Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov, deputy head of Human Resources and Social Protection Department with University of National and World Economy in Sofia, in an interview with FOCUS Radio
Host: On May Day we will focus on how you can choose a profession most appropriate for you. One of the most important things is to work with pleasure and to have profession that corresponds to your abilities. According to a project recently presented career counselors will provide career guidance to first-graders. When do you think career guidance can start?
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: Actually, it starts in the beginning of your conscious life, i.e. upbringing, or as Bulgarians says – in the first seven years. So there is no problem actually for guidance to kick off at the earliest age. What you have just said is very important – you should try to get a profession that will bring you incomes, satisfaction, engagement and career development opportunities. In a very early age you can start getting ready with the help of your parents and those who bring you up at home.
Host: Speaking of parents, could they project their desires onto their children? What piece of advice can you give in this case?
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: Yes, this is one of the common problems – you project your understanding of success and successful profession onto your children. The piece of advice I can give to parents is to listen to their children’s wishes and abilities. Children can drop hints on their wishes and abilities in many ways. You should take into consideration what your children are, not what you want them to be.
Host: How can a child drop a hint as to what is suitable for them? Is it advisable to have a try at different occupations, for example, so that parents can find out their children’s strengths?
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: Of course, this is the best option. For instance, a child could have an affinity to numbers and calculations, while another child could have an affinity to books or role play. In this way you can find out your children’s strengths and aptitudes, or, as psychologists say, what their future blade will be, i.e. the strongest features of their personality that they should use in their future profession.
Host: Do you think parents should worry, if their children do not display any specific interests in their early age?
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: Of course, they should not. Children can hint at many things through their games, for example. What amuses them perhaps will be what will bring them satisfaction in their profession later. I can always give an example with very famous athletes who say that they earn much money from the biggest amusement that started as a game in their early age.
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: So you should not be worried, if your children do not determine themselves. You’d better follow what games they like and this could signal their aptitudes.
Host: There are many career tests and aptitude tools, including color tests and question-and-answer tests. What are the opportunities here?
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: They are huge. A whole interdisciplinary field related with career guidance is developing. It is based on psychology, but not solely. In any case, these types of tests are useful, but you should not forget you will obtain more real results when already built personalities take them, i.e. a bit later than in an early age.
Host: Perhaps when children are at high schools…
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: Yes, when they are at high schools, but I think you should check your aptitudes from time to time throughout your whole life, especially if you are an elderly person without a job. In this case you should see a professional career counselor.
Host: It might turn out you could realize what your strengths are and change your career later in life.
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: Of course, it is never late for such a change, as they say, at the end of the active life. Many people who have lost their job and are older than 50 or 55 become desperate and they should not. They can see a professional career counselor so that they can find their future. It is the year for active aging. I mean the so-called second career for elderly people. It is never late for you to change your profession and occupation.
Host: What about students? What can they do for their career?
Prof. Lyubomir Stefanov: A lot of things could be done. What is most essential at university is to achieve an optimal symbiosis between the theory we teach at university and businesses’ actual needs. But still we should never forget that businesses’ current needs are short-lived and frequently they change later. And we teach people who will work 40 years or more. This is actually the key. How do we try to achieve it? In different ways. I personally like the option of inviting part-time lecturers who work with a business and who explain to the students what happens in the real life. There are also many career forums and internship programs we organize. This is another very good way to make theory clash with practice. So there are many possibilities, but the most important thing is to seek an optimal combination between today’s business needs and the needs of the future.