Category Archives: Student soft skill development

How important is your handshake?


student-money-handshakeFrom the picture above, you can guess the answer. YOUR handshake will have a financial impact on YOU. Guaranteed. So it is very important. Do I have your attention? I hope so.

When I shake your hand, it’s neither too rugged, nor too tough; it’s solid. And even though I feel uncomfortable staring into a stranger’s eyes (it is a form of intimacy) I will look you in the eye as I shake your hand. My corporate clients, C-level people and managerial level decision makers who are involved in hiring and college recruiting tell me all the time, “The handshake tells me a lot.”

Everything starts with a handshake and you may be judged by your handshake in interviews, business meetings and day to day encounters, whether you like it our not and whether you know it or not! So, take heed, your handshake may define you.

Improve your handshake with these simple guidelines:

  1. Prepare to meet someone when possible by reflecting on who they are and what you know about them and their different roles (all of their roles like mother/father, son/daughter to an elderly parent, manager, executive, young recent grad representative of the company, etc.). Take a moment to consider their world, their day and their goals.
  2. Proactively reach out your hand to the person you are greeting.
  3. Look directly into the eyes of the person’s hand you are shaking – be bold, do not look away.
  4. Firmly grab the whole hand of the other person and squeeze firmly. Some people use the squeeze to make a statement and squeeze too hard. Squeezing too hard is WRONG and rude. But giving a limp handshake is uncomfortable (yuk!).
  5. Shake with firmness twice (it’s ok if the other person extends the shake).
  6. Smile if it is natural for you, but simultaneously nod or gesture with a clear and confident voice, i.e. “Good to meet you.” or “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” If you don’t have confidence or feel intimidated by the meeting, simply “fake it until you make it”.
  7. Keep eye contact until a mutual letting go.
  8. Always be sincere in showing your interest in the other person.

If you think your handshake does not matter, try bringing up the topic people in business. You might be surprised to discover how important or opinionated business leaders are about eye-contact and handshakes.

So how important is your handshake? A firm handshake coupled with solid eye-contact will have people warming up to you faster, while improving your professional career as it solidifies partnerships. According to David Hoare, an accounting systems and business consultant, “The number one tool for marketing is the handshake and a smile.  It costs zero to extend the hand and use a few facial muscles.  But the value it generates is priceless.  Pretty much all business relationships begin this way.  The handshake and smile is the most effective marketing tool available at all levels of business.”

MediaPlanet posted an article on the handshake where they stated, “A recent survey of more than 2,000 businessmen and women revealed that 47 percent of professionals believe they have lost a contract, client or job opportunity because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings.” This isn’t just true for the external hiring process, you’ll find this true when internal job opportunities become available too.

Forty-seven percent of professionals believe they have lost a contract, a client or job opportunity because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings.

When it comes to starting your career, being face-to-face lays the foundation for career growth. It’s where casual meeting, greeting and handing out business cards translate to hiring, building collaborative and supportive relationships and acquiring life-long mentors.

The digital world will continue to transform the ways we can stay connected, but those connections need more than a Wi-Fi signal and a webcam to come to life. If you are interviewing, and the company is trying to save costs by using webcam technology, volunteer to meet at their place of business if it is an extremely important opportunity. If the opportunity arises, simply say, “I was planning to be in [their city] that week anyway, I could easily extend my stay to meet in person if that works on your end.” The risk is that some jobs require the person to change their plans without much notice. The person may agree to meet in person and later find out they have to change their plans to accommodate the SVP or CEO’s schedule. The best way to view that risk is that the person you are planning to meet with will likely delegate the meeting to others so it isn’t likely to be a complete failure.

So shake those hands and be the master of meet and greet skills. Only your financial and career future are riding on it.

Carl Nielson is founder of Success Discoveries and creator of Career Coaching for Students™, a program for high schools, colleges, families and students. Carl is also managing principal of The Nielson Group, a national talent management consulting firm. View his LinkedIn profile here.

Student Well-Being: Two Reasons Schools Should Care


High School Studentsby Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer, Success Discoveries, and creator of Career Coaching for Students, a program for high school students.

