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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).

What’s the difference between a Student Career Coach and a School Counselor?

High School StudentsBy Julie Brewer, M.ED., licensed facilitator, Career Coaching for Students™ program and certified career counselor (GCDF)

What’s the difference between a high school counselor and a student career coach? We need to set the record straight: high school counselors are not the same as a student career coach! Parents need to know what support is being provided at school to help high school students and what is not. The difference can mean thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses for every family, not to mention the psychological impact with self-esteem.

A high school counselor has a broad job description. They are charged with addressing many areas around student success. Unfortunately, they also are responsible for a great deal of administrative work. To see a recent job description for a High School Counselor in a job posting go here.  The consistent theme seen in these job descriptions is a focus on “students in need”.

The school counselor’s educational level or credentials tend to be more specific as well (see Qualifications below). A student ‘career‘ counselor, employed by the school, may be more narrowly focused on student career development but will likely also have a significant administrative workload.

In addition, if the school subscribes to one of the tech solutions offered to high schools, the student career counselor may delegate too much of their career coaching job duties to the technology solution, expecting the student to be self-directed and motivated to use the tools.

A student career coach approaches each student as a unique client. They combine counseling best practices with high-impact career coaching in a manner that empowers the student and family to focus on vision, path and pursuit. The student career coach impacts personal social development, educational achievement, life skills and career direction.

Forward Movement
Career coaches first establish focus around the student’s self-awareness of talent strengths, current realities (academic, soci0-economic, etc.) and personal career and life goals. The student career coach has a method approach to working with the student to develop personal goals and create action goals to move forward – and break through barriers. As they work together, the student career coach looks for any past or current barriers that may be causing any challenges for the student.

Career coaches may have certifications from an accredited body like International Coach Federation (ICF) in addition to an undergraduate and masters in a wide range of career subjects like engineering, accounting, life sciences, psychology, etc. Those that come from academia may have an undergraduate degree in education, sociology or psychology and a masters in a related area. They will likely also have a professional license (e.g. Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC) which is typically required to practice in a school setting in the state they reside.

Outcomes vs. New Directions
A student career coach is going to assess the students’ talents and interests and provide tools and approaches that encourage/challenge the student to identify and research desired career paths and pursue those interests through student-appropriate action planning and execution. A student career coach focuses on co-creating outcomes/results/accomplishments that engage the student. They assess the student’s situation and help detangle confusion or address the emotional reasons if they’re not making progress.

Bottom line, a student career coach is dedicated to leading the student to a place of self-clarity and behaviors that support self-starting engagement in developing and sustaining one’s own future.

Do high academic achievers need a student career coach?
Annual Earnings TrajectoryMost high-achieving students are not provided much attention unless they specifically request assistance. Most students believe they are suppose to somehow magically know what they want to be or have the confidence and ability to figure it out – yet over 90% of students do not have clarity nor the confidence to adequately make decisions effectively.

Unfortunately, many high-achieving students are seen changing majors in college multiple times to “figure it out”. This results in much higher student debt and/or cost to the family – in the tens of thousands of dollars – that is not only unnecessary but delays the student’s ability to begin a career. The lost income by delaying graduation is much higher than the student debt. For example, if a graduating college student’s first salary is projected to be $50,000 per year, that equates to approximately $3,500 per month of income after taxes. Delay graduating by one semester (5 months) and you’ve lost $17,500 in earning potential at the start and over $80,000 for your lifetime. Delay a full year and you’ve lost $42,000 at the start and over $150,000 over a life time. The immediate cost of extending college by one semester is between $15,000 and $20,000 without considering the lost income. Lifetime Earnings Based on Education

Going to the School Counselor
The high school counselor will likely ask the student about why they are stuck in the first place. They will look for where the real motivation exists and if procrastination about making career decisions may have a deeper root somewhere else. The student career counselor will be there to remind you, encourage you and talk you through the experience of the process (taking standardized exams, applying to colleges, choosing a major, choosing a college and perhaps choosing a career).

