Working with high school students to help them pursue a meaningful direction and set them up for success is a process that requires ongoing engagement and new resources. Here, we take a look at three tools and strategies to use when advising students on their career direction.
Guide them to embrace who they are
We all have our own gifts, strengths and value that we bring to the world. We are all unique, and this allows us to shine in various ways. However, we also live in a world where many people are striving to conform, to fit in and to meet someone else’s version of success. Each student that we work with has developed his or her own talents, interests and personality. Guiding them to embrace this, rather than deny, avoid or try to change it, is one of the most powerful gifts we can provide.
There are numerous assessments and tools out there to bring these traits and gifts to the surface. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory are a great combination to explore the area where personality preferences and interests meet. Personality Dimensions is another great assessment to help people understand their personality traits. Use these assessments as a conversation starter to help the student narrate their preferences, interests, skills and values. Have them give you examples and tell stories that demonstrate who they are and what makes them unique. As educators, coaches, counsellors, etc., we provide open space for our students to share, without imposing judgment or expectations on them. When we believe in their magnificence, it creates space for them to believe in it, too.
Discover their ‘why’
Students are constantly faced with such questions as “What do you want to do with your life?” “What are you going to do after graduation?” and “What do you want to be when you’re older?” For those students with uncertainty around their future, which is the vast majority, these questions are frustrating and often prompt negative emotions. Instead of focusing on “what”-based questions, we need to be looking a their ”why.” The “why” is equivalent to their reason for being. By starting with why, we help our clients get to the heart of their purpose, fulfillment and motivation. Simon Sinek communicated this concept through his model of the Golden Circles, which is explained in his Ted Talk.
This concept applies to individuals as much as companies and organizations. Discovering your why involves taking a look at recurring themes that pop up through various experiences and events over the course of your life. When you reflect on the situations that have shaped you, the memories that stick out clearly in your mind, and the meaning and knowledge you’ve gathered from them, it shows you how different experiences from your life have shaped you and brought you to this moment you’re in now, to prepare you for where you’re about to go next.
Guiding our students to discover their why connects them to purposeful, fulfilling and motivated action. Once they know their why, then we can guide them toward career options that are aligned with it.
Design a creative game plan
Once we help our students find clarity on who they are, their why and their purposeful career direction, we can assist them by setting goals and step-by-step actions. Setting SMART goals provides the student with a clear statement toward their direction and desired result. SMART is an acronym signifying that the goal is Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. The goal should also be written as if it’s happening now. For example:
“I am celebrating achieving an entry-level digital marketing position within the health and wellness industry, earning $60,000 per year or more as of June 1, 2022 or before.”
Now that a goal has been set, help students create a reverse-engineered plan outlining the specific steps to take toward achieving it. Advise them to start by visualizing the achievement – putting themselves right in the moment of that goal becoming reality. Have students reflect on what they’ll see, hear and feel upon achieving their goal. Next, write out all the steps required to achieve the goal, all the way back to today. Guide students in this process by asking: How can you gain experience, skills and connections in new ways? How can you stand out from the crowd and set yourself up for success?
Having this game plan broken down into individual actions allows students to focus on taking one step at a time, instead of being overwhelmed by the big picture. This makes the process manageable, creative and focused.
Providing this guidance to high school students during these transitional years is a gift that every student is worthy of. It allows them to gain clarity, build confidence and take specific action toward their desired future. This is one way we can help students step into their personal power and work toward meaningful career goals.