Category Archives: Education Grant

Commencement Speeches are Coming Too Late, Let’s Aim for Incoming Freshmen …in High School

Tony Balis of posted a great article on commencement speeches that culminated from work he began in 1989. He listed speeches from 1936 to 2009. Balis states, “The commencement ceremony affirms each student’s search for knowledge. It often includes a graduation speech which seeks to put their recent hard (or not so hard) work into the context of their future. Yet — as we graduate from one year to another, one relationship to another, one experience to another — we always are learning.”

This article highlights some of the “better” points made by various commencement speakers and provides a commencement speech for incoming high school freshmen.

It isn’t about being a doctor, lawyer, President of the United States, accountant or CEO. It is about passion for what you do. What the world needs is more people who are passionate about what they do.

Whether the remarks above were given decades ago or just a year ago, they are as relevant and important, perhaps increasingly so, as the state of our world evolves. Ask yourself, have you found your passion? Are you equipped for life’s challenges? The links are to solutions for each question. Enjoy.

Sting (born Gordon Sumner), Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA, May 24, 1994
“There’s always something more to learn.”

Michael Josephson,
“Listen to both your heart and your head. Pursue your passions, but don’t confuse feelings with facts. Almost nothing is as good or as bad as it first appears, and all things change. By all means, set goals and go after your dreams, but know that your ultimate happiness will depend not on your plans but your ability to cope with unexpected turns and unavoidable ups and downs. You may not get what you thought you wanted, but if you’re willing to adapt, you can get something even better.”

Paul HawkenPaul Hawken, “The Earth is Hiring”, Univ. of Portland, May 3, 2009
The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you. You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

Barack ObamaBarack Obama, “Make Us Believe Again”, Commencement address at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, USA, May 28, 2008
“…And at first we didn’t get very far…It wasn’t easy, but eventually, we made progress…Through service, I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America…You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy. …But I hope you don’t. …It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. …There are so many ways to serve and so much that needs to be done at this defining moment in our history. You don’t have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President. …know that you’ll experience the occasional frustrations and the occasional failures. Even your successes will be marked by imperfections and unintended consequences. I guarantee you, there will be times when friends or family urge you to pursue more sensible endeavors with more tangible rewards. And there will be times where you will be tempted to take such advice. …But I hope you’ll remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change the world. …I can still remember a conversation I had with an older man all those years ago right before I was headed for my new job in Chicago. He said, “Barack, I’ll give you a bit of advice. Forget this community organizing business and do something that’s gonna make you some money. You can’t change the world, and people won’t appreciate you trying. But you’ve got a nice voice, so you should think about going into television broadcasting. I’m telling you, you have a future there.” Now, I’ve wondered, he might have been right about that TV thing, but he was wrong about everything else.”

Barbara KinsolverBarbara Kingsolver, “Your Money or Your Life”, Commencement address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA, May 11, 2008
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides. …The happiest people are the ones with the most community. … The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on. If you run out of hope at the end of the day, to rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason you won’t give in.”

Bill GatesBill Gates, “Great Expectations”, Commencement address at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts USA, June 7, 2007
“…Radcliffe (residential college at Harvard) was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and most of the guys were science-math types. That combination offered me the best odds, if you know what I mean. This is where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success. …One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975, when I made a call from Currier House to a company in Albuquerque that had begun making the world’s first personal computers. I offered to sell them software. I worried that they would realize I was just a student in a dorm and hang up on me. Instead they said: “We’re not quite ready, come see us in a month,” which was a good thing, because we hadn’t written the software yet. From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra credit project that marked the end of my college education and the beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft. …Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and in the meantime, make the smartest application of the technology that you already have-whether it’s something sophisticated, like a drug, or something simpler, like a bednet.”

Ken Burns, “A Vanguard Against this New Separatism”, Commencement address at Georgetown University
Washington D.C., USA, May 20, 2006

“…I am now absolutely convinced that he was right and that your future lies behind you. In your past, personal and collective. In the last thirty years of filmmaking, I have learned many things, but that the past is our greatest teacher is perhaps the most important lesson. …But for the most part we live, today, in a culture so dedicated to an all-consuming present, where people can name you ten brands of blue jeans or perfume or handbags, but can’t name you that many presidents, that we are all, I suppose, complicit in helping to eradicate our past and its valuable lessons. …As you pursue your goals in life, that is to say your future, pursue your past. Let it be your guide. Insist on having a past and then you will have a future. Do not descend too deeply into specialism in your work. Educate all your parts. You will be healthier. Replace cynicism with its old-fashioned antidote, skepticism.