I work with high school students rather often considering I’m not a teacher or school administrator. What I’m sensing is that student well-being is important – for two key reasons. The first reason is the recognition that schooling should not just be about academic outcomes but about well-being of the ‘whole person’; the second is that students who have higher levels of well-being tend to have better cognitive outcomes at school (an important goal of most high schools).

I provide a program called Career Coaching for Students™ which is how I’ve come to work with so many high school students. This program has a key component – to focus on the whole student, to establish a sense of well-being on multiple levels while exploring self and possible futures. According to the Australian Centre for Education Statistics & Evaluation, in May 2015, they released their literature review into Student Well-Being. You can access the entire document here. It clearly and concisely lays out all the considerations important for addressing student well-being in schools. It also offers dozens of research papers to explore by way of referencing.

Defining well-being as:

A sustainable state of positive mood and attitude, resilience and satisfaction with self, relationships and experiences at school.

Assuming your school or organization is keen to address well-being in a meaningful way, the literature suggests you need to have 5 things in place.

1. Safety – Schools need to provide a safe environment

2. Connectedness – A sense of belonging to the school environment

3. Learning Engagement – Students can engage with a school at social, institutional and intellectual levels.

When people work with their strengths, they tend to learn more readily, perform at a higher level, are more motivated and confident and have a stronger sense of satisfaction, mastery and competence.

4. Social & Emotional LearningSocial emotional learning (SEL) is an educational process for learning life skills but many of the aspects can be found in other more reactive problem-focused educational programming such as character education, restorative justice, peer mediation, bullying prevention, anger management, drug/alcohol prevention, violence prevention, school climate, ethical-decision making, harassment prevention, positive behavior supports. SEL teaches mental skills that lead to understanding and managing emotion, setting positive and realistic goals, building long-lasting relationships, showing empathy for others, and constructive and ethical problem-solving skills.

5. Whole School Approach – a culture of high expectations for all students with teachers who emphasize continuously improving their own thinking, skills and tools.

Well-being must be integrated into the school learning environment, the curriculum and pedagogy, the policies and procedures at schools, and the partnerships inherent within and outside schools including teachers, students, parents, support staff and community groups.

I believe that engagement and well-being are at the crux of what highly successful schools focus on and if we get this right, outcomes will – largely – look after themselves (for staff as well as students).

Misguided outcome focus

  • Average student GPA
  • Percent of students going to a four-year college

More effective outcome focus

  • Number of students with an established career plan, path and vision for their future
  • Number of students using and displaying effective life skills throughout high school years

But still… too many schools, organizations and systems pursue the wrong outcomes at the expense of engagement and well-being, and then they struggle to understand why staff, students and the wider community are so disaffected.

Career Coaching for Students logo

So what do you want to do with your life?

Career Coaching for Students™ and Life Skills for Students™ is primed and ready for mass delivery in high schools. But in the meantime, if you are a parent wanting to provide your high school student (incoming 9th grade is a perfect time) with a kind of well-being that leads to higher engagement and success, visit the Home Study version of the Career Coaching for Students program (which includes the Life Skills for Students self-study curriculum).

Should Career Coaching Be Mandatory Curriculum Like Math and English in High School?


Better Career Planning Better LifeWe receive incredibly positive feedback from clients, those parents AND students, that experience the Career Coaching for Students program. We also consistently hear the same comment: “this needs to be mandatory in high school.”

When we talk to school counselors or administrators, we’re told they are adequately addressing career development.  Using the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Career Development for Career Development as a guidepost,  we find defined requirements for Middle School (7th – 8th grade) and High School (11th – 12th grade).

In middle school, it appears from the TEKS Career Development regulations that the middle school requirements “resemble” the Career Coaching for Students™ program which enables the student to move on to the TEKS high school requirements. Neither are mandatory, only recommended. However, we strongly believe 7th graders are not prepared or capable of gaining enough value from the middle school recommended focus, especially assessments for career matching. Generally speaking, focusing on career exploration in middle school is a great start and appropriate. Assessing students at that age may not be a good idea and will likely create more confusion than value, especially considering the assessments most middle schools may be using. However, providing a portal of high-quality career exploration links for middle students to learn about different careers can energize students. But every high school student we have in our program says the same thing, “I never received anything like this in school” and “I don’t remember anything from what we did in middle school.”

