Œ“There is little value in encouraging students to prepare for the jobs of the future and follow their heart’s desire, if they are held hostage by the fixed Mindset and expectations of a handed-down view of the world.”  

Stephen Carrick-Davies


In their paper Planned Happenstance: Constructing Unexpected Career Opportunities[1], Kathleen E. Mitchell Al S. Levin John D. argue that clients maintain career myths that hold them back and need to be reframed and that counsellors need to teach clients to engage in exploratory activities to increase the probability that they will discover unexpected career opportunities. In summary, unplanned events can become opportunities for learning.  But how does this learner-centred approach work in country like India where there can be a very fixed mindset about work and career choices and where for many, the prevailing mindset is shaped by teachers and parents who espouse that the only ‘good’ jobs are those which are provided in the government or in the corporate or banking sector.[2]

Leaving aside the idea that it is perhaps a traditional western approach to help a child find work which is satisfying and personally rewarding, the reality is that ‘good’ jobs in India may not be ‘good’ for very long. For example:

  • The government cannot continue to expand state jobs for the growing population especially when they are living longer, and pension liabilities grow exponentially.
  • Many of these jobs will disappear as automated task are taken over by machines.
  • Many in the emerging middle-class families are excluded from the old “network” of these jobs, results in many talented youths not having the same opportunities as others. We found examples where youth felt a real sense of ‘failure’ for not getting into the ‘good’ jobs their parents wanted them to have and this is leading to depression.
  • Certificated programmes (degree or otherwise) are no longer a guarantee for a job. Especially if the course fails to help you be employable. A recent survey of companies revealed that just 14% of graduates leaving Indian Universities were job- ready.[3]

In discussions with students it appeared that many were unaware of the range of careers/jobs waiting for them to succeed. Indeed a recent study[4] by Mindler, an online career-counselling platform found that career option awareness among Indian students revealed that a staggering 93% of students aged 14 to 21 were aware of just seven career options, though there are more than 250 different types of job options available in India.

One of the students we worked with gave us permission to use her case study of her attempt over 3 years to get a ‘good’ job in the banking industry.  At 22 she already felt unsuccessful and was anxious that she would bring real shame on her family.  Sensitively we worked with her to ask what she would love to do if only she could be free from this negative fixed mindset and embrace a PLAN B.  When she shared that she would love to be a photographer we asked how could she approach this desire with her parents?  “I could never bring this up with my parents, they would be very angry” was her reply. The group came up with an idea to produce a less confrontational method in designing an anonymous survey which students could use to ask parents about their general aspiration for the next generation’s future career. This could be a very helpful tool for schools to use in talking to parents.

We also worked with the students on creating a helpful ‘Stuck’ point exercise. This encouraged students to work in pairs to unpack and share the belief or mindset they had developed (or been told) over the years.   The exercise then helped the students to ask what does it mean to hold on to this belief? And what if one no longer held on to this belief? [5]

Helping students to see the danger of having just one fixed idea of their future was revealing and gave students the opportunity to share their stories and example on how they overcome the challenges of parental expectation and mindset. The work of the late Bill Law in defining community interaction theory[6] and learning about our careers in a social context is supremely relevant here. It was very clear from all the 5 workshops that the communities’ students are part of shapes their learning and therefore their career choices enormously.  Any careers engagement in India must have an active commitment to better help parents understand the changing nature of work and the way status and traditional career paths are changing.

We created this film https://youtu.be/p0eXq8Y8K3Y as a way of explaing how this mindset amongst parents was still influencing students.

[1] https://canvas.wisc.edu › files › download

[2] We appreciate that in the North of India Government jobs are arguably more important with fewer large commercial or corporate employers.

[3] See https://www.deccanchronicle.com/141010/nation-current-affairs/article/indian-graduates-not-job-ready

[4] https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/93-indian-students-aware-of-just-seven-career-options-what-are-parents-doing-wrong-1446205-2019-02-04

[5] The idea of identifying ‘Stuck’ points is used in CPT therapy with those who have experienced a traumatic event.  Socratic dialogue to elicit stuck points and challenge assumptions can be helpful to support students in moving on from a negative, un-realistic or untrue mindset. See https://www.7cups.com/traumatic-experience-help/lesson1.html.  Please note we only applied the principle of helping youth to identify a Stuck point and did not use therapeutic interventions as this was not the purpose of the group programme.

[6] http://www.hihohiho.com/

What keeps us stuck in a certain mindset ?

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