11 September 2012

Career Development: We’ve come a long way


When I was a student, Career Development was not a topic I ever heard discussed. My school had a careers advisor and that person would, so it seemed to me, review a student’s subject results and then recommend a likely job or profession.

In 1980’s Hobart, my recollection of the options were something like, depending upon your subjects and marks, one of; Lawyer, Accountant, Scientist, Teacher, Nurse, Tradie, Architect, Engineer, Secretary or Public Servant’. The creative types were told to apply for Fine Arts at Uni and the under-achieving remainder were told to take whatever job was offered to them and stick with it.

That scenario is a very long way from what I observe these days. The Federal Government has just released a National Career Development Strategy Green Paper.

The Paper outlines a proposed way forward for a National Career Development Strategy. Specifically it;
 
·         outlines why career development is important for Australia’s future
·         indicates why Australia needs a National Career Development Strategy
·         suggests some initial priorities for a National Career Development Strategy; and
·         seeks feedback on these priorities.

The whole issue of career development has been front of mind for me recently as a result of conversations with two, quite different, young male teenagers.

One is my eldest son, and the other is a relative stranger.

I’ll explain.

As a way of ‘playing it forward’, in recognition of the many people who have assisted me along my educational and career journey, I give back in a number of ways (you can read the specific details here). One of those ways is through mentoring a student in The Smith Family iTrack program.
Working with my current mentee, a 15 year old Werribee student, has been an educational process, far more for me than for him, I suspect.

He’s already got his career goal (to be a games programmer) clear in his head, he knows what study path he needs to take and how he will fund that journey. Co-incidentally it’s also the job that my eldest son, Guy (13), is most keen on, and he has, completely independent of me, also worked out the path most likely to take him to that goal.

These examples are in complete contrast to my own days as a student and subsequent career path.

My first, and preferable career choice, was to play test cricket for Australia. Sadly my talent didn’t match my desire and at 14 I decided I needed to consider more traditional career options. At 15 years of age, one week’s work experience at ABC TV news in Hobart killed my desire to be a journalist and, the following year, a further week’s work experience in an accountant’s office very quickly helped me realise I was not cut out to be an accountant.

As a 17 year old entering university, I chose an economics degree because my HSC Economics result was very good (the attractively low number of weekly contact hours may have also helped), as distinct from me seeing it as a gateway to a desired career.

By the time I finished my five years on campus, I had improved my golf swing, generated some cash as an actor in commercials and telemovies, made a moderately successful foray into student politics and obtained my B.Ec. with the full range of marks from Failure to High Distinction, but I was no closer to any sort of decision about my future career.

During my final year as a student I reached the interview stage for an ABC Radio Sports cadetship, failed my audition for the local professional theatre company and was knocked back by every single employer who interviewed me during the campus interview blitz (smart recruiters – they could sense I was not cut out for a traditional corporate career. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

My response to this comprehensive failure to ignite a career for myself was to borrow $1500 and head off to London.

Within a week of starting my job search I had the choice of a job with Hays (7500 p.a. pounds starting salary) and one with Contiki (6000 pounds). I took the better money and didn’t look back.
I am not sure whether I would advise anyone to be quite as cavalier as I was with respect to finding a career path for themselves. The information available to students these days is in complete contrast to when I was a teenager.

For example, just consider the plethora of information that’s contained within  the myfuture website.

Unlike the traditional view of government-provided information, this site is relevant, current, well constructed and meets the needs of the three major ‘career path’ stakeholders (students, parents and teachers).

For example:

·         View short videos (2-3 minutes each) on five emerging occupations (Social Media Manager , Community Engagement Officer, Online Business Entrepreneur, Sustainable Design Consultant, Futurist)
·         Budding Mark Zuckerberg’s can find a range of comprehensive resources about entrepreneurship
·         Students can discover which specific subjects are most relevant in helping them accomplish their career goal
·         You can search, by region, for a list of training providers in your subject/area of interest
·         The potential government-funded financial support available to you can also be accessed
·         Discover how to ‘Get that Job’ covering responding to job ads, applying for apprenticeships, returning to work after a long absence and interview skills, amongst other topics.

The CPAs and Chartered Accountants have traditionally been at the forefront of promoting the career options of their members and have recently been joined, on the front foot, by the likes of The Spatial Industries Business Association who, in setting up their own careers website stated ‘..there is often little understanding of spatial information and technologies, their importance nor how they will be adopted and adapted within the many varied industry domains’

As a recruiter I was often asked by family, friends, candidates and clients for advice about job seeking and careers for young people entering the workforce or older people returning to the workforce. The reality was that I knew a lot about my specific area of expertise (recruiting accounting professionals and para-professionals) but very little about employment outside my niche.

The myfuture website is a treasure trove of information for you to refer to yourself, or refer other people to. It also contains a lot of excellent information that you could provide links to, or quote, in candidate and/or client newsletters.

I am not suggesting that recruiters attempt to be pseudo-career advisors, but alternatively as professionals who are involved, every day, with the coal face of the employment market and workforce, we should know where people can find out related information that is not our niche area of knowledge.

More than ever, a person’s responsibility for career development is completely in their own hands. The days of career development being seen as the responsibility or domain expertise of one or more of; parents, careers advisors, teachers/lecturers or employers has long gone.
 
Empowering people, either young or old, with both the skills and mindset to explore their own career options and make their own decisions, will one of the critical components in building the flexibility and productivity of our workforce in the years ahead.
 
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