering at Big Leap, believes that the Internet can never replace one-on-one interactions. “If one googles ‘Career in electronic engineering’, one would get a flood of information, primarily pertaining to the West. There are also chances of getting wrong or half-baked information, leading to more confusion,” says Bhattacharya. Like many others, he believes that students stand to learn a lot from such inter-personal exchanges with professionals working in different areas.
What you Study matters – more than the Degree
Most students care only about getting a degree. Also, many of them take up courses just because there is ‘glamour’ attached to them – a mass media course for instance. Most of them haven’t a clue about what the course offers, or whether it is at all up their street. It is not uncommon for many such misled youngsters to quit midway, as they vainly struggle with subjects like camera handling, video editing, and IT intensive areas, for which they have no aptitude.
Pervin also feels that students also give needless importance to obtaining degrees from abroad, little realising that India offers more quality outlets, and at lower cost. Indeed, even in countries like South Africa and Malaysia, legal education is far more expensive than it is in India.
The role Parents need to play
Counsellors are agreed that it is important for parents to educate their children about the opportunities and challenges that come with each career choice. Says Mrs. Yadav, a resident of DLF Phase III, “It is not easy to guide your children on a career choice. It can have life-long implications. I think my role is not just to play the supportive parent, but to also keep track of the various career options on offer – and their scope.” Mrs. Yadav too attended Big Leap 2012, along with her two children – who study in Class X at Tagore International School. Ravi Pant, an event manager, endorses her views, and says that the way technology is sprinting, jobs that were available in abundance a decade ago might not even exist today. This makes it all the more important that parents first educate themselves before turning their attention to their wards.”
To help identify if the passion of a child can work as a career, Pervin offers a few tips. “Determine if your child possesses the skills to be successful in her/his chosen profession. Does the profession provide an inner satisfaction that can weather frustration and failure? Does s/he like the lifestyle associated with the profession? You should be happy to find, and support, the profession that will be the most satisfying and highly rewarding for your child.”