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A Guiding Hand

If workings of the human mind fascinate you and you want to help others choose the right path where courses and jobs are concerned, then career counselling is just right for you, says Pranab Ghosh

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 13:30 IST
Pranab Ghosh

The human mind and its workings so fascinated her that she felt compelled to study psychology. After graduation she became convinced that the knowledge she had garnered had to be used to help others… She also found she was energised working with adolescents, knowing that she could with little effort help them avert much of their physical, psychological and sociological stresses.

Meet Nandini Sharma, counselling psychologist, 28, working with DAV Public School, in Delhi’s Ashok Vihar. When she began her career as a school counsellor in 2004 her salary was Rs 12,000 per month. Today, Sharma takes home a fatter salary.

“Career counsellors are skilled in helping people understand themselves better and take proactive steps to improve the quality of their work lives. Many career counsellors use these skills to teach in schools, counsel students about careers or vocational studies; others do social work or take up coaching; or go in for higher studies to become therapists. Counsellors interested in the business applications of their craft go for outplacement, corporate recruitment, and professional headhunting,” says Roma Kumar, a clinical psychologist working with Saksham, a child and adolescent guidance clinic.

The number of capable career counsellors in India, however, is inadequate when it comes to dealing with the demand. Though parents and students are waking up to the fact that there are more career options available today than ever before, the level of awareness is low. Says Usha Albuquerque, Director, Careers Smart, an organisation offering career management programme to students, “Career counseling is not widely recognised as a career, but more as an adjunct of school counselling. That’s why perhaps there aren’t many people in this field.”

The challenge, therefore, is formidable. Not only is there a need for more training institutes offering career counselling programmes, but “career counsellors need to spread awareness about the numerous career options and about choosing the right career on the basis of one’s abilities and interests and not according to hearsay and popular trends,” says Sharma.

what’s it about?

Career counsellors assess people’s interests, personalities, values and skills and help them explore career options. The primary purpose of career counselling is to help one learn how to explore and investigate university and college programmes and occupations and match one’s aptitude with various career options. Interest inventories and career tests used by counsellors help senior school/college students organise their thoughts and ideas about majors, careers and occupations. Counsellors review the results with students and help them explore and investigate course/programmes/occupations that interest them. The field is vast and includes career

placement, career planning, and learning strategies. In today’s world of cut-throat competition it is very important that a person chooses a field in which his natural talent and abilities are utilised the best, so that he can get the maximum output with the least effort. It is here that career counsellors play the most vital role

The Payoff
. Entry level: Rs 12000 to Rs 15000 pm
. Middle level: Around Rs 35,000 pm
. Senior level (especially if you are self-employed): Sky is the limit

Clock Work
8 AM: Review day’s appointments
9 AM: Have rapport-building talk with students
10 AM: Conduct psychometric testing for abilities and personality types
11 AM: Schedule appointments for the counselling session
12 O’clock onwards: Hold counselling sessions
4 PM onwards: Research; information collecting and updating
5 PM: Call it a day

More than academic qualifications, counsellors must have the emotional stability and maturity to handle the problems of young people
. They should have a strong interest in helping others, be sensitive and perceptive in assessing people and be able to inspire respect, trust, and confidence.
. They should be able to work independently or as part of a team
. They also need to be well informed and constantly update their information

How do i get there?
You can do your 10+2 with humanities or science and then do your graduation in psychology, followed by a postgraduate diploma in guidance and counselling.

A lot of people take up career counselling without a good grounding in psychology but they are not professionally equipped to administer psychometric tests, etc. However, anybody who enjoys interacting with people, is sensitive to the other’s needs, can empathise with others and is also good at collecting detailed information and constantly updating it, can pursue career counselling as a career

Institutes & Urls
. NCERT runs programmes in New Delhi, Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar and Mysore
. University of Mumbai
. Karnatak University, Dharwad, Karnataka
. Punjab University, Chandigarh
. TISS, Mumbai.

In addition IGNOU, New Delhi and Annamalai University also offer certificate courses in guidance and counselling through correspondence

Pros & Cons
. A challenging and fascinating career
. Varied skills and aspirations can lead to a number of job opportunities
. With little investment one can become self-employed
. Love for people more rewarding than love for money
. Upcoming field, hence low awareness level

A background in psychology helps

An industry insider takes a look at the opportunities and options available for counsellors

What are the stages one has to cross before one becomes a career counsellor?
Most counsellors have a background in psychology as this provides an insight into human behaviour, which helps career counsellors understand better the problems of their clients. There are no specific courses in career counselling, but the courses in guidance and counselling cover career counselling too. Candidates who have a Masters in any area are eligible to apply for a diploma in counselling, although some institutes prefer students with a psychology background.

What are the employment avenues for a career counsellor?
Most career counsellors work in schools and educational institutes, or with career and study advisory services.

They can work with career information centres and career education programmes. They advise on college majors, admission requirements, entrance exams, and financial aid. They help students develop job-finding skills such as resume writing and interviewing techniques. Career counsellors can also work with recruitment agencies and specialise in employment and placement counselling to assist students with career development and in locating and applying for jobs.

What about salaries?
Depending on the job, career counsellors can earn anything from Rs 15,000-Rs 30,000 as starting salary. Most school counsellors are taken on teachers’ pay scales, while those working with career management services and with employment agencies can earn more.

And the challenges they face?
It is only in the last ten years or so that professional career guidance is being taken seriously and recognised as a means to help individuals arrive at an informed career decision. However, there is limited awareness about career planning in large parts of the country, because of which out of the 30 million who graduate every year – 20 per cent are unemployed and most often, unemployable. Appropriate career counselling could help fill this gap.

Usha Albuquerque Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh