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Engaging discussion on future and potential careers can be overwhelming for student. So how do we break down the process so it’s less daunting?
As their immediate stakeholders we are apt to put pressure on our students about choosing a first career, thinking that it will determine the course of their lives. Yet as adults, we often reinvent ourselves more than once, moving among professions. So whatever our student choose now won’t necessarily define their future.
What you want to be when you grow up requires careful thought: we need time to learn about and consider all the options. But the rush to get an ATAR, choose a learning pathway or join the workforce straight after leaving school –heavily influence what our student can and can't do and this could mean that some students make hurried, expedient decisions, which may not be for the best in the long-term.
Pressure is piled on students to choose a career. It’s best to have conversations with them about their strengths and interests, rather than a specific career, and then to listen to what they have to say. If we keep putting out all the ideas, we wind up with our dream, not theirs.
It can be more effective to have students look at themselves functionally. Rather than asking, “What do you want to be?” As a parent/guardians and teachers, we can help by posing questing like: “What skills do you have? What kinds of people do you like to work with? In what kind of environment?” This is a way to think about a career without necessarily naming it. Students can describe themselves in a functional way and then figure out what careers match these functions.
“Part of guiding our student toward their calling is allowing them to find that calling, to see what best suits their still-developing values and interests.”
A student is not likely to understand that networking often means simply initiating conversations with people they already know. They have a network, through their friends, teachers, teacher advisors, and each of those people know dozens of others who are probably happy to talk about their own career paths. These real-life testimonials can be a valuable resource for a student, to see a profession in a meaningful context.
At school the career advisor or Teacher Advisor is the designated person our students should reach out to, so encourage them to schedule regular conversations over the school year. There is also power in our Year 10s taking on work experience. Part of guiding our students toward their calling is allowing them to find that calling, to see what best suits their still-developing values and interests. Though this experience they can then ask themselves the questions: “What is it that I enjoyed about this? What do I feel I did best? Why did I do it? What was my relationship in those activities with other people?’ They then write down those answers. This gives our students an opportunity to discover for themselves what they are good at and what they want to do. This is empowered decision making. At the end of the day we as our student support structure certainly can help make connections and introduce them to those with advice and information, but our student needs to be the one who takes action.
These are some strategies, aimed at igniting conversations with our students around career possibilities. It can be a daunting experience for them but we are there to encourage and support them as they evaluate their interests, values, and ambitions. With a little assistance, self-direction and research they can soon be on the path to a career that will suit and satisfy them in the long term.
Mr. Ashwin Pillai Assistant Principal - Learning and Teaching