Tag Archives: student career choices

Disparity Between Teachers’ Views and Student Performance


High School StudentsThere is a major disparity between high school teachers’ views of college readiness and student performance.

  • High school teachers estimate that 63% of their graduating seniors will be adequately prepared for college-level coursework without the need for remediation and that 51% will graduate from college (MetLife, 2011).
  • Data shows that only 25% of high school graduates who took the ACT test were ready for college-level work (ACT, 2012).
  • Ninety-three percent of middle school students report that their goal is to attend college. However, only 44% enroll in college, and only 26% graduate with a college diploma within six years of enrolling (Conley, 2012a; Conley, 2012b).
  • High school seniors who set the post-secondary goal of earning a four-year degree are 28% more likely to apply to college than students with no aspirations to attend college. Students who aspire to complete an advanced degree are 34% more likely to apply to college than those who do not (Gilkey, Seburn, & Conley, 2011).
  • There is a gap between students’ aspirations to attend college and their preparedness for college-level work. As a result, many students who enroll in college do not graduate with a degree.
    • From 1997 to 2010, the percentage of middle and high school students planning to attend college increased from 67% to 75% (MetLife, 2011).
    • During that same time, the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 29 who attained a bachelor’s degree increased only slightly from 28% to 32%. (Snyder & Dillow, 2011).
  • Nearly half of all high school seniors believe they lack the full spectrum of skills and abilities needed to secure non-entry-level jobs. One fourth of seniors surveyed reported they did not feel at all prepared for college-level work (San Francisco Youth Empowerment Fund, 2011).
  • Many new and underprepared college students must enroll in remedial coursework. Twenty percent of incoming freshmen at four-year institutions and 52% of those at two-year colleges need to enroll in some type of remedial coursework. African-American, Latino, and students from low-income families enroll at the highest percentages (Complete College America, 2012).
    • The estimated cost to states and students to provide remedial college courses to underprepared high school graduates is $3 billion annually (Complete College America, 2012).
    • In community colleges, less than 25% of students who required remedial coursework earned a degree or certificate within eight years of enrollment. Forty percent of students who did not require remediation completed their degree or certificate within eight years (Bailey, 2009).
  • However, completing a postsecondary degree has become more important than ever. Although 76% of young adults say that college has become harder to afford in the past five years and 73% believe that graduates have more student debt than they can manage, approximately 80% still believe that some type of postsecondary education or training is more important now than it was a generation ago (The Institute for College Access & Success, 2011).
  • Research predicts that within the next 10 years, 63% of all jobs in the United States will require some post-secondary education and that 90% of new jobs in growing industries with high wages will require some postsecondary education (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010).

Root Cause – Student Apathy

In the “real world” of work, especially high volume/high value manufacturing, when a problem has been recognized, resources are assigned to identify the root cause and fix it – quickly and systemically. This doesn’t seem to apply in the academic world. Consider the College and Career Readiness Overview Page on the American Institute for Research’s National High School Center’s website. I became apathetic trying to read and understand their message.

Too Much of a Good Thing

The idea of “careers” is introduced to the students in elementary, middle and high school. Classroom time is allocated a few times each year to focus on becoming more aware of careers. Until the student develops a fixed  “personality”, exposure to the world of work and all the possibilities for a career is a good thing. At some point students begin to feel overwhelmed by the choices and the perception that the world of work is too complex and intimidating. Once the student’s personality (we call this “natural talent”) has been established (around the summer of incoming 9th grade), the student needs a valid, reliable and tangible approach to considering paths, careers and educational options.

Today, many high schools require each incoming 9th grader to choose a “path” that will trigger many curriculum decisions – that the student and parents of the student may not be fully aware of their implications – which may handicap the student later as they look at post-secondary education and career options.

So if the student didn’t fall into apathy as they entered 9th grade, there is a good chance they fall within the first two years.

Student EngagementFast-Forward to the Solution

Opportunity for Apathy #1 –  Students desperately need to feel in control of their own destiny. The sooner the better. If a student feels they are part of a “system”, a system that may or may not serve their best interests, they aren’t in control – the system is in control. Forcing the student to choose a “path” upon entering high school when the student isn’t prepared and has no process for decision making is where apathy is born.