Talking with Career Development Directors in Texas, we hear a consistent statement, “The Career Coaching for Students program is exactly what we need in high school. If I could, I’d leave the Kuder program to middle school level and make Career Coaching for Students™ the standard curriculum for high school students starting in 9th grade.”

We have found the following formula for career development curriculum is very powerful:

Middle School – Use our Student Resource Central web portal of career and education exploration. Create a lesson plan that takes the student through career exploration TEKS requirements using Student Resource Central.

High School – Implement a four-year career development curriculum that starts at the beginning of 9th grade, and uses the Career Coaching for Students program as the foundation. Train all counselors in the use of the program. Train teachers who are passionate about career exploration to deliver the curriculum.

So, here are some pros and cons for implementing a more focused and tangible career coaching program for high school students. Consider these along with your own thoughts and experiences and then answer our poll question below (poll open for one week starting 1/15/2015). Please share on all of your social media so we can get a large sample size for the poll.

Pros of Implementing a Mandatory Career Coaching Curriculum for all High School Students

  • By starting at the incoming 9th grade level (perhaps even the August before school starts) the program helps with 4-year high school course planning that aligns with post-secondary desires
  • Greater self-awareness comes at the right age to leverage the insights gained
  • Increased self-confidence enables the student to pursue a more challenging academic schedule
  • Greater clarity about high-potential career possibilities (a high-quality short list that matches their talents/personality traits) empowers student self-direction.
  • Less missteps towards high school graduation
  • Lower dropout rates
  • Greater student engagement that results in higher average GPA
  • Higher percent of students enrolling in post-secondary education

Cons (based on what I’ve heard or what was implied)

  • Already too many academic demands, no time to add more class time
  • Not needed – time, money and attention need to be allocated to other more important things
  • Already appropriately covered in middle school, don’t see the need to duplicate
  • We’re already doing a good job in this area, don’t need to improve
  • We don’t have the budget for it
  • Better to let families address this rather than handle in school

7 Things Any High School Student Needs to Effectively Compete


There is a great deal of advice when it comes to students preparing to compete in the global economy. Showcasing your abilities properly has now become more complex – and more critical. For example, a resume is a strategic tool designed to give you the edge over other applicants (for summer jobs, internships, and eventually that first job after school). When you use a Google search for resume writing, you receive 12.7 million hits. For most students, thinking about writing a strong resume is a “just-in-time” exercise. For many seniors in high school, that [strong resume] train has already left the station.But regardless of where the student is in their journey, it is never too late to start.

A resume reflects what has been. Students that have a desire to be competitive a few years from now need to be thinking about how they want their resume to look starting in their freshman year of high school. A resume matters when applying to colleges, especially the more academically elite colleges. A resume matters when you try for the internship that 500 other students are going for and there is only one position available. A resume matters when you are about to graduate from college and are trying to get interviews with the better employers. But the strength of the content of that resume starts with the beginning of secondary education – or earlier.

It only makes sense that the better employers are looking for the better students. GPA is only one measure and it may not be the main one.

News bulletin: Your grades aren’t the beginning and end to creating opportunities.
When writing resumes, a strong GPA is a great attention grabber but it is only a beginning. According to Heather R. Huhman, a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies, many of today’s job seekers tend to forget to include the things they’re passionate about or experiences they’ve gained outside of their academic accomplishments.

For many students, thinking beyond next weekend can be challenging. The reality is many students find themselves scrambling about their second year of college because they don’t have many things to list on their resume. Getting through school is the minimum you are expected to do. It is all the other things you do – or don’t do – that will determine your competitiveness – and the quality of your future opportunities.

So you have a 4.0 and you are in the top 5% of your high school graduating class ranking. With nothing else to add, you will likely not have as many options when it comes to college application acceptances, internships and ultimately those “first job” offers upon graduation from college. A strong GPA is valuable but it isn’t any where nearly as valuable as a high GPA and several extracurricular achievements.

