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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 19. 3rd August 1972


A recent review of the employment situation in Britain begins with the comment that in their struggle for equal opportunities in employment, women may be in danger of simply achieving an equality of economic enslavement, The estimate in Britain is that about one third of the working population - some 8,000,000 people- are in jobs the are unsuited for or dislike. When job opportunities for women cease to be restricted there will still seem to be one chance in three that they will achieve opportunities which they will find unpleasant.

New Zealand's situation is of course different we don't do it that way here - but if it were, we would have at least one quarter million people working in jobs which they are unsuited for, or dislike. In fact, that number could well be higher because one of the components in labour turnover is dislike of the job, and across the entire working population in New Zealand, the average per annum turnover is about 60%. In some industries it is far higher, (200% in one set of figures I saw some time ago). With specific employers or in certain geographical areas, I have heard almost incredible figures mentioned - 700% in one case. In concrete terms, this means that the lino in the Personnel office has to replaced every six months or so.

Of course, University graduates in their first jobs make a rather more stable group, but it has been known for graduate turnover to reach 90% in some areas. Obviously, a lot more effort needs to be put into gaining a job, not just a better paid job, but a job which is more suitable.

Equally obvious is that a lot of schools abdicate or more frequently, never acknowledge their responsibilities for discovering a pupil's true capacities and ambitions. The 40% or so of last years's school leavers, who proceeded on into work without any formal qualification, and now form part of the large number who drift unsatisfied from one job to another, could have been helped by some vocational guidance, but for them, as for most school leavers, the choice of job, or the choice of units to study depends on whether the English teacher was nicer than the Maths teacher, or whether the school itself streamed above average I.Q.'s into the Maths/Physics/Chem. course as a matter of policy.

Most school leavers seem to be at the mercy of family tradition, parental ego, popular prejudice about "useful courses," or even self-perpetuating specialists, like dedicated English teaching lovers of Marvell.

Besides, for many the decision to seek professional vocational guidance seems to be influenced by their views of Vocational Guidance Officers. A recent News view programme brought this out by asking two school leavers. One said, "I know what I want to do, so Vocational Guidance isn't much use to me, but, I suppose it would be all right if you arn't sure what to do." The other said I dont know what I want to do, so Vocational Guidance can't be much use to me, But I suppose it would be all right if you know what you want."

Some manage to get some advice from somebody, although the two newsview boys make it sound as if nobody ever gets there. Then, a new lot of difficulties start. Some attempt is made at "talent matching" - a fairly crude attempt at matching abilities with characteristics required in a job e.g. Science + English = Scientific Editor. On occasions, the seeker of advice is subjected to the dictates of fashion - one year it is Industrial Relations the next year Catering, cometimes the Careers Adviser has a personal hang-up, like one I know who thinks that career success tor girls depends on whether they have done Maths.

It can easily be assumed that Maths is the key to becoming say, a bank manager, but is it more important (or even as important) as business acumen, managerial ability and sociability.?

Then there is a terribly middle-class bias to the whole thing. A graduate in History who wants to be a University lecturer is well considered, but a History graduate who is earning money on the wharf for an overseas trip is "wasting the taxpayers money."

Very often, the careers literature available makes a proper choice even more difficult Besides choosing from one of the several hundred courses available at the New Zealand universities and Polytechnics, the school leaver is faced with careers literature which deliberately sets out to blow up the fantasy element in a job. On the one hand they'll have colour photos of Executives looking intelligently at Production lines manned by smiling workers and on the other hand there'll be the hidden reality: eight hours a day with an adding machine - there are people for whom figures are meaningful and alive, but they'll never see the adding machine of their dreams. At least, not in the careers literature.

Basically, careers advice is a patchy business. It suffers from the fact that anybody is willing to do it, and unless you go to some experience professional you will get the "What's good enough for me is good enough for him" sort of advice.

And people taking the advice seem ready enough to accept its validity. There may well be hundreds of students at Victoria who enrolled in a subject only because a flatmate did it lasy year and liked it You'd think that some of the ones who are doing this would at least have read the syllabus first but they didn't even bother to do that

Careers education, course advice and personal counselling are the points at which the force-feeding of facts ends and the development of the whole personality begins. No one has buil-in compartments with University courses in one, careers in another, and personal problems in a third. If you are doingsone university course, and your abilities and interests lie in another direction, you can still pass the course, but by the time you've been working for a year in the job to which your course leads (with greater or lesser relevance) you will have an overflow of personal problems.

Careers choice is a continuing process. No one in his or her right mind would want to make an irrevocable choice at the age of 21. Over a period of time, value judgements become clearer; in some jobs you are successful, in others failure is imminent, and a continuing repraisal is necessary. The system can beat you, if you let it, and the result will be that you'll say to other people, "It doesn't matter what I do, so long as I get paid." (I once had had that said to me by a 50 year old Accounts clerk, and it really shook me. Imagine yourself saying it Think of the state of mind you'd be in.)

But, part of the decision process is not to close doors on possibilities. Too many students make too many narrow choices. If you have a degree in Science, you can be a journalist. Too many students are too rigid. If you have a degree in Psychology and want a job in Social Welfare, and you miss out, don't sit around, get a job in Market Research and keep trying for Social Welfare. As a matter of fact if you're so definite on Social Welfare, you must have put a lot of effort into finding out about it. How many job descriptions of social workers do you have in your collection?

All this exploring and deciding can be postponed you could do an honours course. I wonder how many honours courses are like an overseas trip, just a way to pass time. If postgraduate study is not a means to an end, you're liekly to make things harder for yourself. If you're doing (say) English Hons., you can (as I see it) have only two valid reasons, 1. its the most fantastic course you can think of doing and if you hadn't taken it you'd always regret it, or 2. at the interview they told you that you didn't have a show unless you had English Hons.

There are some tests available in the careers guidance field, tests such as the Phillips (?) I've never managed to get hold of one, to be perfectly honest - and the Kuder Vocational Record which I've used sometimes, is wide open for criticism. In fact no single test, or even combination of tests, can give you perfect reliable, durable answers about what job you should take up. This depends on your personal philosophy, what you have studied, the extent to which you fancy that your degree restricts you, and other similar elements. Whether you get the job depends on whether you leave it until next January or start looking now, how many vacancies there are, how well you look at an interview, and just plain luck.

The most important questions to ask yourself about your career are built into the two tests below. It's impossible to cover every factor involved but the tests may at best make some sort of start in channelling your thinking. You'll need to know 1. what you're looking for in any job, and 2. what type of person you are.

No quiz or test ever covers it all. When in doubt ask. Take it easy.