William Allen White, Commencement Address at Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois, June 1936

“Our American Constitution, for instance, is a national compact of our individual and of our social duties. It has worked in this country after a fashion. Yet the same Constitution, or nearly the same, has been adopted in a dozen other lands and has failed. Why has it held us to an essential unity? I am satisfied that our Constitution has stood up because Americans actually have established here a sort of code of duties. That has been the crystallizing principle that has held us together – duty of man to man, of region to region, of class to class, of race to race, of faith to faith. That duty has bred something more than neighborly tolerance. It has engendered a profound desire in very American’s heart to make life as pleasant as it may be made – not merely for himself, indeed not chiefly for himself, but for others. Thus we have found and cherished true liberty. …Now, as an ancestor, let me caution you, my heirs and assigns, that “new” political attitudes are symptoms of greed for power. They will fool you if you channel your thinking into narrow dialectics. Don’t take your logical premise from your class self-interest. Don’t build your logic upon a purely selfish structure. Don’t think as plutocrats. Don’t reason as members of the middle class or as proletarians. Such thinking is too sure of its own syllogisms ever to be just. Such thinking rejects the possibility that there is truth and that there may be reason in the contention of another class of society. This same discord that has torn as under so many peoples in Europe, where fifty years ago democracy seemed to be taking root, today is seeding in our land. …You must reorganize life in your America and point your achievement toward a fairer distributive system. Abundance is here for the taking. don’t bemoan your lost frontier. It is even now flashing on our horizon. A gorgeous land lies before you fair and more beautiful than man before has ever known. Out of the laboratory will come new processes to multiply material things for your America, to multiply them almost infinitely; but only if you will hold open the channels of free science, unfettered thought, and the right of a man to use his talents to the utmost provided he gives honest social returns for the rewards he takes. And now, in closing, on behalf of your fathers who are bequeathing to you their choicest gifts, let me say that your heritage is not in these great lovely cities, not this wide and fertile land, not the mountains full of undreamed of riches. These you may find in other continents. What we leave you that is precious are the few simple virtues which have stood us in good stead in the struggle of our generation. We will and bequeath to you our enthusiasm, our diligence, our zeal for a better world, that were the lode stars of our fathers. As our legatees we assign you our tolerance, our patience, our kindness, our faith, hope, and love, which make for the self-respect of man. These qualities of heart and mind grow out of a conviction that the democratic philosophy as mode of thinking will lead mankind into a nobler way of life…”

Anderson CooperAnderson Cooper, Tulane University, 2010 Commencement Keynote
“I do hope at some point this weekend, if you haven’t already, you’ll look your parents in the eyes, hold them close, and thank them for their sacrifices. As hard as you’ve worked to get here, they have worked even harder. So parents if your kids haven’t said it, let me just say it for them, thank you. …I must admit I always find it odd to hear myself introduced as a TV anchor.. I never set out to be one and am always suspicious when of anyone who tells me that’s what they want to be. …its like a kid who tells me they want to be a politician. I think you should be a real person before you become a fake one. …After months of waiting, I decided if no one would give me a chance as a reporter, I should take a chance. If no one would give me an opportunity, I would have to make my own opportunity. …I wanted to be a war correspondent, so I decided to just start going to wars. As you can imagine, my mom was thrilled about the plan. I had a friend make a fake press pass for me on a mac, and I borrowed a home video camera… and I snuck into Burma and hooked up with some students fighting the Burmese government… then I moved onto Somalia in the early days of the famine and fighting there. …I figured if I went to places that were dangerous, I wouldn’t have as much competition, and because I was willing to sleep on the roofs of buildings, and live on just a few dollars a day, I was able to charge very little for my stories. As ridiculous as it sounds, my plan worked, and after two years on my own shooting stories in war zones, I was hired by ABC news as a correspondent. I was the youngest correspondent they had hired in many years. Had I gotten the entry-level job I’d wanted, I would have never become a network correspondent so quickly, I probably would never have even become one at all. The things which seem like heartbreaking setbacks, sometimes turn out to be lucky breaks. …While I don’t remember commencement, I do remember my senior year of college feeling paralyzed, because I thought I had to figure out my future all at once. Pick a career, start down a path I’d be on for the rest of my life. I now know it doesn’t work that way. Everyone I know who is successful, and by successful I mean happy in their professional or personal life, every successful person I know could never have predicted when they graduated from college where they’d actually end up. …I’m not saying you should take it easy and just see what happens. You need to outwork everyone around you. You need to arrive early, stay late, you need to make yourself indispensable – you should also probably get rid of those Facebook photos of you passed out on bourbon street. …But as you consider what to do now, you shouldn’t necessarily feel that your next step is the most important one you’ll ever take. It’s not. You will go down many paths that go nowhere. Especially you English majors. You will try things on and realize they don’t fit. And that’s how it should be. Learning what you don’t want to do, is the next best thing to figuring out what you do want to do. …Anyway, I’m not much for giving advice. Especially after reading some other people’s speeches. I’ve quoted this before, but I think it’s one worth repeating. This is what Goldie Hawn told graduates several years ago. “while you are continuing to walk down that sometimes-bumpy road of life, develop the art of laughter and joy. Keep in your backpack of treasures the whole you, the best you. The “you” that won’t fear failure, because lessons learned are the only way to grow.” I know. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit too.”

