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Classified Cubicle: Choosing Your Direction – The Importance of Career Paths

(Originally published on Sunday, May 9, 2010)

Career advice from those who know careers best

By C. F. Bobis

Too often fresh graduates overlook a valuable resource offered for free in their schools: the career counseling office. Rather than being a place where one goes when one is disciplined for various offenses, counseling offices in universities offer services that allow students and in some cases, even alumni, to find out if they’re on the right path when it comes to a career.

Far Eastern University’s Counseling and Career Office Director Christine “Chit” Vicencio sat down recently with the Classifieds to talk about what career counseling is and how it can help a fresh graduate. In essence, career counseling delves into an individual’s strengths, interests, abilities, and aptitudes, balancing these against his or her various liabilities in terms of aptitudes, interests, and abilities. Typical career counselors have a background in psychology, particularly vocational and/or industrial or organizational psychology, and are trained to use and interpret various assessment tests on someone who approaches them for career counseling.

Aside from willingness to listen and the ability to remember the details of a person’s case, what makes a good career counselor? “It is always the passion, to make sure that you are guiding your student on the right career path. You can’t be a career counselor by just listening. You have to have materials (assessment tests and the like) to support and to validate that ‘this is you, this is your personality, this is your interest, if it’s going to work out if you try your passion,” Vicencio says.

What is the importance of career counseling to a jobseeker? “When we talk about career counseling, we talk about career ‘pathing’,” Vicencio explains. And this begins as early as when a student chooses a college course. “At the start, (when students are) freshmen, we have to make sure that the personality of the student and the course s/he are taking match. There is such a thing as a ‘mismatch’. The reason why a lot of students are not successful in their field of work is there is a mismatch.” Such a mismatch can lead to a graduate being unable to stick to a job after graduation.

Well-meaning parents can sometimes contribute to the tragedy by forcing offspring into ‘vogue’ courses such as nursing. The danger of choosing a course that is currently popular is that its popularity will eventually wane; ISD president and founder Levi de Mesa, in an earlier interview with the Classifieds, pointed out how the deployment of nurses abroad has slowed down as a result of economic crises in countries that used to hire nurses in droves. Vicencio cautions parents to stop pushing children into jobs they do not love, as she believes this can set up a child for professional failure.

She’s got support from many experts; various Classifieds columnists and interviewees from top corporations both here and abroad agree that if a person only has a job, that person won’t succeed. A career that’s a person’s life choice often sets people on the road to success and personal and professional contentment. Vicencio explains, “When you say ‘life choice’, it’s your passion. You put your heart, your mind (into it). And when you say it’s your career, career and my life, it’s just one. When you say job, it’s about (what’s) monetary. (When you say) ‘I have a job,’ (you mean) ‘I have to earn money to support my parents, my family, or my lifestyle.’ But when you say ‘I have a career,’ [what you’re really saying is) it’s your life. That’s why every time I introduce myself, I say ‘I am a guidance counselor’ because this is my career, this is me.”

Why should students take advantage of career counseling services in school? “It is important for them to know if they are doing the right thing,” she says, comparing career counseling to consulting a doctor about an ailment in order to be guided towards informed choices.

How then can a student or a fresh graduate get started on a career? Vicencio says good resumes are the key. Then send the resume out. “People don’t know you, and if you want to have a career, even if you are passionate about it, if you’re not going to send out your CV, it’s nothing.”

Then she cautions jobseekers to present themselves well during job interviews, and to quit the games. “(In) HR, we know if people are bluffing, if they are just playing with us, even (if the cues are) non-verbal. We can identify right away if the jobseeker is going to be successful in our company, if s/he is passionate (about) getting the job. (We look at their) line of questioning, if (they are) attentive, the eye contact, (the) body language. Those are the important things to consider.” Finally, doing research on the company is non-negotiable. That way, a jobseeker can “ask the right questions.”

She also lists the mistakes jobseekers often commit: Acting bored during an interview. Showing up for an interview when sleepy. Bad dressing. Bad behavior.

Vicencio has a word of caution for graduates who grab high paying jobs for the monetary rewards, saying that while such jobs are tempting, the time to ‘pay the piper’ always comes. “If it’s not your interest or passion and you are just doing it for the money, you give yourself five years (then figure out what you want to do, to stay or move on).”

Her office also handles teaching students financial management. “It is important to understand investment and handling money because if you are in (for example) the call center (industry) and you don’t have an idea of what investments are, you are going to spend your money.

She shares some tips for fresh graduates on blending in with the existing workforce on their first job, especially if everyone else is older: “You just have to blend in. (If they talk) you have  to listen to what they are saying because those things will help you in the future (as these are their) experiences. Sometimes they talk about marriage, family…they will help you, so it is important that you listen. As long as it’s not violating your rights, your values, then I don’t think there is a problem. You have to adjust and listen to their pieces of advice, see if it’s going to help you, most especially in your career. But if it’s not, then you don’t have to (listen).”

Conversely she also has advice for forty-something jobseekers who are competing against fresh grads. “I always say you have to prepare for the job just like the fresh grad. Prepare a good resume. Don’t be boastful. You have to look at your objective. ‘Why am I applying for this position? Is it for the money to support my family or this is like a second career for me?’ I suggest that you think of the way fresh grads present themselves (and tailor your job search accordingly).”

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis 2010. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

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