Freshman in high school have the best opportunity for setting the stage for having a “totally awesome” resume that will pay big dividends to stakeholders of “You Inc.”. And by the way, you (the student) are the majority stockholder in You, Inc.

So here are 7 things you can do in high school (besides getting good grades and participating in extracurricular school programs – which you need to do as well):

1. Build a professional website, blog or online portfolio.

Online PortfoliosOne of the things that seems to impress employers when they research candidates is whether the individual has a professional website or blog. In the online information portal called Student Resource Central, an entire category is dedicated to Social Media and Online Portfolios. The top 14 online tools are listed –  some you might be aware of, and some so cool you must use them.

If you’ve created a professional website to showcase your knowledge, passions, expertise and accomplishments, you should definitely include a link to your website or portfolio in your future resume. Starting in high school and adding to it each year will set you apart from the competition.

2. Social media accounts.

Facebook Find Us LogoYour social media presence is another important element. When using social media, be mindful of what you showcase. Ideally, keep your social media clean of controversial language, political views and immature content. Start thinking like a professional. Assume anyone considering you for college admission, internships or job opportunities will find your content.

3. Entrepreneurial Freelance projects.

Employers value entrepreneurial experiences. Use any freelance opportunities to help you shine. One high school student turned a photography hobby into a revenue producing part time job. According to a survey of Generation Y workers (those ages 18-29), the third-most common college major for that group is “entrepreneurial studies,” and there are now 2,364 post-secondary institutions offering entrepreneurship and small business programs. Even if these students don’t become an entrepreneur, chances are they may go on to get a job with a young, venture-backed company or work for an established corporation that places high value (higher starting salaries) for entrepreneurial behaviors.

Showcase your freelance experience in your resume. Keep track of your accomplishments and people/organizations you’ve worked with.

4. Awards or special recognition.

BSA Eagle Scout BadgeGirl Scouts Gold AwardHave you received special recognition for being an outstanding contributor? You are in control of this more than you may think. Look for intentional ways to be recognized through your volunteer work, such as tutoring younger students, or through structured programs such as achieving the rank of Eagle scout in the Boy Scouts of America or the Gold Award in the Girl Scouts or by acts of service in your church or community. Plan to graduate with honors in high school and college. You will want to include these accomplishments and awards in your resume.

5. Certifications.

Project Management CertificationJob seekers who have certifications in a specific tool or skill or knowledge area can definitely benefit from including those items in their resume. Very few students see this one. A friend of mine helped his daughter study for and pass several certification exams, normally designed for professionals, before she entered college. Many certifications require some kind of experience or completion of a related project as evidence of applicable knowledge. You don’t have to be employed in a traditional job to meet these requirements. Search out the opportunity or ask those adults in your network for support. An industry-specific or career-specific certification will definitely help you stand out.

6. Side projects.

Girl Scouts project for Gold AwardSimilar to freelance work, side projects are a type of structured work that has timelines and outcomes. But they may not be tied to revenue. Volunteer work or helping your parents in the family business can be very powerful. For Eagle Scouts or Gold Award recipients, a project is required to receive the award. Be sure to include these projects, not just the award. Look for ways to claim significant accomplishments in your personal life and definitely include them on your resume.

7. Volunteer work.

student volunteersLook for opportunities to volunteer. Through school, many clubs or honors programs require volunteer work. Try volunteering every Saturday at a local food bank for the summer Are you into a particular sport? See if you can be an assistant coach on a youth recreation league (and get certified to be a youth coach while you’re at it). Look for unpaid internships too.  Volunteer experiences such as these can help you make a very strong impression on admission counselors or employers. Volunteer work also shows employers you have leadership and project management skills.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

What is the ROI Value for Career Coaching in High Schools?


Supply vs Demand for Student Career Coaching?A posting on LinkedIn’s Life Coaching Teens and Young Adults asked for advice on pricing coaching services to schools. That started my brain thinking about the pricing formula I typically use for in-school, school-partnership, public workshop and private one-on-one programs using the Career Coaching for Students program.