All of these commencement speeches, and many more I read for this posting, have inspired me to give my own, very short speech. But my commencement speech isn’t for college graduates. My commencement speech is for junior high graduates – those entering into high school – and for any high school class, freshman, sophomore, juniors or seniors. So here goes:

Carl Nielson, Commencement Speech for Incoming Freshmen…in High School
“Your past is a part of your future. Your first kiss (if that has happened already), your favorite book, favorite TV show, favorite movie. Your parents. Your teachers. All of this is going to impact your future. If it is a strong positive past, it will serve you well as a foundation for the future. If your past was less than ideal, it can serve you well as a motivator for creating that better future for yourself. Either way, the future is totally in your control – others do not have control of your future – only you do.

Even though you’ve taken several history classes already, you can only see and feel your own past clearly right now – your own past is like a drop of water in all the oceans of our great world. What that means is, don’t let your personal experiences overwhelm you. Don’t let your current self perception dictate what you do tomorrow. The majority of teenagers feel inadequate and insecure. Some show their insecurity through shyness. Others through egotistical behaviors. The insecurity comes partially from being intelligent and partially from giving too much power to the concern for others’ perceptions. The intelligent part refers to the fact that you recognize your current ignorance about yourself and the world around you – that’s smart. Giving too much power to others comes from a lack of self-confidence. A lack of self-confidence is coming from the fact that you haven’t walked through the fire much, say, relative to your parents. The more you do…that is, the more activities you engage in – especially outside your comfort zone, and the more you do for others, will give you fire-walking experiences…without much of the fire that can burn you. If you choose to disengage or to follow others rather than lead yourself, you’ll still get experiences. They will come along slower and they will probably include the kind of fire-walking that tends to burn.

Give yourself permission to study and enjoy history. To give you an idea of how important history is, place yourself into the future, let’s say about 30 years. Today becomes the past. Your entire high school experience is part of your past. Now let’s say you are extremely successful 30 years into the future. How did that happen? How did you become extremely successful? Was what you did in high school a part of why you are so successful 30 years out? Did any world events during your school years frame your thinking and shape your motivators? Now that you are successful, how do you define success?

As you emerge into adulthood, life experiences will be overwhelming at times. For some of you that time has already happened. You will continue to experience overwhelming events through your entire life. It isn’t a matter of “if” you have a hard life. You will have a hard life. The real question is “how will you lead your life?”. Will you see your life with happiness and gratitude? To answer the question for myself, my life has been a journey. Not an easy journey. I’ve come to realize that that isn’t good or bad. I’ve chosen my view of acceptance of life’s hard work and have developed an appreciation for myself and for so many people that have been in my life.

There was a time I thought I wasn’t too intelligent. It was during junior/senior high school. I learned many years later that I had many intelligences and in fact some were much higher than average. Instead of being egotistical about my abilities, I am humbled by my abilities. I also see everyone else with the same colored glasses…each of you are extremely talented and above average.  You see, I’ve been running a quasi-experiment for 30 years without really knowing it. In my work as a consultant to corporations, I help CEOs and managers select the best person for a particular job or position in those companies. In all of my work, I never measure IQ or “intelligence quotient” to  predict how well a particular candidate will perform. What I measure has more to do with something you already have right now. Your talent.

