Saturday, August 10, 2013

Career Counselling.

My Chinese homestay guest left last week. He was the translator for the four staff members and eleven students from Wujiang Senior Middle School who joined our school program for a week. The program was a huge success, thanks to my school community. I worked closely with Robyn to plan and run the whole thing, and she truly deserves much of the credit. Well done.

But now they've gone, and I've been busy this week catching up on my careers counselling and course advice for students. This is one of my roles within the school, and I  have university qualifications and professional memberships in Careers Development. It's an interesting process, listening to students talk of their plans, goals and dreams. And it's a delicate balance, encouraging these dreams while pointing out the realities.

Of course there are always the few students who have completely unrealistic plans, the really short guy who wants to play NBA, or the  young girl who is failing every subject and refuses to go to university, but wants to be a doctor.

And then there are the 'creative' types. The musicians, the writers, the artists, the actors and the dancers. There is no qualification for these careers. No prospective customer is going to consider buying a painting from you, but ask to see your degree first. When someone buys your first novel from a bookstore, they're not going to do so on the proviso that you're qualified to write.

My advice to students in these instances is to follow their dream, but have some back up in place. (And believe me, this goes a long way to pacifying parents and encourages them to support their child.)  You want to be a writer?  Great! These university courses will develop your skills and knowledge, and in the meantime your work will improve. Have you considered a teaching qualification alongside that? How about a few editing courses to go with the writing, so you can support yourself until your first novel becomes an international bestseller.  And so on.

I always ask them whether they are currently 'doing' their art, and to what extent. So, you want to be an actor? Are you taking any classes? What productions have you been in? How many auditions have you undergone?

Sometimes I find these kids are in love with the idea of being an 'artist' rather than actually doing the art. And I advise them that they are going to up against all kinds of people who really love doing this stuff, have been studying it, and have been perfecting their craft.

No, I never tell them to give up. I do ask them to consider how much they really want to do it. Do your art, but do it well. And try to do it better than anyone else.

Or become a teacher. (insert irony mark here)

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