Pricing – and value/ROI – for high school career counseling and coaching is very interesting and important. I certainly don’t have a definitive answer for other coaches but I’d like to share a few discussion thoughts, one formula for pricing and compare that to the per-student cost to deliver a one-semester course.

Note: All examples in this article use “typical” data but a specific proposal always gives consideration to the client’s needs and how the program being delivered is customized to meet that need.

Pricing vs Value/ROI vs Demand

In my corporate work, I have a minimum day rate of $3,500 as a starting point. That fee is neither high nor low, more likely it is about in the average for a consultant/coach to deliver a day’s worth of work in a corporate setting and includes costs such as assessments, books and other supporting materials. If the number of people participating is larger than 15 the fee goes up based on value and expenses on a per-person basis.

Deal-Demand-and-Supply-ForcesFor example, I am about to kick off a high-potential coaching program for 15 employees of a large multinational corporate business unit that includes an opening 2-day program, four months of one-on-on coaching and a closing 2-day program for a fee of $55k+. What does this have to do with schools/colleges? I think I have a lot to offer to schools. I would love to be full-time in that venue. Unfortunately, corporate clients tend to value my services greater. The irony is that if an education institution went all-in with say a thousand students in my Career Coaching for Students program over a 4 year contract, the math would work out ok for me (not great but doable). Most school administrators and college career centers think on a much smaller scale – especially when it comes to outsourcing a service they want to deliver with in-house teaching staff. From my information, the in-house staff model is failing – resulting in a great deal of wasted $$ and low-to-no benefits for the school or the student.

College-Students-Following-The-Career-Path-SheetsAt the college level, student participation in a college’s career exploration coaching service within the career center is less than one percent of the college’s student population according to several articles and social media postings by Career Center Directors. One thing we know is that students will recommend or not recommend to their friends based on a program’s value – regardless of if it is free or fee-based. If a program isn’t growing and the value isn’t driving demand, it is likely not being recommended by students to students. Having less than one percent participating in a service tells me students are “not” recommending the offered program to their friends. With a low participation rate, college presidents decide to fund other programs. But the need for credible career coaching remains a “big” need as evidenced by the “average” number of changes in majors per student in college and the average number of semesters to graduate with an undergraduate degree.

For those of us in the coaching profession, there is great economic diversity. Some professional coaches are the primary bread winner in the family. Others provide coaching services as a secondary and discretionary family income. If you fall in that latter category of “discretionary income” coaching, you might look at volunteering. If you don’t need income to live on and are in a position to do volunteer work, volunteering is a great and noble thing to do. Many high schools and colleges may consider you but you may also find trying to volunteer to be as frustrating as pricing for your services. I see too often those in the coaching profession who have the spouse’s income providing for the primary financial needs of the family. The need to price professionally isn’t as great and consequently, there is a low-ball pricing mentality. My opinion is that our passion for coaching (serving the needs of others) shouldn’t dictate our pricing strategy. I suggest you try to identify what the benefits will be for the client and price based on value – not based on a minimum income requirement.

A Pricing Formula for In-School Offering

The following is a general formula that I use for nonprofit/education institutional pricing proposals. My belief is that I either choose to volunteer or I choose to propose a professional solution that adds real value and price the proposal accordingly.

Sample educational institution pricing formula for Coaches:

  1. Calculate a desired hourly rate. What annual amount of income from coaching are you wanting? In other words, how do you value yourself in this profession on an annualized basis? Example: Let’s say you have a goal of $50,000 per year from coaching. And you think, “if I reach my ‘goal’ of 30 hours per week (pretty much full time), I will be pleased”. That equates to $50,000/2080 hours = $24.00 per hour (nothing for vacation, insurance, home office expenses).
  2. Double the hourly rate. This covers your personal expenses, taxes – any general costs of doing business and time for marketing to this client = FINAL HOURLY RATE.
  3. Determine all program delivery expenses (student materials, reproduction costs, etc.). Calculate down to the per student cost.
  4. Calculate the Total Program Delivery Rate. How many hours for delivery + how many hours for prep = Total Hours. Take Final Hourly Rate x Total Hours = Total Program Delivery Rate
  5. Calculate Total Raw Cost. Multiply # of student participants x per student cost =  Total Raw Cost
  6. Calculate Total Cost. Multiply Total Raw Cost x 1.25 = Total Cost
  7. Calculate Proposal Amount. For Small one-class proposal: Add Total Program Delivery Rate + Total Cost for a Proposal Amount.
    For a Large, multi-class calculation: [Total Program Delivery Rate x # of classes of 25 students] + Total Cost = Proposal Amount

