[Outlook]Career considerations

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[Outlook]Career considerations

Starting on Sept. 8, universities will begin taking special applications for the 2009 academic year. Schools will recruit more than 54 percent of their new students through this admission process. Thus, the university entrance procedure is about to begin in earnest.

This year, as in years past, when deciding where to submit their applications many students will only consider prestigious universities, or look for the schools that will let them in with the scores that they have.

They don’t think seriously about their talents or their dreams. Most students have no idea about what they want to do in the future and haven’t decided what kind of job they would like after graduation. The trouble is, most youths who are currently unemployed were just like that when they entered college.

Even when they do find employment, there are many problems. Compared with liberal arts graduates, science and engineering graduates more often find jobs that match their majors. However, according to the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training, when it comes to the first job after graduation, only 33 percent of science and engineering students find positions in the fields in which they had studied. The rest end up in jobs that are not related to their studies.

Many Koreans work very hard throughout their academic years, from elementary school right through college, but they don’t think seriously about what they want to study. This is a tremendous loss for individuals and for the country.

Picking a major should be done in three steps. First, you need to find out your qualities and abilities. You set your goals in life, ask yourself why you want to study at university and find out where your strong points lie. Once you are aware of your strengths, you can then find a list of related majors to study at university.

The second step is to research jobs you think you may be interested in. You look at the job market and try to gauge some of the changes taking place in society. It is also important to get some experience and to listen to other people who work in the field to find out whether the career really suits you. It is key to find out whether there is a future in a particular field by examining trends. New jobs are being created in a variety of fields, such as communication technology, high-tech science, financial services and cultural content. These major new industries still have a lot of potential for growth.

By contrast, conventionally prestigious careers are unlikely to continue to enjoy the earning power and authority that they used to. Still, basic studies such as the liberal arts constitute the foundation of academia, and thus it is still meaningful to study these fields.

The third step is to examine the subjects offered by universities more closely. You analyze the classes that match your interests and aptitudes and that are related to jobs that you would like to have. You also should find out what interests and aptitudes you need in order to be successful at a certain major. You need to check out the job outlook after graduation and where people who have graduated with that major have found positions. In this step, you need to consult with university students who are studying the major, graduates or professors.

However, it can be hard to prepare so carefully before choosing a major. Elementary, middle and high schools don’t offer good career consulting. As the act of entering a university has itself become a goal, education on how to shape your life according to your interests and talents isn’t regarded as important. Few high schools have staff who are qualified to offer career counseling. Education on how to choose a major and a career is poor in terms of both quantity and quality. Therefore, only 9 percent of high school students say they are satisfied with the level of career education that they receive.

In order to improve the situation, the career counseling infrastructure must be reformed. Career counseling experts must be trained and schools should be required to employ them. Information about choosing a career must be integrated into the curriculum.

Policy makers and people who work in education must be aware that career education not only improves individuals’ living standards but also is a very important factor in securing national competitiveness.


*The writer is director of the Center for Career Development, Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Han Sang-geun
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