Category Archives: high school career development curriculum

What Career Assessment is Best for 14 Year Olds?


talentinsightsforstudents_coverpageWith any assessment used for career matching, it is important that it be valid and reliable. It is also important that it be applied with that same care. When you add age as a criteria, you are simply being more specific about validity and reliability – that is – you are wanting the assessment, the output or report and the process to be valid and reliable for the typical 14 year old.

A Validity score is simply stating how accurately the assessment is for what it measures. A Reliability score is simply stating how accurately the assessment measures the same thing over time. More info on validity and reliability here.

With the Career Coaching for Students™ program for 14 year olds, we use two assessments that measure behavioral style and personal motivation (personal interests, attitudes and values). Behaviors and Motivators are two areas of talent that have extensive career matching data and are two areas that employers look at with assessments to determine job matching of candidates. The assessment we use, Talent Insights for Students™, is highly engaging and serves to bring exceptional clarity about the students strengths and interests based on behavioral style and personal motivators. For both areas measured, the validity and reliability for anyone who has an 8th grade or higher reading ability is very strong.

The next concern is about the assessment output or client report. Any assessment that produces a simple list of job titles is not going to be helpful. In fact, it can be damaging or at the least discouraging. Without guidance, many teens will “check out” once they receive a list of job titles that appear to be nonsensical, even if buried in the list are some good possibilities. One or two erroneous, nonsensical job titles or a list of 50 titles without a way to reduce the list most likely invalidates the entire list from the student’s perspective. Engaging the student means giving them information and a process for working with that information.

An excellent assessment report will provide insight to the student in a manner that produces very high “face validity”. Face validity is the simple reading and agreeing by the recipient. From the parent’s perspective, parts of the Talent Insights for Students report, specifically the behavioral section, will be easily validated this way by the parent. However, parents report learning a great deal about their child when they read sections of the report that cover the student’s personal interests, attitudes and values. The typical statement by parents that we hear is “I had never thought of that before but now it makes perfect sense“. These personal interests and values are sometimes called the “hidden motivators” only because they aren’t easily recognized when observing the behaviors of a person. A person’s motivators tell us why they do something. A person’s behavioral style tells us how they do something (observable).

The next critical component for 14 year olds is the career evaluation process. The process or steps the student [and career counselor] is provided in the program guidebook should empower the student to easily narrow the entire world of opportunity. Through a proven and easy-to-follow process, the student identifies career possibilities from their behavioral style and motivators. The goal of the process is to filter a larger list of high-potential possibilities into three to five high-potential career options that they are “positively curious” about. The student then performs high-level research on each to determine a top interest with 2 or 3 strong backup career interests. Students use the #1 choice to dive deep on the research, talk to people in the career, job shadow, flush out education requirements, college major, best school choices, etc. At any time they can switch to their #2 or #3 choice knowing any of the choices are a strong match to their talent profile.

The key for the 14 year old is that the assessment is valid and reliable with 8th grade reading comprehension, the output provides an excellent opportunity to build self-awareness and the process is engaging and valid from the students’ perspective. Studies show the behavioral style and motivational design of an individual is well developed and relatively stable by the teen years. The student’s behavioral style may shift slightly by the time they graduate high school but not much. This slight behavioral shift will not alter the usefulness of the career interest process used in the Career Coaching for Students™ program.  

Want more information about Career Coaching for Students? Let us know!

Carl Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries and creator of the Career Coaching for Students program. Carl is also a consultant to large, multi-national companies and small-family-owned businesses, providing applicant assessments, executive coaching and organizational development services.

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