Your talents are already established. All you need to do is add a little ingredient called Life Skills and use your moral compass. Together, your talent and a solid foundation in specific life skills guided by a moral compass will take you to a successful future – I guarantee it! Don’t let anyone convince you that you aren’t smart enough. You are smart enough – regardless of your grades today. What will count most is that you find what excites you. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive. For success to find you requires finding what excites you. There are many paths. You will take several of them to find your success in life. You can do it by chance or you can take control. Either way you’ll get there. One path is much slower than the other path. But in the end it is your choice.”

In closing, remember the words stated by many including Drew Brees at the Loyola University New Orleans, 2010 Commencement: “Love what you do. You will know it when you find it. Enjoy the journey.” But be sure to include quality research at the beginning of your journey and you’ll find your journey to be awesome.” Link to Drew Brees’ speech:

I hope you found this entire article helpful including the links to the full commencement speeches. More 2010 commencement speeches are available at

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries ( and The Nielson Group (, an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at Are you past the high school and college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

2 Ways Students Get Mentoring without a Mentor

A mentor is a great resource for career advice, feedback, and help in building your skills and capabilities. However, it’s not always possible to find one person who has the time or expertise to help you with all of the above. Try these two approaches to getting the mentoring you need: 

  1. Ask adults within your personal network (friends’ parents, teachers, parents’ friends)  for advice. Reach out to a person who you respect for advice or coaching on a specific challenge. Busy people are more likely to have an hour to spend with you than to be able to commit to a long-term mentoring relationship.
  2. Create a personal board of advisors. Line up a group of adults who are willing to give you periodic feedback on things like career options, choosing a major based on a career interest, college choices, etc. This type of quick, periodic input can be especially valuable when it comes from several adults with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

The Career Coaching for Students™ program includes building a board of advisors and leveraging a network of contacts that has long-term benefits for the student.

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

School Principal – Most Hated Profession?

The website has a post to ask the question “why is school principal one of the most hated professions”? Is the school principal really hated? As the article suggests, the school principal is like the CEO of the school. If a school principal did their job in a very respectable manner (highly effective communicator, consistently making good decisions, setting clear strategies and goals, supporting all stakeholders effectively) would they really be hated? Experience and research  in the work world suggests that someone in a job that can be “disliked for what it is” can actually change the perception, and in fact, not be hated. It is based on the person’s talents and how well they match to the job’s requirements.Teacher to School Principal - Should I or Should I Not?

The position of School Principal is ususally obtained through the teaching path. So which teachers make good Principals? Is it possible that there are some teachers that are not cut out to be teachers but could be great school principals? The two jobs are so different that it is very likely that a mediocre teacher can make a great school principal. However, there are certain personal leadership qualities that a teacher must have that will serve a person in the principal’s role. Without those, the person would fail in the principal’s role.

If you are a teacher or Principal of a school and want to assess your personal talent skills (no cost) please complete the information request form on our home page.  You may also e-mail directly to Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer, Success Discoveries. For the subject line, please reference: Personal Talent Skills for School Principal, skill assessment request.

Frontline Exposes Fraudulent Student Enrollment Practices

Frontline College Inc. Exposes Fraudulent PracticesThe award-winning PBS series Frontline has produced a program called College, Inc. that exposes the promises made and recruiting tactics used by for-profit schools to enroll students. If you, or your son/daughter, are being pressured by for-profit schools we recommend you watch the video. The program exposes extensive fraud associated with “career counseling”. There are employees with job titles that imply career counseling is what they do. These are sales people that have one objective – to sign up as many students as possible.

The issue has become so large that the U. S. Department of Education has become involved. Federal aid to for-profit colleges has become an issue as it has jumped to $26.5 billion in 2009 from $4.6 billion in 2000, according to the Education Department, prompting concern that these students are taking on too much debt (see Bloomberg Businessweek “Obama Plans New Rules as For-Profit Colleges Mobilize“). If the earning potential of graduates were high enough to pay back the loans within a reasonable time period, the issue wouldn’t be nearly as significant. However, these for-profit programs are not delivering on promises they make to students. They will say anything to enroll a student.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at Are you past the high school and college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.

What Will You Be Doing 7 Years From Now?