The student career coach will go into high gear to provide the student with greater self-awareness, identify and narrow high-potential career interests, develop action plans around critical dates and deadlines and connect the student with people who are passionate about and working in the student’s career of interest.

Once the narrowing has been sufficiently completed, the career coach will focus more on what needs to be done today and tomorrow to move the student forward. Sometimes it’s dealing with the fear, but then you still need a method to set you up for success. A career coach helps a student with strategy and to think beyond what would normally be considered. For example, most students don’t realize they can join a professional organization as a student or start volunteering in the field they are interested in pursuing (without making a full commitment to that career yet). Student career coaching moves students into some form of action.

Timing is Everything
When is the best time to employ school counselors and/or career coaches?
We strongly encourage families to meet with the high school counselor the summer of the incoming 9th grade (freshman year). And, ideally, in the same summer before that meeting, employ or attend a student career exploration program such as Career Coaching for Students™ (one-on-one distant coaching by phone/web tools, in-person locally or workshops in your area).

About the Author
Julie Brewer is a licensed facilitator of the Career Coaching for Students™ program. She is a certified career counselor (GCDF) with a Master’s degree in Education and over ten years teaching experience. Her passion and expertise lies in coaching high school and college students to help them identify, appreciate and match their unique set of strengths and talents to high-potential career areas.

Through Career Coaching for Students™, a proven coaching program, Julie works with students and parents to develop a meaningful and successful career and education plan. She was trained in advanced assessment facilitation by Carl Nielson, creator of Career Coaching for Students, and went on to found Compass Discoveries in 2015.

Julie’s two sons graduated from Hinsdale Central High School, her oldest is pursuing a career path in economics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Her youngest is in Ghandruk, Nepal gaining experience in a wildlife conservation gap year program.

In her free time, Julie is an avid traveler, music fan, and life long learner.

Julie’s passions include:
★ Playing the role of certified career counselor, coach, educator, and entrepreneur.
★ Specializing in career coaching students in high school, college and recent grads.
★ Engaging students with high-quality, insightful and accurate assessments.
★ Co-creating achievable and exciting educational plan design based on student’s goals.
★ Introducing and focusing students on life skills development throughout the process.
★ Helping students choose a university and college major or vocation based on career and education goals.

Visit Julie’s website at
Julie’s LinkedIn profile:

Email Julie

The Career Coaching for Students™ program takes a practical, highly effective approach to helping students:
◾Gain greater self-awareness
◾Understand strengths
◾Identify high-potential career options
◾Research different educational strategies
◾Differentiate themselves from the crowd
◾Ensure future success and satisfaction

For more information, visit the website at

Student Career Coaching and the Cure for Alzheimer’s

by Janet Blount, licensed facilitator, Career Coaching for Students™, serving Baltimore, MD and Atlanta, GA

Career Coaching for Students article imageThere are 5.3 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is a debilitating brain disease that robs people of their memories, the ability to speak, read, swallow and enjoy life.

My mother is one of the millions who have Alzheimer’s. I am watching this once vibrant, intelligent woman become a shell of her former self. Those of us who have seen the devastation this disease causes, shout out in despair, that this disease must be cured.

Alzheimer's Effect on the brainSomething that is equally devastating to watching your loved one succumb to this disease is to think that someone who could cure this disease will not because they have not had the opportunity to identify, understand and pursue career paths that match their interests and talents.

The Career Coaching for Students Program is the leading career exploration and planning program that takes a proven approach to coaching students. This program empowers students to gain greater self-awareness and clarity about their strengths and passions, understand the connection between their personal strengths and different career choices, identify high-potential career options that align with the student’s talents and pursue their passion.

The students in the upcoming high school graduating class may invent the cure for Alzheimer’s – if they really know more about themselves. Think about it. It’s about the Science of Self.

Helpful links about Alzheimer’s:

Alzheimer’s Association Website

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)

To learn more about Janet Blount:

Careers Are Us website

On LinkedIn

Career Coaching for Students

Email Janet

When is a person old enough to have a PURPOSE?

