In my last post, I wrote about how well universities are preparing students for the workplace, and wondered whether students’ perceptions about the working world are even accurate. I thought that for this post, I might explore some of the ways in which students can start learning about different workplaces, but then realized that would be overlooking a crucial step. Before a person can even begin thinking about jobs and employment, they must have a solid understanding of their own skills, interests, values and strengths. Without this knowledge, no jobseeker can be adequately prepared to choose a fulfilling work situation. I would even argue that this knowledge is crucial to choosing the most suitable option for training for a job; college, university or apprenticeship.
Here are some stats, courtesy of the publication The Decade After High School, to illustrate how lack of self-awareness and knowledge can impede students from making informed choices:
- 60% of students graduate from a different program than the one they started in
- 2 years post-graduation, 50% of Canadian undergrads are in jobs that don’t require the skills they gained in university
This information suggests that many students are not taking the time to really get to know themselves and their true strengths before choosing a post-secondary option. As a result, many students follow a meandering path, and frequently end up in employment that does not even require the costly education they acquired.
But what can be done to remedy this problem? After all, many teenagers are concerned they won’t have the time to really find themselves and uncover their passions before having to choose a career. Keeping in mind that no career choice is set in stone, it is still possible for young people to make informed choices if they start learning about what really motivates them, much earlier than when they actually need to make a decision. The sooner teenagers begin to explore their options, the better equipped they will be to make choices that allow for flexibility and ultimately, fulfillment.
This is where parents come in. There are many small actions you can take to help your son or daughter begin to think about what they might want to do with their life. If started early enough, the information gathered from these activities will help to paint a picture of what your son or daughter’s possible career path might look like. For starters, you can:
- Ask your teenager positive questions that will help them to determine their preferences, talents and abilities. Over time, they will begin to see patterns and possibilities.
- Observe how your teenagers spend their time. A great deal of useful career information can be gathered from noting what hobbies, teams, volunteer roles or classes your teenager is most drawn to. Help them to see how these interests might line up with their career ideas.
- Use your own experience to help. Talk to your teenager about how your own values, interests, skills and personality come into play in your work.
These and other actions can go a long way to helping young people develop the self-awareness and knowledge required to assist them in making informed decisions about their education and career. What’s more, this knowledge can serve as an anchor to keep them focused as they navigate the ever-changing world of employment and careers.