This is a special article written by Augie Mendoza and re-posted from Bob Proctor’s Insight of the Day. This story connects to graduating high school students of today. As you will read, Augie graduated from high school in 1972. Read the story to get some insight into how career planning was addressed “back in the day”.

by Augie Mendoz,
I graduated from Brazosport High School in Freeport, Texas in May 1972. Not dressed in white (honors), but I graduated.

That summer like the previous summer, I worked as a longshoreman loading corn, flour and corn sacks weighing 50 to 140 lbs. and 900 lbs. caustic soda drums on freight ships bound to other countries at nearby Brazos Harbor and Dow Chemical A2 Dock.

This was one of the better paying jobs in the area. It was grueling, hard, heavy work, but I loved it at the time. My father had been doing this job most of his life since it paid well.

Fall came around and I had already decided that I did not want to make my living as a longshoreman. Work was inconsistent and when it was there it only went to the ones with the most seniority, unless there was too much. There was very little opportunity for a better job when you got older.

I had always heard that a college education would get you a better job and decided to find out. So I went to nearby Brazosport College and set up an appointment with a counselor.

I got to his office at the appointed time and he asked me what work or profession interested me the most. I had taken Auto Mechanics I & II during my junior and senior years in high school and asked him if Brazosport College had an auto mechanics program.

He said “no.” I asked him if they had anything similar to it. He said that the Machine Tools Technology program was very similar and described the program to me.

I was very interested and asked him how long it would take if I went full time. He said “4 years.” I said I couldn’t go full time since I am working (whenever work was available).

I asked how long would it take if I go part time? He said “7 years.” I was shocked. I said, “Man, I’ll be old then, I’ll be 25 years old. I don’t thing so.”

He asked me, “what did you say you did for a living right now?”

I told him again that I worked as a longshoreman throwing bags and manhandling drums. Then he bent over his desk and looked me square in the eye and asked me the most significant words I will never forget in my life:


These words hit me like a ton of bricks! I sheepishly told him that I would be doing the same thing. I signed up for the classes right then and there.

These prophetic words have inspired many of my relatives and friends. The sun will rise and fall 365 days a year. What you choose to do in between will determine many things in your life.

This story alone has inspired relatives and friends to realize an age-old truth: Time will go on regardless and it waits on nobody.

Years later, I told a co-worker this story. He got inspired enough that he went on and got 3 different degrees in computers in less than 7 years! He said afterwards, “7 years ago I would’ve been saying to myself, ‘If only I had the opportunity.'”

Augie Mendoza

My impression is that there are millions of Augies graduating this year – in 2010. Yes, some kind of career planning efforts are going on in high school. Yes, career interest assessments are being offered. Yes, the Internet has opened an entire world of opportunity to all students. Do college admissions counselors care today, yes, very much. Based on job satisfaction surveys, people are very effectively getting college degrees and going into “jobs” but too few are finding their passion. Finding your passion and immersing in that passion is like getting a 50 point boost in your IQ. Are you engaged in your own career planning?

So how is today’s career planning different than it was “back in the day”?
Let’s put it this way. If you are wanting to learn how to cook would you go to your local certified mechanic or would you look for a culinary class. Receiving career counseling from teachers and counselors in high school is certainly a good start. Receiving educational advice from a college placement office is also good to do. But if you want to seriously explore careers and create the plan that positions you for success, wouldn’t it be best to utilize a career coach who has extensive knowledge and experience “outside the academic world”? Career Coaching for Students™ is delivered by professional career coaches that have a passion for helping students and the right expertise to help you to create a strategic career path that leverages your passions. The program’s internet resources save considerable time finding the information that is most useful for you. To see what a career coach looks like, check out the Career Coaching for Students™ Career Coaches Profiles.

What is the Primary Reason Students Don’t Receive Career Coaching?

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?Student Career Coaching? What a Concept!

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?

Student Career Exploration Requires HARD Goals

In my last article, I discussed traditional goal setting, that the concept comes out of the world of business management and MBA programs and how goal setting needs to be addressed differently for students to set goals that truly enable them to achieve great things?Students: Combine a vision with some small steps and you have forward

I converted the wording of a Leadership IQ study findings (see my previous article) to be applicable to a high school student’s situation, and made the focus specific to career exploration and career planning that leads to “achieving great things“. HARD goals look like this:

Heartfelt — My career goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me in a way that I can connect with
Animated — I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my career goals
Required — My personal goals are necessary to help me
Difficult — I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to achieve my career goals

I went on to argue, like the study’s findings in the corporate world, that students fail to use career counseling, and parents don’t search out career coaching independently, for the same reasons employees report that using techniques such as SMART goals is “not helpful for achieving great things“. The aha moment about this is “Why pursue something that doesn’t work (the school’s curriculum around career counseling)?

