Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The over-hyped bachelor

Economists and politicians have myriad diagnoses regarding the job market’s chronic anemia. The forecast appears dismal with no apparent cure. This is the great American quackery.

Sure, the unemployment statistics hover around 9% reflecting a significant contraction in jobs becoming obsolete. But what about the stable careers planted deep in American soil not being shipped to India? Such jobs are under the national radar because of a covert operation to hide them from our younger workforce. There is a dark side to the cause of unemployment better known as “parental aversion”.

It is a stealthy systemic infection plaguing our job market. Symptoms include college graduates washing dishes at the local diner. Harvard’s recent report, Pathways to Prosperity addresses the 21st century demand for every worker needing a high school diploma but not all jobs require a four year bachelor degree. This is an understatement.

Most parents, educators and guidance counselors have tainted the career selection pool. Typically, the smart, affluent and successful have a navigational GPS destined for careers requiring a bachelor’s degree while job titles needing a vocational certificate are for the dumb, lazy and unmotivated student or worse, the drop-out.

Vocational education has become the “wayward child” alternative that a typical parent would thumb their nose at. This unspoken vow not to let children consider it as optional is a root cause of our perceived debilitated job market. Think about it. Where are the current openings? They’re in occupations parents refuse to allow their children to consider.  Yes, parents may not consider manual labor as a job that pays the bills, but ask your local utility company how desperate they are to find workers. Call up a plumber and ask how business is. You’ll quickly discover the critical lack of skilled employees especially for the future. In addition, the Harvard article also admits startling facts about how much money can be made without a college degree.

Universities have over-marketed the bachelor degree. Parents have bought a bill of goods that saddle their children with debt promising to be the next financial crisis. As a result, the job market languishes while a skeletal crew keeps the lights on as smart, affluent and successfully unemployed college graduates move back home.

We parents must confess that a bachelor degree has become a safety net for our children. The reality is students who get the degree are likely to land a menial job than a dream career because of woeful job preparation. After all, competition is ferocious. The new graduate with a four year degree vies for a job representing no more than 20% of the market. The rest of work opportunities belong to the plumber, electrician, HVAC repairer and the mechanic.

To complicate matters is the overall inept national high school guidance model that exacerbates the crisis. The title “guidance counselor” is a total misnomer. Monitoring student progress and completing necessary forms is not career development. Our children need direction and decision-making skills for a lifetime of hard choices. Guidance counselors who do spend time with students may be inclined to assist the ones likely to receive the bachelor badge. This coupled with parental snubbing has caused an oversupply of college educated job seekers who can’t find work. Meanwhile, the significant chasm between older workers in vocationally certified jobs and younger workers to replace them continues to widen.

So what’s the cure?

Let’s start with a wake up call not to educators or politicians, but to parents. Vocational education must be considered a viable option for our children’s career choice. Stop branding it as the alternative school for the dumb kids. A vocational education provides the foundation for a sustainable wage that can outpace the worker with a four year degree.

Next, America must demand for high schools to equip guidance counselors with the critical career development competencies necessary to facilitate a life long pursuit of making sound occupational choices. To not equip our children with fundamental career counsel is a travesty.

Finally, if your children sense the gravitational pull to work with their hands and get dirty, what’s the risk of letting them sweat? We need a serious injection of reality to stimulate our energy for adapting to the needs of the workforce.

After all, ask the Wall Street broker when his electricity goes out who he calls or the politician who she will dial when discovering the air conditioner doesn’t work. It may just be your child.

We parents must embrace the career path our children choose to marry. Let’s no longer allow universities to be the match-maker and end the quackery of our misguided career perception.

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