THE Northern Echo has teamed up with CV and interview expert Graeme Jordan to talk about learning these important life skills. This week, Graeme discusses the good, bad and ugly of careers advice.

Last month I talked about at how businesses and unqualified careers advisors can give harmful advice to young people.

I also believe we need to have a conversation about how all adults can give better and less harmful careers advice to young people.

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Exam results day is a classic example. You get two camps: The ‘exams will determine the rest of your life’ camp and the one that says, ‘exams don’t mean anything – look at me – I learned everything from the University of Life.’

Of course, both are wrong. At least in the sense that they are trying to make a universal rule where one can’t exist.

Then, there is the issue of crushing people’s dreams. What level of entitlement must it take for an adult to tell a child that their aspirations are not valid? Yet, this happens more frequently than we would like to admit.

I’ve heard Grade 9 (that’s A* and above) English students told not to pursue a career in writing. I’ve seen talented artists told not to pursue a career in art. Not even to consider related fields.

It’s damaging.

Then there is the slightly more subtle version that goes something like, ‘oh, you want to be a professional footballer? Hmmm … and what’s your backup plan?’

It’s not like top-level footballers make much money anyway … Oh. Wait. Of course, those people asking for a backup plan would then say, ‘but, the chances of making it are small.’ Yes, it may be true that only a small proportion make it big.

But, before dismissing someone’s aspirations, are we asking them how good they are currently? And what they are doing to get better? Because these are the questions that matter.

Why shouldn’t people try to achieve the things they want? They may redirect to related fields (or any they choose) later. I once thought I wanted to be a Recruitment Consultant. That experience is part of who I am now.

I wonder how many aspiring accountants are asked for a backup plan. Some of these people also fail or change direction. It’s worth remembering that people may only need one job at a time.

So, there doesn’t have to be millions of opportunities. People can, of course, change jobs if they are trained in how to do it.

I saw a great example recently of careers advice gone wrong. A young person posted on LinkedIn that they were interested in a career in marketing or business management.

Among the helpful suggestions and words of encouragement, one person advised them to do accountancy instead. This was with zero additional knowledge of their skills or their interests.

One person suggested quantity surveying because it was ‘quite enjoyable’. One advised them to set up their own business at age 18.

So, it seems we’ll never overcome the issue of too many people voicing their opinion.

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But, maybe it should be less acceptable to give irresponsible advice that bears no relation to the individual.

We should also ensure young people’s critical thinking skills are applied to the area of careers.

The unfamiliar and peripheral nature of the subject risks a small number of voices being given undue significance.