From Student to College to Career: Fun or Terrifying Journey?


We’ve all been there. High School. Whether you were at the top of your class or just proud to be graduating, high school provided that tension to bring adulthood and career planning into the forefront. A news article that was just posted online discusses how the ACT for Middle School students is shaping students’ opinion about career choices. Another article by an owner of a student career coaching business in Minnesota blended the economy and school career counselor limitations as the reason student career coaching outside of school is expanding. Based on feedback from parents and students in our Career Coaching for Students™ workshops and our one-on-one student coaching services, true career coaching hasn’t really been a part of the high school offering.

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Today, high schools are doing some exciting things to expose students to possible career areas, especially in the tech school vocational area. From photography and television production to welding and drafting, high schools are doing a great job of providing a broad offering of job skill development classes. Many schools have purchased and implemented subscriber-based online programs like Kuder, Naviance, Bridges Career Choices and other web-based career sites that give students access to career exploration tools. Most English classes include an assignment to research and write about a career. High schools are administering assessments to help students look at possible careers. The effort isn’t the question.

So with all that is going on, why do high school students continue to enter post-high school programs with a lack of confidence in career direction? Here are my top reasons:

  • True career coaching isn’t happening in high school. Coaching is very different from offering counseling and web-based tools – and much more time-consuming.
  • Assessments used by high schools aren’t focused to enable greater self-awareness about their talent and are not recognized in the work world as effective for matching people to jobs. Also, students report the assessment reports they receive in high school were either a “waste of their time” (no perceived value) or created greater confusion – both of which actually have a negative impact on the student’s interest in career exploration. However, we have seen a very strong positive reaction (face validity) from students after they received our assessment reports and debriefing in our workshops. The most common statement is “Wow! This is incredible and extremely helpful. It blows the [one received at school] out of the water.” Sounds a little dramatic but actually it is consistently the response we receive. The point here is that an assessment designed properly and presented properly is helpful and one that is not designed properly and explained properly is damaging.
  • Students, Parents, Teachers and School Counselors are overwhelmed by their daily schedule. Even career exploration assignments are completed by students in a haphazard and single-focused manner – to complete the assignment.

Effective career coaching integrates valid assessment results and other “student self-awareness” tools with web-based research tools and specific strategies for exploring careers. Coaching and coach-focused exercises are all geared to support the student in their journey. Career coaching enables the student to start broadly and quickly narrow high-potential career options regardless of current academic achievement. The student that has already embraced a career choice will find career coaching looks for ways to affirm their choice and works to support that choice and avoid missteps along the way.

The fact that the Middle School ACT test scores are influencing students about career options is very concerning. We all know of people (click link to see a “best motivation video” -scroll down page ) who have become highly successful but were told in high school by teachers, advisors or “academic test results” that they should (or should not) go in certain career directions. That, if the advice had been followed, would have steered the person away from their success. Today, that false thinking is unfortunately alive and well. The reason – academic achievement (current achievement) or lack there of does not consider a person’s talents.

The Learning
Choosing a career should be about aligning talent with career options. Talent is very different from academic achievement or current student achievement. In fact, we know that a very average academic student will excel and be successful when they have connected their talent to a career direction. They see their purpose. That purpose creates passion. Passion drives success. We’ve also seen high academic achievers (top 2% of their class) become lost in college and bounce from job to job after graduating – all because they hadn’t found their purpose. This is completely unnecessary. Let’s not put off true career coaching. College graduation or after quitting or getting fired from jobs is not the only time to do career coaching. The ideal time is in high school, somewhere between their Freshman and Junior year.

About Career Coaching for Students™
Career Coaching for Students™ utilizes professional coaching strategies with highly valid assessment tools (used in the work world to match people to jobs) to create a strong understanding of one’s talent and how to connect that talent to career options. The program impacts the student’s intrinsic motivation and self confidence and includes a 12-week self-directed program called Life Skills for Students™ based on what we know about highly successful people. Workshops are offered throughout the United States. To see a schedule of workshops, go to the Career Coaching for Students™ website.

About Carl Nielson
Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and the developer of Career Coaching for Students™. He also has a management consulting practice through The Nielson Group where he provides executive coaching, organizational development services and hiring-for-fit strategies using the same assessment technology used for Career Coaching for Students™.

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