Careering off course

Nov 14th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The arrival of the careers adviser always caused consternation in our fundamentalist Christian school. She was sent by the county council, or some other statutory body, and would meet with boys in their final year to discuss what they might do after setting foot outside the school gates for the last time.

She would arrive in a little Citroen, perhaps a 2 CV, perhaps an older equivalent, and would be given a room in which to interview each member of the senior year.  She had badly dyed hair and smoked Gitanes cigarettes through a cigarette holder. In retrospect, she was probably trying to look sophisticated, at the time, we might have laughed.  Might have, but didn’t; she took herself very seriously and was very stern in her questions and comments.  She would sit puffing away while listening in a dismissive manner to what hopes we had.

At the time, I aspired to be a journalist; when I get a proper job, that is still what I would hope to do.  I did my best to explain this while she made the odd note.  After I had finished, she went through the files she had brought and handed me information sheets – one was on being a printer, the other on being a book-binder.  She was right, I wouldn’t make a journalist.

Thirty years on, and things in the careers advice business might have improved; might have, but hasn’t.

A lengthy computer-analysed questionnaire produced by a commercial company was completed by our son three years ago.  It concluded that he would not be a suitable candidate for engineering because he had indicated he would prefer not to work outside in dangerous places.  One wonders if they fed ‘engineer’ or ‘Royal Engineers’ into their computer programme!  He decided this was an absurd conclusion, how many people would express a preference for working outside in dangerous circumstances?

He is now reading engineering at university.

Our daughter, who won the senior scholarship at her fee paying school and gained the highest marks in the school in her Junior Certificate examinations completed a similar survey and received the results in the past week.  The company had concluded that she would not be primarily suited to studying medicine, to which she aspires, but instead might become nursery nurse.

I look forward to her embarking upon medical studies in three years time.

When she does so, I am going to make up a special package for the careers advice company.

The package will contain a bottle of hair dye, a packet of French cigarettes and a 2 CV owner’s manual and a note thanking them for evoking memories of the laughter we used to have when our careers adviser got into her car and left to go somewhere else to misguide people.

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  1. The only career advisers to darken the doors of our school way back in ould God’s time were nuns! They came to encourage us to join them.

    Somehow I never saw myself in a long black habit battering my beads against my knees while singing ‘The hills are alive with the sound of music’!

    What do you think Ian?

  2. @ Grannymar

    … more likely “The hills are alive to the sound of Grannymar” 😆


    How about starting with a weekly column in one of the weekend papers? You’d have a huge fan base in no time!

    I’d highly recommend your daughter gets to see the RTE TV series ‘Junior Doctors’ produced by Mint Productions (2006). It’s a superb real-life insight into the life of a junior doc and should help her enormously in making her decision.

    Strikes me that the questionnaire your son completed, was very out of date? These days there’s a huge variety of engineering courses available to encompass all the different talents. I had the pleasure of attending my son’s college open days for engineering and I came away very envious when I saw all the choices available.

  3. @ Grannymar:

    I’m not sure about you wearing black, not really your colour.

    There is a joke about a nun giving careers advice and the sister mishearing a girl and being thankful because she thought the girl said she was going to become a Protestant

  4. @ steph:

    I wouldn’t mind, but both have them have been quite hurt by these supposedly professional analyses.

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