Career Guide


“What should i study?”

How to set your children on the right career path

If the headline caught your attention, you are either a parent who recently heard this exasperated utterance from your child, or you are the child yourself.

Who am I kidding though, since young people hardly read printed newspapers these days.

For parents or guardians who are reading this, share it with your children, nieces, nephews or your friends’ children.

Let’s put ourselves in their shoes, shall we? You are probably going into your final year of secondary school, or have just completed SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) or iGCSE, or your pre-University studies.

You are now faced with one of the greatest modern day dilemmas next to “what should I eat?”

What career do I want for myself when I graduate?

The general Malaysian stereotype of career ‘go-tos’ such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants may still hold true today, but with Industry 4.0 making waves around the world, what other options are out there?

The scary truth – there are fewer options but, at the same time, a whole lot more.

Because of the internet and the rapid development of technology, the career landscape has changed considerably.

Automation has replaced many jobs, and it is not just the simple, manual labour work that is becoming obsolete to humans.

Even the beloved and rewarding path of accountancy is under threat.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. How many of you parents have been exasperated when hearing you child say: “I want to build a start-up”?

The traditional career pathways have branched out into so many other routes, thanks to the digital age.

In 10 years’ time, your children may have jobs that are not yet created today.

On top of that, we are talking about a generation that often pursues great meaning and purpose behind the things they do and want more from their careers.

With the vast amount of information (and pressure), how do you help them start exploring? Here are some basic tips to begin that voyage:

1. Career Interest

What do they like to do? When you observe them play as they grow up, what seems to draw their attention?

Do they like to work more with their hands, or use more cognitive skills? Are they more interested in science, or are they more into the creative arts?

If you are uncertain of their career interests, there are free tests out there to help narrow it down.

I would personally recommend TalentCorp’s Nurturing Expert Talent (NExT) initiative.

The career interest test on the platform is based on the Holland Codes, one of the more well-known career interest theories globally.

Dr John Holland’s theory is that we are multi-faceted people with certain combinations of interests, and the test will help to classify our interests into a three-letter code (out of six).

As parents/guardians, you can encourage them to use the code to identify their matching career pathways.


2. Personality Styles

Why is this Millennial talking about personality? If got work, do only lah! That was what my mum used to say. Well, like it or not, personality does have a role to play in long-term career engagement.

Your personality drives your motivation, needs and fear.

Essentially, a good mix of job role, environment, and culture is needed for job satisfaction; and different personality styles require different combinations.

Personality styles should be used in tandem with career interest. Let us use the medical field as an example.

When I say medicine, you automatically think of ‘doctor’.

From SPM onwards, that’s at least five years of education, multiple years of housemanship, and more if they want to be a specialist.

Do they have the conscientiousness to even go through all that?

Maybe they prefer to work with their hands building things instead of seeing people.

Or maybe they are highly cognitive and prefer to spend time doing research – then lecturing skills and research expertise are frequently sought after.

My point is, a career pathway is like a highway, there are many small inroads that can lead them to find a place they can call their own.

By being aware of both their personality styles and interests, those small roads are a little less scary to navigate.


3. Listen To Them

Huh? I have to do what?

Yes, you read that right. Do you recall the last time you had a 30-minute (or more) discussion on what your child’s future career may look like?

Do you remember the content of that discussion?

In my work with Leaderonomics, I deal a lot with university students, be it in long camps or one-day training programmes.

In my conversations with them, too many admit that they do not really speak to their parents about their potential career paths. Why is that?

They say that, more often than not, parents (while we know you have good intentions) have an idea of their child’s future already, and will ‘nudge’ them towards their ‘destiny’.

I used the term nudge a little loosely, I admit.

Parents are perceived by their children to be inflexible, although I strongly believe many of you are not – just fairly misunderstood, as parents usually are by their children.

Well, it is not too late to sit down with them and have a meaningful discussion about their career.

Before you do that, let me encourage you to go into the conversation with a truly open mind, and go in prepared to listen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” the late Stephen Covey advocated.

In addition, here’s a tip for your children to read in preparation for that conversation:

“Do your research well. Go in prepared too, because I told your mum and dad to do the same. Speak to them with both your mind and a little of your emotions. Let them hear you out, but also let them speak their mind because they have concerns, too.”

May your children find their place to make this world a better one each day as they go through their lives.

All the best!


- Alvin is a senior analyst in the Leaderonomics Campus team. Previously a lecturer, he finds joy and satisfaction in developing the youth of today. He possesses a Master’s degree in counseling and is a licensed and registered counselor in Malaysia. To share your thoughts with us, write in at editor@leaderonomics.com

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