Does the career planning program at your high school (or college) incorporate a strategy to generate HARD career goals? Are students engaged in their own career exploration. Are they driving their own achievement? Based on the four HARD goals listed, if you were to measure the effectiveness of most career planning and development programs offered to teenagers, would the program pass the test?

If you didn’t complete our Student Priorities Survey in the previously article please help us collect research data …and see how others have responded as well.

Parents: Want your teenager to better understand and communicate with you? Take the Family Insights parent behavioral style assessment (we call it the Parent User Manual). Complete the information form at bottom of home page to receive instructions.

So how does Career Coaching for Students™ align with and support the concept of using HARD goals and what results are we seeing with students going through the program? Here are the main bullet points:

  • Our assessments speak to the student (and parents) in a way that provides incredible insight, validation, confidence
  • Our exercises are tangible yet enable the student to have a heartfelt and animated experience throughout the program and beyond
  • Students are taking the vivid picture they develop from the program beyond the exercises. They come away with a new and sustained energy that says “I’ve found my passion, I have to do this, I can do this”. Sound too rosy? In our post workshop evaluation research, we found every student we talked with actually felt this way – even for those students that were less confident at the end of the workshop or non-committal, with parents present (choosing a career by the end of the workshop is not the goal of the Career Coaching for Students™ program).
  • The “difficult” part actually turns out not to be so difficult. We work on action planning in small increments that are very doable. Combine a vision with some small steps and you have forward movement. Students can never dream too big. We also recognized that having the soft skills necessary to be successful is just as important as making a good career choice. We addressed soft skill development as an extra module in the program and called it Life Skills for Students™.

Just for reading this article, thank you! As a sincere show of appreciation, we’re offering to you the Life Skills for Students™ 12-week e-learning module. To get this program started for your student, go to Life Skills for Students™ 12-week e-learning module registration and for coupon code enter ccfshardgoals. Once you complete the registration form (you will not need to enter any credit card information) you’ll begin receiving the 12-week Life Skills for Students™ program via e-mail. Be sure to check your “junk folder” if you don’t receive the intended e-mails.

And let us know what you think!

Should Students Have Career Goals? What We’re Learning About Career Goal Setting

Traditional goal setting comes out of the world of business management and MBA programs. In my work with corporations and coaching adults in career transition, I see the greatest success stories when people connect with their personal passions. Notice, I didn’t say …when people do better at goal setting. This article summarizes a recent study about goal setting and transfers the learning to high school (and college) students. Do we want students to set goals that truly enable them to achieve great things? If so, how do we do that?

Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, studied 4,182 workers from 397 organizations to see what kind of goal-setting processes actually help employees achieve great things. There is great potential here for a connection to “helping students achieve great things”.

The study discovered that, in organizations, people’s goals are not particularly helpful. In fact, the survey found that only 15% of employees strongly agree that their goals will help them achieve great things. And only 13% of employees strongly agree that their goals this year will help them maximize their full potential.

The study and analysis revealed 8 statistically significant predictors of whether somebody’s goals were going to help them achieve great things. In other words, if you want employees to say, “Wow, my goals this year are really going to help me achieve great things”, there are eight characteristics that their goals should have.

Here’s are the Top 8 Factors for predicting a goal will help a person achieve great things, in order of statistical importance:

  1. I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
  2. I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
  3. My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
  4. I actively participated in creating my goals for this year.
  5. I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish my goals.
  6. My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone.
  7. My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (customers, the community, etc.).
  8. My goals are aligned with the organization’s top priorities for this year.

A few things jump out of the analysis according to the authors:

  • Whether goals were specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (businesses call these SMART goals) had no unique predictive power in the analysis
  • For people to achieve great things, their goals must require them to learn new skills and leave their comfort zone
  • So we’ve just learned that the typical goal-setting processes companies have been using for decades are NOT helping employees achieve great things. And, in fact, the type of goal-setting we SHOULD be doing (assuming we actually want our employees to achieve great things) is pretty much the OPPOSITE of what organizations have been doing for the past few decades.

