Soft Skills and Career Guidance

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By Education Today

Posted on May 7, 2022


9 min read

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Can you explain what exactly CareerFit360 is, for our audience and how did you start

CareerFit360 is a women-entrepreneurial venture, which is into career assessment and counselling along with customised training solutions to students and professionals. To make you understand about our company, I’ll have to give a small background about how
we came about this whole idea. I’m basically a software engineer, I started my career in
Infosys as a software engineer and went on to become a Project Lead. I had also worked in
the Quality Assurance department, in Infosys and Tata Elxsi. In my role as Quality Advisor,
I used to train developers and project managers on QA processes, Internal Systems, Quality
Models such as ISO, CMM, CMMi and so on.
That is the time I started to have some experience training people. I was interested in training
and also was very impressed with the learning and development cycle that was followed in
Apart from technical skills, they also provided us with soft skills training. There was some
kind of curiosity for me to learn those kind of subjects and I used to share all these learnings
with my partner, Indu. This was something which was very interesting to both of us.
Later on, in the year 2012, I had to relocate to Cochin and that was when we noticed that a
lot of IT companies in Cochin used to invite people from Bangalore, Chennai or Bombay to
provide trainings to their employees and companies used to find it very expensive also.
We felt that this was the area where not many people were actively involved. The companies
we spoke to were slowly thinking of allocating a budget for trainings unlike Infosys or
Wipro, where there was very good training culture existing. It was taking time for people to
understand the need of external training intervention and how it will improve their
productivity. Even though we tried talking to a few companies, our initial customers were
mostly engineering colleges. Gradually, arts and science colleges started contacting us for
employability skills and other soft skills. We started adding more subjects/topics to our list
of offerings and that’s when the companies started calling us.

My partner Ms Indu Jayaram is an English graduate. She started working with the Hindu in a programme called “Newspaper in Education”, i.e. life skills education for school children.
Indu and her team of trainers used to travel to schools in and around Ernakulam and handle
life skills topics for students. This topic was integrated into the curriculum. We felt this was
also needed because knowing these skills at a younger age is good for them. She had built a
network of trainers with her, and Indu started individually doing soft skills training programs
for corporates. She was a freelancer but then she identified that a kind of structured training
companies are not available in Cochin.
We felt that we could make some difference in this sector. Currently, Indu focuses more on
students counselling and I manage the corporate trainings.

How did you start giving career guidance classes?
Once we had a week-long induction and soft skills training at one of the engineering colleges
in the state, and we asked the students, “How many of you had applied to this engineering
course out of your own interest?” And in a class of 60, hardly we had like ten students who
were confident about the course and the rest of them had joined because of parental pressure,
peer pressure or they did not know what else to do and the list went on. That is when we
realised the need for a proper career guidance system for our students. Parents and children
are not aware of the various career options that are available today. When we spoke to some
parents about giving their children a Comprehensive Career Counselling, parents were
hesitant, as they thought a “counsellor” is needed only when their child has a problem.
We had to make them understand that this was only a scientific assessment and that we were
only trying to help the child by knowing their personality type, career interest, skills &
abilities in order to choose the most suitable career path.

How and why are soft skills important for everyone?
There are two kinds of skills – soft skills and hard skills. Both are important for any
profession. If you get into a sales company, they would give you a basic training about the
product you are trying to sell or how to sell it but the soft skills are basically about how to
deal with the customers, understanding their needs and getting them to buy the product or
service. Hard skills can be imparted in educational institutions, whereas soft skills can be
taught only to an extent. These are not something you could just read and learn; these skills
get built through experiential learning sessions.
We do a thorough training-need analysis with our clients, understand their requirements and
then work accordingly. These kinds of trainings may vary at different levels in the
organisation, since the work employees do is different at each level. Each team has its own
targets and goals, we study their day to day activities and we customize our trainings
In most companies, when new team members join, they need to know about communication
skills, effective presentation skills, meeting etiquette, professional grooming, workplace
etiquette, questioning skills, time management and so on. We can design a customised
training programme to address these areas.
Similarly, as the employee grows in the organisation, he/she may need training in effective team
management, stress management, leadership skill development and so on. These are all
business problems which we can be solved by effective training interventions.

