The global pandemic has created an upheaval in many businesses, bringing some industries like travel, tourism and events to their knees, while creating extraordinary growth in healthcare, health research, e-commerce, and virtual communications industries.
The secondary and post-secondary education landscape has been impacted immensely too, with high schools and universities having to continuously adapt to unpredictable changes brought on by the pandemic.
Educator, counsellor and entrepreneur and founder of the IC3 Movement and the Chair of Board of Trustees at the IC3 Institute, Ganesh Kohli writes: "Students at the brink of graduating from high school and poised to make long-term career decisions are a group particularly sensitive to the constantly evolving situation.
Not only are they impacted by the changes in the learning environment, but they are also affected by the constant changes to board examination schedules, changes in geopolitical movement and policies, and upheavals in the job industry, with some of them, probably having to reconsider the career choices they were about to make".
"Change is the only constant, bringing with it great growth potential, and not all changes have been unfavourable. Virtual learning environments, which were the exception rather than the norm pre-pandemic, have thrived and created learning opportunities that transcend physical boundaries, creating access to learning resources for students all over the world. One cannot deny that the pandemic has offered a great window for self-directed study and has demonstrated the power of technology and marketing.''
In this time of uncertainty for students, Kohli shares suggestions on what is needed for effective decision-making in career building:
Focus on soft skills
Learning in the pandemic world lies outside the classroom. A supremely critical skill brought to the fore by the pandemic is the ability to learn and unlearn new things and apply them in rapidly changing contexts. 'The Future of Jobs Survey (2020)' report published by the World Economic Forum lists analytical thinking and innovation, active learning strategies, complex problem solving, critical thinking and analysis, leadership and social influence, creativity and originality, emotional intelligence, resilience, reasoning and ideation, and service orientation among the top skills employers will be looking for by 2025.
The trying global situation is an exemplary period for developing some of these skills such as leadership, resilience, courage, emotional intelligence, service orientation, among others.
Evolving technical skills
Going forward, some industries may shape differently from others and the technical skills needed for careers will evolve rapidly. In the face of this reality, students need to start thinking about how their interests align with career paths that will be most valuable and fields that will see the most growth. For students interested in science and technology, medicine and engineering are no longer the only viable choices. Health services beyond traditional medicine, health research, AI, data analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity, etc are going to need massive human resources.
Once the dust settles, the fields of human and social development are also going to witness growth, with a growing need for social workers, and volunteerism and social work becoming important on student resumes. More than ever before, the jobs of tomorrow showcase the continuing importance of human interaction in the new economy through roles in marketing, sales, content production, and other positions that require communication skills. It is now all the more imperative for students to focus on digital learning, soft skills, and vocational education, to emerge as job-ready in the post-pandemic world.
The paradox of choice
Today, there are several routes to a satisfying career. A well-paying job is an ineffective metric for success. Meaning and purpose in your job are important factors for job satisfaction. With a renewed perspective on what a 'dream job' constitutes, the possibilities of what makes a successful career are boundless.
However, hundreds of options inevitably result in the 'paradox of choice'. Setting students up for success and supporting them with professional guidance as they make critical choices about what to study, where to study, and how to make it happen in a post-pandemic world is a responsibility that lies with their schools.
Career counselling in schools can help students explore a range of careers by assessing their personality, interests, strengths and weaknesses. It helps them achieve the desired confidence to make decisions with the support of an experienced mentor. It is now more critical than ever for schools to invest their human resources to provide career guidance and counselling to their students.
A career is a lifelong journey of self-exploration and self-expression. The right counselling at the right time is a critical tool to help students get set for this journey. It gives them guidance and direction.