Purpose. A lot has been written and said about it because purpose is a significant part of a life well lived. Its power may lie in one simple thought: There is no forward without purpose.

  • Purpose is a stake in the ground. It positions.
  • Purpose is direction. It orients.
  • Purpose is clarity. It focuses.
  • Purpose is energizing. It empowers.
  • Purpose is supportive. It overcomes.

Of course unstructured experimenting and discovery are wonderful tools for living. It’s not always necessary to know your purpose; mindless wandering has its place.

But having a purpose – knowing where ‘forward’ is – quickens the journey.

Coaching Point: When is having a purpose critical versus “nice to have” for teens? What’s your purpose? Where is forward for you?

Our blog’s 2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What’s the Key to Success in Life?

success-really-looks-likeBelow is a link to over 80 people’s responses that address a burning question:  “What would you say if a teenager walked up and asked you: What’s the key to success in Life?” The question drew over 80 responses very quickly from professionals in a wide range of professions. Try using the compiled list of responses as a discussion topic with teenagers. If you are a teenager, try this exercise:

  • Highlight the top four responses (your favorites). Why were they your top four?
  • Were there similarities based on gender or cultural background, etc.?
  • Of your top four, what industry or job did the respondent list?
  • Which responses did you not like? Why?

Download the “response paper” here

Supporting teenagers to find their own voice in the world is what Career Coaching for Studentstm is all about. Let me know if you’d like more information.

My best,
Carl Nielson
Founder and Chief Discovery Officer
Career Coaching for StudentsTM
a Success Discoveries program
(972) 346-2892

Higher Education Career Services Must Die

Better Career Planning Better LifeOn May 15, 2013, Allie Grasgreen published an article on Inside Higher Ed based on Andy Chan’s report “A Roadmap for Transforming the College-to-Career Experience“. That article is referenced here as a foundation for my thoughts offered at the end.

In an interview, Andy Chan starts by saying, “Well, not die, exactly. Transform. The term ‘career services’ has been a phrase that has been used for several decades to describe what colleges have been doing,” says Andy Chan, vice president for personal and career development at Wake Forest University. “It’s not working.”Chan co-edited the new report, “A Roadmap for Transforming the College-to-Career Experience.”“I’m being a little bit dramatic by saying it must die,” Chan says in an interview. “It’s just that that traditional model needs to be totally rethought and resurrected as something different.”

Currently, half-a-dozen — or maybe a dozen, if it’s a big university — overbooked counselors sit in an office and advise students who waited until their senior year to think about how they’re going to get a job. They work alone, independently, one office of many with a given student affairs niche to fill. They counsel and host job fairs and help students network — but only for the students who show up to get help.

“It ends up just being treated as an office that’s one of dozens that performs a specific service,” Chan says, “when in the students’ mind it’s one of the most important questions they have when they come to the school.”

The Higher Ed Roadmap for Transforming the College-to-Career Experience

  1. Develop a Bold Vision and Mission for Personal Career Development
  2. Secure Backing from Institutional Leadership
  3. Strategically Position the Personal and Career Development Leadership Role
  4. Strategically Transform, Build and Align Personal and Career Development Organization and Staff
  5. Gather and Report Personal and Career Development Outcome Data to all Constituents
  6. Engage and Equip a College-to-Career Community of Influencers with a Focus on Faculty and Parents

The transformed model has more staff – plus faculty members and administrators – working together to reach out to all students, from Day One. They work on career counseling and employer and alumni relations, network development and professional development. Their mission squares with the institution’s mission: they provide “personal and career development” to build lifetime employability. They are also a crucial unit of the college and are housed accordingly — under a major administrator.

They gather and report personal and career development outcome data, which they publicize to all stakeholders to make a case supporting the value of higher education and the liberal arts. And they engage with faculty, parents, alumni and employers to build a network of “influencers” to provide help along the way.

