A Facebook group recalls schooldays. I remember well one particular moment – the visit of the careers adviser. Her arrival 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 odd years later, and things in the careers advice business might have improved; might have, but haven’t.
A lengthy computer-analysed questionnaire produced by a commercial company was completed by our son in 2005. 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 a final year engineering student at Trinity College, Dublin.
Our daughter, who gained 600 points in her Leaving Certificate last summer, the maximum possible score, completed a similar analysis in 2008. The company concluded that she would not be primarily suited to studying medicine, to which she aspired, but instead might become nursery nurse.
Next Friday, she completes the first term of her medical degree.
It is tempting to make up a special Christmas package for the careers advice company (who charged the school a large fee for their services).
The package would contain a bottle of hair dye, a packet of French cigarettes, 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.