Opportunity for Apathy #2 – Our youth are under constant pressure to compare themselves to others, in the classroom, on TV, in the neighborhood – and even with their siblings. Middle school graduation includes celebration of accomplishments in many ways. Teachers try hard to give every student an award or recognition of some kind. But the reality is that student self-esteem is tied strongly to academic performance. About 50% of students moving to high school feel inferior, inadequate and incompetent.

Eliminating Apathy – Now, imagine the student receives a sophisticated “talent assessment and career exploration” program in the summer prior to entering 9th grade – that has nothing to do with IQ or grades. And in that program, not one time did the career coach/instructors talk about the requirement for grades or academic performance for career matching.

Keep in mind, we are very aware that the more elite the college or university, the more important the need for grades and high SAT/ACT scores. And if you want to go to medical school, grades are everything…until they aren’t. Students with perfect grades and GMAT scores have been turned down from medical schools. We also see student college applications with higher grade point averages rejected by elite colleges and universities over student applications with lower grade point averages. Yet, none of these institutions are looking at the primary driver that correlates with success – a student’s talent. College Admissions teams do look at a students’ “well-roundedness” which is like shooting a shotgun at the side of a barn – you’re bound to knock some of the paint off.

As part of the program, the student was given the clarity about their position in the class ranking – everyone was starting at #1 in their class. And, as research is proving and employers are recognizing, GPA, grades or SAT/ACT scores do not correlate to success (yes, they are important but not the deciding factor).

So instead of administrators, teachers and parents harping on academic performance so the student qualifies to go to college (even though the student has no idea why they want to go to college), the program focuses on serious but interesting, tangible career matching exploration that results in one, two or possibly three career choices that create organic excitement in the student. And, as they learn about the career option, they also learn what education is required, which post-secondary schools and major course of study offer the best opportunity to achieve and succeed in that career and – here it comes – what it will take academically to get there.

And once they get excited about a career interest, the career exploration program introduces the student to scholarship and financial aid information (extensive resources) with one message – you can afford it.

Self-Direction and Will are Born Instead of Apathy

With the right career exploration program, the student is able to walk into 9th grade with excitement and tell the academic counselor what they want to get out of high school.

It’s Not Only Possible. It’s Happening July 18th and 25th

Any high school student, from incoming freshmen to senior, needs to attend this program. Tap on the link in the following heading:

National Student Career Exploration Extravaganza!

  • Webinar-based – Attend in the comfort of your home.
  • Students and their parents attend for one price
  • Includes
    • Student binder
    • Extensive talent assessments
    • Two 3-hour group webinar-based sessions
    • One 1-on-1 private tele-coaching session after the webinar program
    • Extensive research resources (for career, education, financial aid research, and much more)

Registration now open. Seating is limited.

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

Are you using the Myers Briggs or MBTI for career exploration, career choice or hiring? I Hope Not


Many high schools and colleges use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI to help students in career exploration and career choices. CPP, Inc, the developer and publisher of the MBTI recently posted an article entitled Just What Is the Myers Briggs Assessment Good For? that makes it very clear this is not appropriate and needs to stop.

MyersBriggs

Some Human Resources professionals use the MBTI for hiring and selection. While it is a less frequent use of the MBTI, the use of the MBTI in hiring and selection is putting those companies at high risk for fines and lawsuits. To explain, employers are held to a high standard when it comes to using assessments in the hiring and selection process. The government actually likes companies to use assessment tools – if they are valid and reliable. But companies must use tools and processes that ensure no biases against protected classes. The company must also be able to show a connection between an assessment and predictive correlation for performance in the job. The article states that employers should note that using the MBTI as a selection tool can have dire legal consequences for them. “If a tool is designed for selection, it should meet a certain standard that is held up in a court of law,” according to Sherrie Haynie, a consultant for CPP who teaches MBTI certification programs . “Whereas with the MBTI, we are very clear, that because it’s not a selection tool, you could be held liable as an employer if you use the tool in such a way.”

“The MBTI does not evaluate candidates. It does not predict performance or cultural fit or any of the other criteria by which employers hire candidates” states Haynei. According to the article, “CPP is unhappy with recruiters and HR departments who use the MBTI as a selection tool.” The article goes on to say “Used as a selection tool, the MBTI can be harmful to individuals.”

