Winning Women – Anne-Marie Stanisavljevic: Career calling

2014-04-14 08:00

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Anne-Marie Stanisavljevic, founder of The Education Agency, is helping thousands of schoolchildren follow the right career path from the get-go, writes Sue Grant-Marshall

The working world in a tight global economic climate has never been more competitive, ­resulting in worried schoolchildren and ­anxious parents being overcome by making the right career choices.

It is little wonder then that career guidance is a growing market today.

Anne-Marie Stanisavljevic, founder of The Education ­Agency in Johannesburg, an affordable online career guidance business, is determined to be part of that growth.

“Choosing a career is the most important decision we ever make, yet so many children leave school with little insight into their career direction,” says Stanisavljevic.

“So they head off into tertiary education, irrespective of their suitability for the career they’re targeting.”

Not surprisingly, young adults often find they are totally out of their depth, struggling with subjects they loathe or for which they do not have the skills, interest or aptitude.

So they change courses. An engineering student becomes a social worker, a mechanic heads into the banking world.

Some hang on grimly in the course they set out on, and end up unhappy for years in careers that they were ill advised to pursue, or that their misguided parents insisted upon.

Precious time and money are lost in the process, and all too often the resultant negativity can affect the youngster’s self-image.

“It also stunts their potential contribution to the country’s economy,” says Stanisavljevic.

She has come up with what she describes as “the missing link” in a readily available online career guidance tool.

“They register on our website [] and complete a self-evaluation questionnaire that has been ­designed by specialists.”

The student’s answers reveal their passions, what they excel at and topics that don’t interest them.

“They need to start looking when they’re in grade 9 to choose subjects for grade 10. This will see them matriculate with the correct marks to study for a career in which they will happily excel.”

Stanisavljevic’s daughter was in grade 9 when she was being encouraged to become a chartered accountant. “But I knew it just wasn’t right for Natasha. It’s her brother who is the maths boffin.”

Suddenly, Stanisavljevic, who is a self-avowed workaholic and had spent her own working life in careers ranging from the beauty industry for Estée Lauder cosmetics to insurance and e-recruitment solutions, realised that her passion lay in providing career guidance to South African youth.

“We chose to offer an online product because it is easily accessible – you can do it at home or at school – and it is ­reasonably priced,” she says.

The cost of the evaluation is R350. This provides a student with a comprehensive report and up to four recommended career paths outlining the relevant information needed to ­access each of the choices.

This includes which institution to study at as well as the subjects that will be required.

“Career counsellors and educational psychologists can charge between R2?000 and R4?000 a session to help someone determine a potential career path,” says Stanisavljevic.

“Going online means that many more students can access career guidance than is currently the case.”

The Education Agency’s target market is public and private high schools, as well as businesses that use their corporate social investment initiatives to focus on improving education in South African towns, cities and remote rural areas.

Clients include schools from rural communities. Closer to home, they range from Brescia House and the Kliptown Youth Program to Phomolong Secondary School, ­Hoërskool Bastion and Shree Bharat High School.

Her business goes beyond career guidance by ­providing access to support tools and a job library with, she says, “a thousand choices for potential careers”.

South African companies are well aware of the lack of quality career guidance in our education system.

“South Africa’s biggest companies spent more than R7?billion in 2013 on corporate social investments, and about 40% of that was channelled into the education ­sector,” says Stanisavljevic.

Their constructive role involves purchasing the Dream Band support tool flash drive.

It contains career guidance as well as application links to tertiary institutions, financing for studies, past papers, study tips, virtual tours, information on life skills, health and wellbeing, personal development video clips and ­interviews with great South Africans.

“It works for the companies because they can have their branding on the drives.”

The children plug them in and have all this information at their fingertips.

Teachers play a pivotal role in all this and The Education Agency has a Tools-for-Teachers link that helps them to support and guide students on their career-choice journeys.

“We have had an exceptional response to the launch of the product,” says Stanisavljevic.

.?Winning Women will return on April 27

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