Tuesday 21 November 2017

There is no 'correct' way to find the right career for you

Picture posed
Picture posed
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

While you would be right to question any fact presented by US President Donald Trump, an "alternative fact" presented to students in Ireland is that there is a correct route through college and to a career.

This is not the case.

Justification for the Leaving Certificate is based on the principle that the CAO system will offer you a place in a college if you get enough points.

This place comes from a provisional list of preferred college courses you send the CAO months before your exams. If you are a wise and very determined 17- or 18-year-old who knows what the next 50 years of your career will have in store, you will not have had to amend this list.

Others will not be so sure and will change the list multiple times. That is fine.

Research by the professional networking website LinkedIn shows millennials are twice as likely as their parents to change jobs in their first decade out of college. Many of these changes are triggered by the uncertain times we live in.

Most university and institute of technology courses will take up four years of your life. This makes committing a daunting prospect because external factors, like an industry collapsing - as Celtic Tiger builders will insist - are often not predicted and will impact your post-college job prospects.

So what is the solution?

Post Leaving Cert courses (PLCs) help students prepare for the leap into higher education or the workforce.

Most run from September to May and take less than nine months to complete. They give you a flavour of a chosen career path without forcing you to commit to a four-year cycle. If you discover you don't like it, not only have you prevented yourself from wasting four years doing something you dislike, you have enhanced your CV while trying something new.

At 17 years old, I was too young, immature and ill-equipped to cope with the demands of third level.

First year drop-out rates currently stand at one in six, as concern grows that students are being shoehorned into college courses they are not suited to.

I lasted three days into second year but then dropped out and opted to turn my part-time job in retail into a full-time one.

Here, I received a true education by learning how to interact with people in a working environment and how to look after myself in the real world.

However, I became disillusioned and felt my Leaving Cert was being wasted by not furthering my education. My As and Bs counted for nothing when I was stacking shelves.

As I previously proved I was not equipped for college, I sought an alternative and enrolled in a PLC.

This half-way house bridged the threshold between the Leaving Cert's taught approach and university's self-learning method. It gave me the skills to look ahead and a chance to try something new without being overwhelmed by a four-year commitment.

This encouraged me to eventually go back to university after discovering a topic I wanted to pursue as a career - journalism and new media. My experience stood to me and without the PLC I would not have been able to bridge the gap between my Leaving Cert and chasing a degree.

In school we are presented with the "alternative fact" that the best route to a successful career comes by taking the direct path to third level, but sometimes the scenic route can prove more rewarding.

Sunday Independent

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