Career Guidance Tools: The (Real) Secret to Work-Life Balance

There’s a reason why there are so many reluctant employees – they are not in jobs that suit them best!

The use of career guidance tools and systems is a relatively mature concept, but one that is recognized as a key element in gaining work-life balance. Many countries across the globe have adopted some form of it as part of its educational system, enabling students, among other things, to suitably linking their academic learning to a career, preparing them to eventually get into a profession that suits them best.

In schools and universities, these tools and systems assist students in exploring their strengths, skills, interests, and passions to make effective academic decisions that have both personal meaning, and the potential to maximize their future career opportunities.

While it may seem that only students stand to gain the most out of these career guidance tools, the good news is that they can also be of great use at all stages of an individual’s professional career.

One element of a career guidance tool, for example, is the use of psychometric assessments, which are gaining popularity in the hiring process. The importance of the job interview, while still crucial, is decreasing, as tests such as psychometric assessments are increasingly used by companies to find out more about a person’s personality, skills, and abilities.

Getting to the bottom of this allows employers to see through CVs so that they can get to know the person behind the qualification and how they’ll really fit into the organization. The result of course, is a match made in heaven – a happy employee who does what he loves for a living, and a satisfied employer who gets the results he needs.

Speaking on the use and benefits of career guidance tools, Dr. Tajalsir Kardaman, Career Programs and Services Manager at Qatar Career Development Center (QCDC), said that the match between a person’s interests, values, and personality against the demands of a job (i.e. the tasks, the technical aspects, and the environment of the job), need to be consistent in order for a good quality of work life.

“At the end of the day, it is about attaining work-life balance. When people are satisfied with their jobs, performance improves, and both the organization and the employee benefit. If your quality of work life is to be improved, you need to be in the right career,” he says.

In Qatar, psychometric assessments are now offered in public secondary schools as part of QCDC’s Career Advising System (CAS), which is a comprehensive career assessing and planning solution that assists students in choosing education and career paths that best match their skills and interests.

The integration of CAS into the national education framework was a result of a Memorandum of Understanding between QCDC and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. The move is a milestone achievement for QCDC in its mission of promoting national capacity-building, and supporting Qatari youth to choose the career path that best fits their potential and future labor market needs. This initiative is the first of its kind in the Middle East.

Ahmad Nasir Ibrahim Al-Balam, Academic Counseling Expert from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, said that the implementation of CAS in public schools is a step in the right direction. “There is no doubt that such an assessment is important to measure a student’s interest and help them understand their needs, as well as know the careers that best suit them and their abilities. This certainly reduces or eliminates confusion that many students experience when they have to choose a specialization or a particular academic or professional track,” he says.

Speaking on the role of academic and career guidance at the secondary school level, Al-Balam said that it is needed to prepare students to get them ready for university and the labor market. “Once a student is in secondary school, he or she undergoes an awareness program about the post-secondary education opportunities that are available, including the various available disciplines and professions, university requirements, and the relevant skills needed to make a decision about the career or specialization that best suits his or her skills and abilities,” he says.

CAS has been implemented in all secondary schools under the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, for both boys and girls. A total of 9,625 10th grade students in 59 schools already have access to this system. Initial results are expected to be seen next year when students choose their academic path within the school, based on the options given to them by CAS. Long-term results will bear fruit once these students graduate from high school and delve into their chose academic fields, thereafter embracing a career of their choice.

CAS was developed in cooperation with Kuder Inc, a world leader in career planning services. However, what makes it unique is that the system provides a tailor-made solution that factors in Qatar’s social and economic conditions while meeting the requirement of its educational environment. As a result, CAS features diverse and innovative components as well as psychometric and personality assessment tools to help students identify the most appropriate academic and career paths in line with the future needs of Qatar.

The Modules in QCDC’s Career Advising System
There are six main areas that are related to how best to develop a career plan, implement it and evaluate it.

Step 1
The registration process that gets you in the CAS system

Step 2
The self-assessment stage that offers psychometric tests related to your interests and values

Step 3
The occupational exploration section provides you with options on what careers might fit you best, based on the results of your psychometric assessment. Details of three to four career options are provided, along with detailed description of these careers and the qualifications required for these occupations

Step 4
The educational exploration section provides you with details of the kinds of qualifications needed to pursue the career that suits you best. This section also supplies information on the institutions that provide the required educational program. Program details are also provided, with links directing you to the website, along with course duration and fees. Information on scholarships also falls under this section.

Step 5
This section is about preparing you for employment. So while you develop your plan of studies, you can simultaneously prepare yourself for employment by learning how to write a CV, acing at job interviews, where to look for job opportunities, etc.

Step 6
Finally, you develop an online portfolio for yourself, which you can progressively edit as you move along the process. All your information and searches are recorded and stored here for you to use as and when needed.

Life Skills Made Mandatory
The recent requirement of Life Skills as a mandatory subject in schools across Qatar has been viewed as a much-needed measure by many senior school personnel, including Hassan Mohammed Al Baker, principal of Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Thani Secondary School for Boys. He speaks about his views here:

What’s your opinion about the introduction of life skills as a mandatory subject in schools?
With this subject in schools, students will learn about patterns of thinking and mental skills, along with personal and academic skills. To obtain these skills, students need to be involved in activities both inside and outside the school, along with learning from the life skills curriculum developed for them.

Have there been any improvements since the subject was introduced in schools?
It’s too early to say. We need several years before seeing the results. But I have already seen improvements, and expect many more improvements at the level of public schools.

What are some challenges you think schools will face?
First, we need well-qualified people to teach this subject. We need qualified people who know how to deal with this approach and apply it professionally because the teacher of this subject must be enthusiastic and young. I also feel that the subject of life skills should be applied at all stages – from primary to secondary. It should not be limited to just a curriculum being taught, but also to practical training that involves active interaction between the teacher and the student.

What else will add value to this subject in school?
The biggest role is the one played by the teacher. He or she has to be seen adopting these values as an example to the students. If a teacher prevents a student from cheating, then the teacher is expected to take extra care and not show any aspects that might be interpreted as cheating. Laws and rules should remain applicable to everyone, so as we come to consolidate values, students will respect these values and try to apply them because they have interacted with the school administration. School management should always be careful and set a good example in applying these values.