Program Benefits and Goals:

For fun, let’s test this with a program called Career Coaching for Students delivered in a high school class room setting for one semester (http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net):

Better Career Planning Better LifeThe expected benefits need to be articulated and assigned measures that we can refer to later. Here is a short list of expectations for the Career Coaching for Students program:

  • Higher overall student academic engagement
  • Lower drop out rate
  • Greater percent of students with a plan for post-secondary education
  • Higher average class GPA at graduation
  • Higher SAT/ACT test scores.
  • Less higher education costs for students and parents (due to less changing majors and graduating on time from post-secondary education).

Applying the Pricing Formula – A Simple Example for the Coach

  1. Annualized net personal income goal: $50,000 = $24 per hour
  2. 2 x $24/hour = $48 hourly rate
  3. Program Delivery Expenses per student (binders, assessments, online student resource center):
    $129 for 50 students
    $99 for 350 students (we can lower costs dramatically when we have higher quantities, plus customize the binder with the school’s name and mascot)
  4. Program design.
    One class time per week for a semester for a class of 25 students.
    15 weeks per semester = 15 delivery hours for 25 students = .6 hours per student PLUS prep hours of 10 hours (rounds up to 1.0 hour per student)
  5. Total Program Delivery Rate
    $48 x # of hours (25 students = 25 hours in this example) = $48 x 25 = $1,200 Total Program Delivery Rate
  6. For a smaller program of 50 students: 25 students x $129 = $3,225
    For a larger program of 350 students: 350 x $99 = $34,650
    =Total Raw Cost
  7. Total Cost
    For smaller program: $3,225 x 1.25 = $4,031 one class of 25 students
    For larger program: $34,650 x 1.25 = $43,312 for 14 classes of 25 students
  8. Proposal Amount
    For one semester, one class of 25 students: $1,200 + $4,031 = $6,231
    For one semester, larger program of 350 students, 14 classes:
    $34,650 + 43,312 = $77,962

Analyze for Cost/Value Proposition:

Career Coaching for Students offered in-school:
Small one-class program cost per student: $249
Large program, multi-class cost per student: $223

To compare, as a publicly offered program to families, we average around $500 per student in a group workshop setting of 10 – 15 students for a 12 – 15 hour program. One-on-one for the CCfS program (about 12 – 15 hours) is $750+ per student (higher on the East and West coasts).

vs the Cost for One Teacher-Delivered Course in High School

What is the cost per student for any high school course? To be more exacting you could do the following calculation:

Teacher hourly salary rate x [# of hours for class + # of prep/support hours]

or  use a simpler calculation:

Teacher annual salary ($57,000) divided by # of classes taught over two semesters (14) divided by average # of students in the class (25)
References
http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/high-school-teacher/salary
http://new.every1graduates.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/OVAE_Cost_of_SLCs_Final_Balfanz.pdf

Teacher-Delivered Cost per Student

Teacher = ($57,000 / 14)/25 = $162 per student per class.
Of course adding school payroll burden for benefits and retirement of approximately 30% = $162 x 1.30 = $211 per student as a minimum. Double that to cover physical buildings and staff overhead which brings the teacher-delivered cost per student per course up to a more realistic $422 per student per course.

Your Pricing

Based on teacher-delivered pricing, you have room to price your offering in a way that is a win-win for you and the school. Keep in mind you are being given the facilities within the school and you are benefiting from the administrative overhead and lower overall marketing costs so it is not realistic to set a price of $422 per student for your offering. The price you want to stay closer to is the $211 per student for  a work agreement of 15+ students on one or two scheduled days per week.