  • Another insight from the analysis is that goals need to be much more than just words on a little form. For a goal to help people achieve great things, that goal has to leap off the paper. It has to be so vividly described that people can feel how great it will be to achieve it. It has to sing to them, to touch the deepest recesses of their brain. When’s the last time your goals did that?
  • And statistically, to achieve greatness, a goal also has to be bigger than ourselves. We have to identify whose lives will be enriched by our goals. And those goals had better be absolutely necessary (and also aligned with our organization’s top priorities) or they just aren’t going to help employees achieve great things.

To summarize briefly, HARD goals are:

  • Heartfelt — My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me—customers, the community, etc.
  • Animated — I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
  • Required — My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
  • Difficult — I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to achieve my assigned goals for this year.

Applying the learnings to Students

Let’s convert the wording of the study’s findings to be applicable to a high school student’s situation, and make the focus specific to career exploration and career planning that leads to “achieving great things”.

Heartfelt — My career goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me
Animated — I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my career goals
Required — My personal goals are absolutely necessary to help me
Difficult — I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to achieve my career goals

Does a student need some kind of goal setting? Of course. But I’ll argue, like the study’s findings, that students fail to utilize career counseling, and parents don’t search out career coaching independently, for the same reasons employees report that using techniques such as SMART goals is “not helpful for achieving great things”. Why pursue something that doesn’t work?

Does the career planning program at your high school (or college) incorporate a strategy to generate HARD career goals? Are students engaged in their own career exploration. Are they driving their own achievement? Based on the four HARD goals listed, if you were to measure the effectiveness of most career planning and development programs offered to teenagers, would the program pass the test?

Complete a Student Priorities Survey and see how others have responded.

Parents: Want your teenager to better understand and communicate with you? Take the Family Insights parent behavioral style assessment (we call it the Parent User Manual). Complete the information form at bottom of home page to receive instructions.

In my next article, I’ll address how Career Coaching for Students™ is totally aligned with HARD goals and what results we’re seeing with students going through the program.

Abusive Teaching or Inspiring Leadership

An article posted by Harvard Business Review and written by Gill Corkindale addresses Gordon Brown’s leadership style. The title of the article is Gordon Brown’s Leadership, Passionate or Bullying?

For the average student in U.S. high schools, Gordon Brown may be known only as a political figure. He is Britain’s Prime Minister. However, he represents something that is found in almost every organization, including schools and some family structures.

In the article, Ms. Corkindale states “For many of us, there is a disturbing familiarity about these reports [of bullying behavior], which stir up memories of our own bullying bosses, teachers and colleagues. Unfortunately it is all too easy to visualize the disturbing picture of Mr. Brown as a leader prone to “volcanic eruptions of bad behavior,” outbursts of anger, black moods, permanent states of rage, and a boiling temper. And some of us will recognise the panic and mayhem in his office from our own experience, with stressed staff running around, lashing out at each other, and an inner circle divided and in flux.”

She raises the question: Do  the best leaders have some bullying tendencies?

Ms. Corkindale states the obvious when she says that bullying is unacceptable. Bullies are frightening, destructive and a drain on resources, time and energy. “I well recall the boss who had to be appeased constantly, whose moods changed like the weather, who regularly put staff under the spotlight or dressed them down in public, and who believed that all problems were caused by the incompetence of others. Such “leaders” demean people, lower morale, and create cultures of fear. Sadly, I have coached too many people who have had to work for such people over the years.”

In Mr. Brown’s case, elections can remove him from the privilege of leadership. In the case of teachers and school administrators, contracts may not be renewed. In the case of managers in an organization, I’ve seen many abusive managers be tolerated by upper management because they may generate short term results. I’ve also seen those same organizations fail.

Everyone is under pressure and occasionally events conspire to make us lose our temper. But that is different than creating a culture of fear, allowing emotions to consistently overcome us and disrespecting others. Then it becomes an abuse of power — and the leader remains one in name only.

For you students who have either seen abusive behavior in school or have yet to see it, it will happen – unfortunately. If the behavior is negatively effecting you, I strongly urge you to ask the person for a “closed door” meeting. In that meeting, tell the abusive person what they are doing and how it is effecting you. Tell them that you want to grow and learn but that you will not accept abusive treatment. Explain to them that the next time they treat you disrespectfully you will take it further. Do this with confidence. I promise you it will work to improve your situation and it will help that person be a better leader. If it doesn’t, the person will have created their own demise and will be removed from the organization.