So if it doesn’t predict performance or cultural fit, should high schools and college career centers use it to help students choose a career or choose a major that is a “good fit”? Can a school be held liable for misuse of the MBTI as a career guidance tool for students?

Haynie says, “CPP has seen a number of employers improperly use the MBTI as a selection tool. Assessment tools for hiring and selection are the kinds of tools that evaluate particular skills or knowledge or abilities, but the MBTI was not designed to judge or evaluate skills or knowledge or abilities (referred to as job matching). ”

CONNECTING AND RESTATING THE ISSUE
As Haynie says, “the MBTI is a development tool, not a selection tool. Interested employers should use the MBTI to identify employee strengths and blind spots, so that they might help these employees further leverage their strengths and compensate for their blind spots.”

“The MBTI is a development tool, not a selection tool. Interested COUNSELORS AND CAREER CENTERS should use the MBTI to identify STUDENT strengths and blind spots, so that they might help these STUDENTS further leverage their strengths and compensate for their blind spots.”

THE CONUNDRUM

Students certainly need development. Schools and colleges have limited financial resources for things like assessments. In an attempt to stretch the investment value, counselors have tried to use one tool for many uses. CPP is stating this is not their desire. Yet, there are assessment tools that are certified for use by employers for hiring and selection that are excellent for development as well. And those same assessments are used for career counseling and career exploration. In other words, what schools want and need exists but first, the counselors must let go of the MBTI.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

Posted on YouTube, Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless is an excellent video that makes the point very clear. If you weren’t a skeptic before, this might just change your thinking. You’ll also find there are many academic articles about the questionable validity and reliability of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment.

Watch the video: Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Totally Meaningless.

A BETTER SOLUTION

The Career Coaching for Students program uses two assessments for high school students that does an excellent job of helping the student narrow the world of opportunity into a more manageable and relate-able short list of career options in a way that engages the student while developing the student at the same time. The Career Coaching for Students program helps the student from a personal development standpoint, much like the MBTI narrowly does. Parent company, The Nielson Group, uses the same assessment tools with large and small employer clients specifically for hiring and selection (job-candidate matching), adult career coaching, leadership development and team development. All of these assessments adhere to an 8th grade reading level standard.

The particular assessments used for high school students in the Career Coaching for Students program is both comprehensive for development and provides an easy-to-follow proprietary method for connecting career options to personal talent (job fit analysis).

IS IT COST-EFFECTIVE COMPARED TO THE MBTI?

The simple and quick answer is yes. Schools that go all in by using “any” assessment for school-wide use will enjoy a “volume discount”. The Career Coaching for Students program is provided under the umbrella of Success Discoveries LLC, a division of The Nielson Group. “We utilize all of our expertise and tools to provide a one-stop offering for staff development, leader development and student development”, states Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer and founder of Success Discoveries. “We provide state-of-the-art tools for student career exploration and student development and development offerings for staff and administration, all the way up to the school board. ”

This ability to bundle solutions for different constituencies allows Success Discoveries to price all of these services very cost-effectively.

Can Our In-House Staff Easily Learn How to Use a Different Assessment?

The Career Coaching for Students program offers a train-the-trainer and certification program. Administering the student programs in-house with your own staff is very doable. Staff will likely enjoy this and receive much greater positive feedback from students (and parents).

So, if your school is using the MBTI with students, you need to realize it can only be as a personal development tool – not as a career counseling and career selection guidance tool. As with many clients that have gone through the Career Coaching for Students program have stated to me, your student may be frustrated and feel like they are at fault when actually the wrong tool has been applied to the right focus.

Families can purchase the self-directed version of Career Coaching for Students which includes the career guidance binder, Student Resource Central and a personal one-on-one debriefing of the assessments (using telephony webinar tools or Skype). Career Coaching for Students has been enjoyed in most of the United States including Alaska, across Canada and China. The assessments are able to be administered in 42 languages.

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

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
carl@successdiscoveries.com
Career Coaching for StudentsTM
a Success Discoveries program
(972) 346-2892

11 Pieces of Career Advice That go 95% Ignored


Originally posted on July 21, 2013 by  Mark Babbitt, founder of YouTern, a site for student internships.

Take the AdviceNo matter how many times mentors say them, there are pieces of advice – golden nuggets of been-there-done-that wisdom – that no one (okay, almost no one) ever follows.