Doing single student counseling/coaching with a school district? You need a contract based on multiple students in a semester that you will be providing one-on-one services to. That might be an estimate but at least you see what kind of interest, if not commitment, the school district has in using you.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Do I Need to Have A Career Plan in High School?


dream-job-nextexitThe old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” means if you do not know about a problem, you will not be able to make yourself unhappy by worrying about it. That belief is supported by the belief “ignorance is bliss“.

When it comes to creating/having a career plan, focusing on it (worrying about it) will actually create a great deal of happiness, help you avoid major stress and save you (and/or your parents) thousands of dollars. Based on almost daily news, the amount of college loan debt has escalated to levels considered very dangerous for our economy and for individuals. Having excessive education loan debt is a personal accountability issue – not a national economy issue.

How much debt do you want or plan to have when you graduate college? According to an article in the Huffington Post, “the average college graduate obtained a degree in 2012 with $29,400 in student debt, up from $18,750 less than a decade before in 2004, according to a new report.” To avoid unnecessary costs (which frequently ends up becoming debt) during college, avoid changing majors and choose the right college or university for you. If you are unsure about a career direction and go into college as an “undeclared major” you are likely to not have any revelations about a career direction by the end of your Freshman year. Whether you put it off or tackle career planning in high school, the only way to avoid unnecessary expense and find true happiness is to do the career planning work.

So, the short answer to the question, Do I Need to Have a Career Plan in High School?, is that you need to be doing the work of creating a career plan. The Career Coaching for Students program looks at this work as developing Decision Making skills. Decision making is a recognized skill of highly successful people and happens to be one of the weakest skills for incoming Freshman in college. You don’t necessarily need to have made a career decision but you need to be well on your way to identifying and understanding your career interests and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with your career interests.

A career plan is the reward for the work you’ll do to determine your skills and interests, what career best suits your talents, and what skills and training you need for your chosen career.

By developing a career plan, you can focus on what you want to do and how to get there without worrying and without unnecessary expense. To do this well, you must start with a “professional-grade assessment” that helps you understand your personality strengths. Career planning is only one benefit of using assessments to become much more self-aware.  You’ll also find you will have a better understanding of your skills and experiences to discuss with potential employers (on your resume and in future interviews).

To eventually have a defined career goal, get started now.

A career goal can be a specific job you want to do — such as doctor or teacher — or be a particular field you want to work in, such as medicine or education.

Rather than limiting your future, a career goal may help you discover career possibilities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. There are several job possibilities with any chosen career. For instance, if you choose a medical career, you may want to be a scientist, a nurse, or a doctor.

A career goal can also guide you into doing what you want with your life.

  1. Become Self-Aware.
  2. Identify Career Interests.
  3. Narrow your career interests to a top two or three.
  4. Determine what you need to do to prepare for your chosen career.
  5. Besides the right college major, do you need special training? Some careers need the specialized training but don’t require a college degree. If so, find out what schools offer the training you need. Also, determine what kind of experience will you need to be successful in the career. Consider an internship as a way to get work experience in the career field.
  6. Write your career plan.  Use online tools to help you create a visual career plan.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Free Download: Knock Em Dead Secrets and Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers


The Wall Street Journal says Martin Yate is “One of the most admired authors in the career space.” The US News and World Report says “Classic…” and the Los Angeles Times says “Nineteen editions says something about quality”.

Martin Yate is a New York Times bestseller.

Martin Yate has an exciting free gift available on Amazon this week!  You can get a free copy of the Kindle version of  Knock Em Dead Secrets & Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers from now until Sunday (April 27) at Midnight.  I invite you to share this book with the young people in your life. It’s perfect for college students, recent graduates, emerging professionals and anyone who wants to get their career started on the right foot.  Click  here to download.

Click HERE to download your FREE copy today. Please tell your friends and  share the offer with your social networks – the offer expires at Midnight on April 27th.

Don’t own a Kindle? You can download a free Kindle app on almost any computing device HERE.

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So what do you want to do with your life?