Getting a college education has been the #1 advice from school counselors and parents. “Go to school, get a good education, and get a good job” has been the advice for many generations. But what does this mean for the high school student?
Career counseling is offered in most high schools today, but actual career coaching (more often referred to as career planning) is virtually nonexistent. Students go to college and obtain degrees only to discover that they have climbed the wrong mountain. After all those years of work, they find that they are either unhappy with their career choice or can´t get a job in the career area they’ve selected. Many graduate from college without really knowing what they want to do with the degree that they have earned.
Unfortunately, many of those students will go on to climb another mountain by getting another degree, only to find that yet again they can´t find a job in their chosen field or they don´t much care for the career options they have selected. Many people have multiple college degrees they have obtained through a trial and error process. Some of these students may be attracted to the learning environment and have chosen to hide out in the academic world until they find the right career. Instead of spending time up front researching and planning, they just begin climbing the mountain and figure they´ll make their plan once they get to the top. But there is nothing there.
Today´s educational planning is akin to building a house without any purpose and design in mind (and obviously without an architectural rendering of the house plans). Sure you can look at magazines and online resources to get some ideas about what the features of the house might be. Can you imagine the look on the delivery guys face when he shows up with a truck load of concrete and asks where to pour it only to be told you’re not sure but maybe pour a little over here, a little over there and some back here? Likewise, many students spend time planning what college they are going to go to, how they are going to pay for it, and even what they are going to study, without actually planning what they will do with the degree once they get it.
As a management consultant specializing in organizational development and hiring, I can say with confidence this is all too common in today´s society. Employers are baffled at the lack of clarity around career direction shown by graduating college students. Having a “I’ll take any job I can get” strategy for job search after college is a strategy but it won’t generate the desired results.
So what is the answer? A more in-depth career coaching class for high school students would be a way to introduce the topic and the importance of making a plan and begin the journey with confidence. Offering career coaching at the college level would allow students to follow through with the actual planning process that was started in high school. Both high schools and colleges have done a good job of presenting an image of providing career coaching. Very few are really doing it.
It is essential that young people learn the value of career coaching and actually plan their careers before deciding on education. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a little bit of life skills development that will give the student a leg up when they actually arrive at college or in their first job or summer internship.
Of course, no plan is set in stone and gets implemented as is. This is the main reason so many people don’t spend time planning. But when it comes to career and college, not planning is a very expensive strategy. Any career plans can be modified throughout the journey and should be modified to fit a person’s evolving interests and knowledge (I refer to this as focusing). Introducing career exploration and coaching at the Freshman level in high school has significant potential of impacting the student’s academic performance throughout high school and into college. But most importantly, career coaching reduces the likelihood of students climbing many wrong mountains and significantly increases the likelihood of finding the right path without getting lost in the forest.
There is a perception that true career coaching that results in making great personal choices and following through to see positive results isn’t possible. There used to be a perception that a person’s success couldn’t be predicted. Today, employers are using highly sophisticated yet simple talent assessments to determine “job fit” of applicants. This same science is being used by only one career planning program: Career Coaching for Students™.
To readers: What is the primary reason high school students don’t receive career coaching?