“If you take the traditional idea of ‘career services’ and throw it out,” Chan says, “you can come up with a model where the institution is taking responsibility and being accountable for teaching students how to live meaningful, purposeful, successful lives.”

“What we’re pressed to do,” says Kelley Bishop, an assistant vice president of strategic initiatives at Michigan State University whose work is featured in the report, “is embed the career development process into the academic experience. That is the crux of our challenge for our profession for the next decade.”A critical component of this approach is data-gathering. Many colleges, for whatever reason, just aren’t good at tracking and reporting graduates’ career outcomes. That lack of information leads people to decide that colleges – particularly liberal arts ones – aren’t making good on their promise to get graduates gainfully employed, even though that may not be true.

“To the extent that they’re paying attention to their students’ needs and the realities of the world of work today, I think many of them will say this is bold, but it’s the kind of thing that we need to be thinking about if we want to justify the value of higher education,” Chan says. “There are a lot of issues around trying to manage costs, which I completely understand, but the flip side of that question is, how do we continue to create and justify value that matters to our students?

The report cites research from Michigan State’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. A survey of more than 800 employers found that the people hiring (or turning down) liberal arts students for jobs believe those recent graduates are equipped with the work place competencies they need, but were not able to articulate and demonstrate their abilities in job interviews, and did not learn several key technical and professional skills that are highly valued by employers. The report lays this problem at the feet of the universities.

“When we think about how dramatically the world of work has changed, it is remarkable that the methods utilized to prepare students to enter the world of work have remained static,” the report reads. And though the methods may be static, the resources aren’t: colleges slashed career office budgets by an average of 16 percent this past year, the report says.

And there are costs – in time and money — associated with this change.

At Michigan State, Bishop started forming a new “distributive approach” in 2001. Under that model, career services is still decentralized, in a way, as it is at most large universities. Typically, a university will have a very small office, perhaps just one person, at each school or college, but there is little if any coordination between them. At Michigan State, there are three main hubs whose staff are closely connected (or even reside) with those schools. They coordinate the college’s goals and agenda with the main center offices, embedding career development into the curriculum and helping to build students’ professional identity from the get-go.

Michigan State has overcome the traditional model’s challenge of getting students to use its services by taking the services to the students – and it increased demand so much that strains are emerging. At some point, the existing staff members won’t be able to personally handle 50,000 students. So they’re going to have to rethink how they allocate resources and work with third parties. The “everything you need is here; come get it” approach is not going to fly anymore with new generations of students who expected everything to be taken care of for them, Bishop said.

“What we now set in motion, we need to reinvest,” he says. “We’re not going to pull back at this point…. This is where the scrutiny of higher education is coming — what is the return on this investment?

The report calls for bold change; change that could take decades. But Chan believes colleges are ready for it.

“I think given my conversations with many schools that this is something that many people would say, this should have happened a long time ago,” he says – and students and alumni might agree. “I think they’ll be pleased.” Read more:

The excerpt above included a few key points which I highlighted. What is missing from the “solution” is student-focused design and a recognition of the need to go outside, to outsource either the content development and delivery or the career coaching or both. In manufacturing, we see top performing companies outsourcing the design, development and production of sub-components that are brought into the final manufacturing process at the right time. Critical elements like quality and customized requirements are managed in a partnership with the supplier. Universities are still thinking “if it wasn’t developed here it isn’t going to meet our needs”. Manufacturers source suppliers and then partner to ensure the supplier will be successful in meeting their unique needs. The current reality is that home grown Higher Ed career counseling programs are the standard, and for the most part, inferior to what 3rd party programs such as Career Coaching for Students’ Career and Success Skills Master for College Students and Recent Grads offers. A better higher ed career development model that is ready to implement now might look like this:
Higher Ed Career Development Strategy from DOC

Until higher ed catches up, the good news is that college students (and high school students) can receive a best-in-class program at Career Coaching for Students.
Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. 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 has helped thousands of students find a better way through the career exploration process that works.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer – 30-days coaching support with the Home Study student career coaching package. Summer special ends August 31, 2013