Hard skills can be developed in a particular period of time but soft skills need more
time since it is a gradual process. Is two or three days of training enough?
No, it is never enough. You can’t expect a change overnight. Companies will have restraints
in time and budget. So, what we tell them is they can internally conduct follow-up sessions.
For example, once a presentation/ public speaking workshop is given to the employees, the
HR team could conduct fun events/contests where the employees would speak in front of
their senior officials, on fun topics. Such experiences would gradually improve their
confidence. For certain advanced topics, we suggest a trainer-led refresher course typically
after 1-2 months of the first programme. One should not stop the process right there.

Do you think the number of schools who take initiative in providing training to their
students is enough?

No, not at all. Many schools think that it is the parents who should invest in these kind of
skill trainings. Schools have a pre-set academic calendar and the one thing they say when we
approach them is that they can’t afford to give away time. What we see is, our schools mostly
conduct competitions to select a good speaker, but never invest in training the students for
the same. There is a lack of initiative from parents/PTA too.
If schools are interested, we would be happy to arrange sessions on Life Skills for
Adolescents, 21 st century Skills, Career Awareness and Planning etc

Our education system imparts theoretical knowledge rather giving importance to
practical knowledge. Do you think this is why we have to make our students
employable even after graduation?

Yes, it is correct. For an instance, when we converse with students from some schools, they
say that their teacher has told them to frame their answers in a particular way and the
children think that is the only right way. They get this thought inbuilt in them that however
creatively they write, they won’t fetch marks. This is where kids mug up the whole thing fed
by their teachers. This wouldn’t help them in their higher education.
Schools should encourage creativity in children. They can take initiatives such as making the
students organize some events in their school. This would expose them to a lot of challenges,
which they will learn to solve and thereby instill confidence in them.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has adversely affected the study pattern and learning of several
students, which is a very pathetic situation. We had conducted 2 batches of an online
learning program for kids called “Grow with Skills” during the lockdown period where 12-
17-year olds from different parts of the country had attended. Children really enjoyed it. It
was a little hard to get them talking on the first day but from the next day we had activities
where they interacted with each other and learned new skills together.

Do you think our children are getting enough exposure to the various courses and
careers, unlike the traditional ones?

At the time when we started career counselling, we knew that this exposure is not enough.
Every school should have a career planning session conducted. They can set up career labs to conduct the assessments. Career guidance can be done, after10th, 12 th or even graduation, to
help a person choose the right career path and pursue the same successfully. For younger
children of class 7 or below, our assessments can help understand the child’s learning style
and multiple intelligences can be identified. This way we can make studies an enjoyable
experience for them!
The reason why we got into career counselling is because of the career crisis we saw in
students surrounding us. Parents who are key decision makers (in our society) about their
child’s careers, should also be given awareness.

Is it only passion that should drive our career choice?
Passion need not be the only criteria. Today, we have options where we could work on our
passion along with a mainstream job. Monetary gain is important for our own survival, for
our family and also to help other people in our society. Some children may want to learn new
technologies, some people will have a social inclination and others may want jobs with a lot
of challenges and risks worth taking. When we assess individuals for career guidance, we
look at their personality type or preferences because your personality influences your
actions. Like, we say, if someone has an organized personality, they would be more
comfortable working in a well-structured environment. We also look at their career interests,
skills and abilities, career motivators and their learning styles.

Were you comfortable working under an authority or did you always wanted to build
something on your own?

My father was a business man. Both my siblings joined the family business. Even when I
was working at Infosys, my father casually asked me why I want to work under somebody
when I can open my own company and give employment to others. However, I did not take
it seriously then. What started as a casual discussion with Indu, later became a business idea and
we have nurtured it to turn into a venture, almost 10 years old now. We are grateful to our
30+ trainers and colleagues who have supported us in all our projects.
We have been supported by organisations like KMA, TiE, NIPM and WEN (Women
Entrepreneurs Network) to be able to support 100+ organisations and train 18000+ students
and professionals till today.