Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The dynamic decision-making process of choosing a career

The choice of higher education and subsequent building of a career pathway on completion of school education has a profound impact on how the future shapes up for a student. With thousands of career options available, the task of picking one among many skill sets may seem insurmountable.
This is mainly due to a wider array of choices than ever before, the competitive nature of higher education admission processes, multiple pathways to careers, and the dynamically changing world of work. The Institute Student Quest Survey has tried to develop an understanding of this dynamic decision-making process that students undertake, in choosing a career, country, college, and course.
Identifying interests
As students in class XII begin to think ‘What after school?’, ‘What do I want to become or do?’, they should first anchor or identify themselves with a career and then plan backwards for a suitable course, college and finally country (study destination).
In exploration of careers and shortlisting, the survey finds that the driving forces in the decision-making process for Indian students are passion, parents’ recommendations and expected salary at the end of the programme.
The findings indicate that students tend to prioritise programme over university. In choosing a particular programme, three factors seem to be most significant- alignment with their interests, their perceived strength in a particular relevant area of study/ academics, and future job prospects in the career domain. Students spend a majority of their time envisioning a good career with the aim of a good quality life.
Universities serve as the bridge between school education and realisation of career aspirations, playing an enormous role in carving out the future. As per the survey results, the top three factors in choosing a university include the institution’s placement record, rankings, and the programme design. What stands out is that decision-making at each level by students is mostly outcome driven as they all wish to see themselves as successful individuals and want to pick options that would nudge them in that direction.
Program design is an interesting addition as students do want to pursue programs that are in keeping with today’s times and are flexible in curriculum, allowing for various combinations to match their interests and strengths. Other important factors in selection of a university are fees, location, and the quality of faculty.
The ease of settling
Getting the location right can be just as important as the other factors. Choosing the right setting can make all the difference to the student experience — ease of settling in, making connections and memories, and the career outcomes. All of this is a function of the surrounding environment, personal and professional opportunities, local culture, language and much more.
The most important factor in location choice is safety, closely followed by job opportunities in the area where the higher education institution is located.
Quite interestingly, the third most important factor is the concentration of high-ranked universities in that location – students seem to prefer locations where multiple high-ranked institutes are situated, as that potentially impacts the culture of the city too.
The survey results indicate that the reasons for choosing to study at an international destination beyond the home country are: higher quality of education, the perception of studying abroad as providing a path to eventually settling outside their home country, and prestige attached to an international qualification. Further, in choosing a particular country, students focus on three factors- high-quality teaching, affordability, and the opportunity to stay back in that country. Presence of multiple high-ranked universities is a factor that is common to both students wishing to study in and outside of the home country.
The right stage
Parents serve as a major influence in their children’s career development and career decision- making. Interestingly, the study reveals that reliance on parents in the decision-making process reduces as students move from classes IX, X, to XI and XII.
What stands out clearly is the increased need felt by students for career counseling at the right stage. As students gear up for future challenges, parents, teachers and counselors need to be cognizant of their role as facilitators and enable them to make independent yet well-informed career choices.
Vijay GarG, retired principal malout, punjab.

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