Leadership is a privilege. Abuse of the privilege should always be dealt with directly and timely. Executive coaching is an effective tool for those that have potential and show a sincere desire for personal growth. Teachers and administrators are no different from executives and managers in an organization. Leadership inspires greatness in others. There is no evidence that a bully leader is effective at creating greatness in others or has created sustained success for an organization. A bully leader is effective at creating low self-esteem in others. Many times this is due to a need to boost their own self-esteem.

If you are a parent or a school board member who hears repeated stories of bully leadership, meet with that person one-on-one. Give them feedback that you are aware of the bad behavior and that it isn’t something you will accept going forward. On the flip side, students and parents need to be careful not to punish a good teacher that has standards of excellence and gives students a low grade for mediocrity. A great teacher knows what a student is capable of and has many approaches to inspire greatness in the student. Giving a low grade to someone who is putting half-effort into their work is extremely important. Giving a high grade for mediocre work because of fear of parental retaliation is the worst thing that can happen to the student. They will suffer, possibly for the rest of their life.

Inspiring greatness includes holding and demanding high standards. Allowing a student, parent or an employee to manipulate a leader’s right to demand greatness is just as wrong as a bullying leader. There is no room for either. A truly great leader inspires everyone from students or employees to parents and stakeholders.

Least Valued, Highest Value: Student Career Planning

Career planning is often minimized during high school to a few school English papers, a local career fair and a questionable career test. However, choosing a career direction is one of the most important decisions that students will make. Without proper career planning, many students take 5-6 years to complete a degree. We also see many students who didn’t do much career planning receiving degrees in declining growth fields or fields with a surplus of applicants and having difficulty finding employment after graduation. This data is not improving with the growth of high school site-licensed web-based offerings. The services offered at college counseling and placement offices is also not improving the situation.

Proper and intentional career planning while in high school plays a critical role in reducing the overall cost of college and increases a students self-esteem and academic success. A contributing factor in the college dropout and transfer rates is a lack of career planning and the failure to make college decisions based on career goals. Research by the US Department of Education (DOE) and American College Testing show that each year, about 50% of college freshman leave the college in which they first enrolled. Of the dropouts, about 30% transfer to other colleges at least once, and 20% transfer twice and typically take 6 or more years to complete a 4-year program.

Students who receive career planning prior to college choice and attendance have fewer changes in college major and fewer college transfers, graduate on time, and tend to be more goal- and academic-focused. Why is that? These students know themselves better than their peers. They also have focused on a career (or career options) that matches their talents. This “match” creates enthusiasm and passion to achieve a future that the student has defined. When you know what you want and you know how to get it, doing the work required to reach your goal is much easier.

So what does an effective career planning program produce:

  1. Significantly greater self awareness, an understanding of a person’s talent beyond the feedback given in school
  2. Valid and reliable career-focused assessments that give the student useful information about their talent
  3. A clear connection between a person’s talent and possible career choices that will produce satisfaction and success
  4. Implementation of strategies for learning about high-potential career choices
  5. Implementation of strategies for learning about educational options to support high-potential career options
  6. Developing clear action steps that the student is able to execute independently without outside motivation

Myths that create problems years later
Career coaching is something students will have access to in high school or at college
Investing in career coaching for a student is not necessary
Academically high achieving students don’t need career coaching
Average academic students don’t need career coaching
Future success is dependent on how well you do in school

A person who has chosen a path they are passionate about will be much more likely to experience high levels of satisfaction and success
Students who have a clear and positive future-view do better in all areas – academically, overcoming personal obstacles, relationships, etc.
A student who takes personal accountability for their future is more likely to succeed

There are many web-based career planning sites being implemented at high schools across the country. A few of the programs are Kuder, Naviance and Bridges Career Choices. There are others. They all provide a similar set of features.  A program that is different is Career Coaching for Students™. This is a program that utilizes “career coaching” as its foundational center and uses assessments for career matching and enhancing self-awareness. The guidebook provides a step-by-step approach so that any parent, coach, counselor or teacher can deliver the content and support the student. Consequently it is effective as an in-home parent-student self-directed program or as a student-parent workshop with a professionally trained facilitator coach or as a semester class. The semester curriculum can be integrated into an existing school program. Student workshops are held in various cities around the U.S. and each of the licensed facilitators offer one-on-one programs as well.