Paridhi Khaitan, Managing Director, ProTeen

Paridhi heads the ProTeen business with a focus on its global product vision, go-to-marketing strategy and B2C and B2B2C revenue channels. Paridhi has led the spin-out of the ProTeen research and product development initiative inside the UNIDEL group to build a company that is changing the way young adults make academic and career choices. Paridhi has a decade of experience spanning software product development, marketing and strategy across diverse sectors like Information Technology, Manufacturing, Automotive and Retail. Before joining ProTeen, Paridhi worked with global organizations like Infosys and Cummins. Paridhi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering from Institute of Technology & Management (ITM) and an MBA in Marketing from Symbiosis Centre for Management & HR Development.

 

Life-changing events — like the current pandemic — have overpowered and disrupted lives, causing us to question everything, including our choice of career.

Multiple news outlets reported the mass exodus of employees across the globe in the wake of the pandemic. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, which surveyed 30,000 people from 31 countries, showed that 40% of respondents were considering quitting their jobs in 2021. Employee priorities changed at an unprecedented rate. Closer to home, in India, a 2020 report showed over 42% of students are reconsidering their career choices. Now more than ever, there is an indispensable need for a strong career guidance landscape.

While the average Indian spends about 53 hours at work each week, this number becomes more significant when the person in question is unhappy with their choice of career. This would explain the changing perception towards career guidance, a trend that was evident even in pre-pandemic India. A 2019 report revealed 93% of students aged 14-21 were aware of only seven career options. Compounding this ignorance, the career counselling landscape remains woefully underserved when compared to our population — India needs 1.4 million career counsellors to achieve the standard student-to-counsellor ratio of 250:1 as prescribed by the International School Counsellors Associations (ISCA). According to a 2021 Indian Education Diary survey, 44% of Indian youths consider career guidance to be a crucial step in choosing a field of study and subsequently, a career. COVID-19 has only accelerated the need for this service.

Evolution of the career counselling industry

Initially, career decisions were simple. Young students were presented with a limited range of options — teacher, engineer, doctor — and they chose a career based on what they or their immediate set of influencers thought their future should resemble. This traditional method has since been disrupted with the emergence of unconventional thinking and new lifestyles. Students have a dizzying array of options for both education and careers.

The pandemic has brought the spotlight and a rapid transformation to this landscape, and experts note that further dramatic shifts are coming.

Some changes are already in process:

  • The NEP 2020 (and subsequent education policies) signal a new normal for the higher education sector: there will be no rigid separation between the streams of arts, commerce, and sciences, and vocational education will start from grade 6 and will include internships
  • Students are reconsidering overseas learning programs owing to current travel restrictions
  • Due to the above challenge, students are turning to Indian universities, which are witnessing an upsurge in applications
  • Traditional learning methods and processes have quickly ushered in a virtual setting; online assessments, entrance exams, and even interviews are now commonplace
  • Career guidance platforms and services have gone remote to meet the new needs and expectations of students

Digital counselling in a pandemic world

Given how the employment landscape is changing, there is a significant risk of skilled workers being trapped in jobs that are misaligned with their interests and passions. For younger students at the brink of making career decisions, understanding the new job market is paramount. Pandemic graduates are struggling with career guidance as distance learning has eliminated any type of unstructured counselling. This transition of educational systems towards digitisation has intensified the need for remote career guidance.

Additionally, the post-pandemic counsellor must learn new skills and competencies to meet the needs of an unpredictable future. They need to guide students down non-traditional paths, help them navigate the online format, and at times, even help them overcome a digital divide. Digital counselling will need to be easily accessible, highly innovative, and offer insights into conventional as well as non-conventional career paths. For instance, if a young statistics graduate from a tier 3 town in India wishes to discover her dream career in a major metro city, she will need appropriate counselling about available opportunities. The catch – she would be able to work remotely from her hometown. Such a dramatic shift in employment has never been seen before.

How digital counselling can innovate career guidance

Tech-driven insights: Digital career counselling platforms capture students’ strengths, personalities, skill sets, and produce a compelling future roadmap on the strength of various innovative technologies. These comprehensive insights provide a deeper understanding of each student’s career path, helping them make the right decision for their future.

Gamification: Another innovation sweeping the career guidance landscape is the use of gamification in career counselling. This method combines game elements with real-world processes to foster a deeper understanding of the various career options for individual students. A study on the effectiveness of such games and simulations showed a 9% increase in retention rates and a 14% increase in skill-based assessment scores. Gamification takes traditional career counselling methods like aptitude tests, quizzes, and career demos and immerses them in rich visuals and an engaging virtual experience. Productive collaboration and career exploration are thus possible before students embark on their professional journey.

Collaboration with peers: Pinpointing an appropriate career used to be a solitary pursuit for students, but not any longer. Digital career counselling platforms allow for greater collaboration between peers in various activities and even the aforementioned games. Such collaboration also encourages friendly competition, lending a unique flair to the career selection process and creating an engaging user experience.

Easy integration with academic institutions: Today’s digitised career guidance platforms have evolved to easily integrate with academic institutions to create a holistic alliance for better student success. They have the ability to work with schools, universities, and even other independent career counsellors.

Building an ecosystem of career counsellors

At present, only one out of 10 students receive career advice in India. Additionally, 93% of Indian schools do not have career counsellors.

To make appropriate career advice by trained counsellors available to millions of students across India, we will have to organise and systemise our highly fragmented career guidance landscape. We need to build a connected ecosystem of career counsellors in a large-scale collaborative platform. This will establish a local presence in each city and town and build a pool of certified and trained counsellors who then have access to technology, resources, guidance, and their own peer network. This can be the start of a systemic change in our nation’s career guidance landscape.

Conclusion

The field of career counselling has benefitted from over 90 years of research, innovation, and experimentation. Career guidance studies reveal that such interventions produce measurable benefits in a student’s life. Individual career counselling, digital counselling, career demos, career education, roleplays, and quizzes are all effective interventions that are useful for helping students explore their options and make informed career decisions.

As the employment market transforms and evolves, it becomes more important than ever that students have an in-depth understanding of all the opportunities available with anytime-anywhere access to expert advice from counsellors and technology powered career guidance platforms.

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