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.