Not the clichés you see every day like “Become a morning person”. Or the false-positive, affirmation-ridden stuff like “Make someone happy… with a smile!” Nor are these the really bad bits of advice dispensed so often we accept them as fact, like “Follow Your Passion”.

These never-fail insights would make a significant impact on the lives and careers of many… if (sigh) anyone would actually follow the advice:

1.  Follow Up

As a society, we suck at following up. I have no idea why… laziness; fear of success; a failure to prioritize, perhaps. I just know that about 2% of those who take a business card, or say they will follow up – after a tweet, phone call, one-on-one meeting, networking function, etc. – actually do.

Want to stand out among all your competition – no matter what you hope to achieve? Follow up.

2.  Personalize Everything

Think those generic connection requests on LinkedIn and auto-DMs on Twitter will get you noticed in a positive way? Think that generic cover letter and resume will get you an interview? Think that email template you send to potential mentors will be the beginning of a valuable relationship?

Your thinking… is wrong. In today’s world, every communication you send must be personalized. Period.

3.  Make a To-Do List

“I don’t do to-do lists” is one of the biggest red flags in the professional world. No matter how you keep track – pen and paper, smartphone, laptop, iPad – a to-do list is a mandatory element of staying organized and being able to properly prioritize your next activity.

Don’t come by list-making naturally? Try the “CNN” method of listing tasks, which by default helps you prioritize: C = “Critical”. N = “Need to do”. N = “Nice to do”. Works, every time.

4.  Find a Mentor (Lots of Mentors!)

One of the key traits of crazy-successful young careerists comes down to one thing: the existence of professional mentors. Perhaps a stable of them, or a “Personal Board of Advisors”.

Not sure where to find mentors? LinkedIn Groups are a place to start. Or visit #InternPro chat and/or #jobhuntchat on Twitter, each Monday evening starting at 9pm and 10pm ET, respectively. Those chats are mentor goldmines… you just have to do some digging.

5.  Read, Read and Read Some More

Check out the autobiography of just about any major innovator in modern times… insatiable reading is near the top of everyone’s “never fails advice” list. Blogs, books, white papers, best practices, rants… it doesn’t matter what you read. Just read. And get your brain moving in a direction different than it might be used to going.

Don’t think you have time for a lot of reading? Next time you’re tempted to download a game to your smartphone, download a book or blog post by someone like Seth Godin or Ted Coine instead.

6.  Know that No Soft Skill is More Important than Hustle

I’m at the point now that if I hear one more person talking about establishing their personal brand – but never really see that person actually DO anything – I’m probably going to go ape sh*t.

Present all the soft skills you want. Create the most polished profiles possible. But if I can’t clearly see that you are a “do-er” and not just a “dream-er”… that you are not willing to bust your ass, old-school style… it is all just talk. And I am not interested.

7.  Present Yourself as a Problem Solver

In our current economy, every organization is trying to do more with less. There is just no room for automatons who simply “do their job”. Those companies seek innovative thinkers who provide solutions… or at least ideas that contribute to solutions. They want those who will generate impact.

How to do that? So simple:

  1. Identify a challenge.
  2. Think – or build a team to think – of a solution.
  3. Present the solution.
  4. Actively listen to the feedback.
  5. Improve the solution.

8.  Own “It”

It doesn’t matter what “it” is. It could be that challenge that needs a solution. Or maybe a big project that gives you a chance to shine. Perhaps it’s the garbage that needs taking out, or a bathroom that needs cleaning before a client comes to the office. Or, just maybe its a mistake you made. No matter what is thrown at you, or to you… own it.

How do you project this in-demand trait? Take on this mindset: “This is my job to do. I will do it to the best of my ability. Once done, I will ask for more responsibility.” Not a bad way to go through a career.

9.  Be a Stalker

Yep, a stalker. Just short of the restraining order… stalk. Stalk recruiters. Stalk potential mentors and influencers. Stalk potential business partners, collaborators and innovators. Yes, you’ll eventually run into someone who thinks you’ve crossed the line into creepy; that comes with the territory… (just know THAT is the time to back off).

Tom Bolt, recruiter extraordinaire, puts this best: “If anyone wants to get my attention as a recruiter, they will approach me on social media, email me, apply to my jobs online, call me… literally stalk me.”

