Career Guidance Can Make a Difference

Only when I was 23 I decided I wanted to become an educator. I dropped-out of school at 17. Since then, I had engaged in a non-accredited training programme and in a fantastic social service opportunity through which I found my dream career. Dreams might fade if they are not accompanied by confidence and direction towards their achievement. It almost happened to me. My confidence went down when I was told that exams to enter higher education were very difficult; I got lost trying to find out what my study options were, and ended up very skeptical that I could have any options at all. At the end, the only reason I sat for admission exams was that I had already paid the fees. I passed the exams, was admitted in the Faculty of Educational Sciences and five years later I graduated as a pedagogue. Since then, my career has allowed me to go beyond my dreams, and I have wondered a million times where would I be if I had not paid those fees. 
I think career guidance could have spared me much of the difficulties I went through. In the same way, I think career guidance can make a difference today for those who are unskilled and discouraged as I was back then. How?
Firstly, by being a source of hope. As the psychotherapist V. Frankl said, “Any effort to empower youth, or adults – in this case to reach their fullest career potential – starts by helping them envisage a goal, a concrete objective in the future they can start working for today.” To do so, career guidance shall develop a solid basis to sustain career dreams by fostering self-knowledge, self-compassion, self-determination and resilience.
Secondly, career guidance can make a difference by enabling its participants to focus thoughts, emotions and actions in what they can do in the present to move towards their preferred future.  “The future depends on what you do today”, Gandhi said. This can be done through career coaching and mentoring aimed not only at setting and accomplishing objectives, but also at being vigilant to make the most of unplanned events that might lead to the expansion of career perspectives and possibilities.
Thirdly, career guidance is about developing competences for solution-building rather than problem-solving. Present career circumstances, it does not matter how bad they might look, are always a starting point and not a dead end. Career guidance can contribute to a better future by exploring current resources and future hopes rather than present problems and past causes.
Fourth, career guidance can make a difference by focusing not only in helping individuals to access the labour market, but also in building their capacity to transform it. Career guidance shall enhance social justice by addressing structural barriers for career development, such as gender-based discrimination or poverty. Career guidance could also raise awareness about how a chosen career path may contribute to foster or hinder environmental sustainability.
The four principles highlighted above are the ones governing the ‘GPS to a better future’, a career development programme aimed at empowering youth and adults to reach their career goals by mapping successful, sustainable and socially just career paths. A GPS system in our car is there to take us to the programmed destination. ‘The GPS to a better future’ is there to enable its participants to reach their chosen career destination, and to do it in a manner that do not only benefit them, but also the communities they live in. Started in 2009, the programme has received the 2011 Ministry of Education of Spain Award to Innovation and Quality in Career Guidance. In 2012, Educaweb, a leading international career guidance organisation, awarded the programme with a second-place Prize to Innovative Academic and Professional Career Guidance. The results obtained in 2012 and 2013 show that 91 percent of its participants either continue studying or progress to new education levels.  Besides, a 95 percent of its participants considered the program useful and gave it an average satisfaction score of 89 percent. 
At present, we are working to tailor the ‘GPS to a better future’ to the needs and strengths of South African FET learners. The upcoming 1st Annual National FET Conference 2013 Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to share ideas on how the programme can make a difference in their lives.

- Carme Martínez-Roca is executive director at the International Foundation for Interdisciplinary Health Promotion. Come and meet Martinez-Roca at the 1st Annual National FET Conference 2013. Her organisation is the International Foundation for Interdisciplinary Health Promotion.

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