10.  Be THE Expert (at least more knowledgeable and desiring to learn than the other candidates)

Here’s the aspect of career development that falls on deaf ears more than anything else…

Perhaps it is because many young careerists have been in academic-theory-hell for too long. Maybe it’s because we think being everything to everybody is the best way to get that job. Or maybe it is because we don’t yet have a narrow point of focus.

Whatever the reason, trust me on this: if you want to get noticed, become THE expert on whatever marketable subject works best for you. Candidates get passed over, all the time. Experts (real subject experts, not the self-promotional variety) get recruited, all the time.

11.  All Anyone Cares About: Results

My personal favorite, especially when someone says: “But I worked really hard on that!”

In the real world, it does not matter one little bit how much effort you put into a project. The only thing that matters is… results. How does your work measure up against milestones? Did you meet the goals of the project? Did you exceed expectations?

If not… the last thing you want to talk about to a boss, mentor or potential employer is how hard you worked… to achieve nothing.

success-really-looks-likeAs you build your career, be the 5% who will follow this worthy, career-changing advice. And don’t be afraid to pass it along to others. Just don’t be surprised when they don’t listen (but be incredibly grateful for those who do… that’s when the magic happens!)

Thanks to Mark Babbitt, CEO and Founder of Youtern for this post! Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. Contact Mark on Twitter!

If you know what you want to do for a career, and are wanting to find an internship, check out Youtern. If you aren’t sure about what career to pursue, check out Career Coaching for Students, a program for college students or high school students or recent grads. Developed by corporate talent management career coaching experts – not academic counselors.

I Want to Quit (My Career)


Talent Management MagazineThe July 2013 issue of Talent Management Magazine, a respected journal for human resources executives, highlighted some new statistics that reinforce what I’ve been trying to communicate to parents, high school administrators and college and university career centers for some time now – “what you are doing isn’t working!”

Here are excerpts from the article…you be the judge


First there was the Gallup survey that came out in early June 2013, which found the majority of American employees (70 percent) were either not engaged or actively disengaged with their work.

As if that wasn’t enough to raise red flags for employers who care about and are tracking employee engagement, a new Harris survey for the University of Phoenix in Arizona that was released July 8, 2013 showed that more than half of U.S. employees want to change not only their jobs, but their careers.

Apparently, only 14 percent of workers say they’re in their dream careers.

Some of you may not be surprised to learn this feeling is more pronounced among workers in their 20’s (80 percent), but it’s certainly not specific to this demographic alone: Sixty-four percent of those in their 30s want to change careers and 54 percent of those in their 40s reported the same.

Is this the classic “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s the fact that the unstable economic environment coupled with debilitating student loan debt coerced many graduates to scrounge up any kind of employment they could secure just to have a steady cash inflow. Consider that nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (73 percent) said they didn’t end up with a job they had originally anticipated when they were younger.

And before you go on a rant about how flaky millennials are, you may be surprised to learn that those in the upper echelons of corporate America are among those who want to sign up for a different career. Nearly half (43 percent) of C-level executives said they were somewhat interested in switching careers, while 26 percent expressed a stronger desire to do so.

Offering lateral moves and defining a clear career path for employees might not be the silver bullet when it comes to engagement and retention problems, but it’s a start.


Employers can’t fix this. And then there are high schools and colleges continuing to do the same things they’ve been doing for the past 10+ years, only now the high schools have teacher productivity work flow tools in the cloud (Naviance, XAP, etc.) to help track high school student college readiness tasks.

This is a wake up call. Want to decrease student loan debt? Get smarter about planning career and educational strategies. You can delegate career exploration and career matching to an overworked high school counselor with outdated assessments or delay this work until college where students are going in undeclared, changing majors 3 or 4 times and taking 5 years to graduate at a cost of thousands of extra dollars. Or you can take a proactive approach and do something different.

Better Career Planning Better Lifehttp://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

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.

7 Myths About Career Exploration in High School


5 Myths about Career Exploration blog picAround 2004, as a parent with kids approaching high school, I found myself curious about the “state-of-the-art” in career exploration and coaching that the students would receive. As a corporate organizational development consultant and executive coach, focusing mainly on adults either in career transition or executive/high-potential development, I had some insight into “talent” and success in life and work.

My adult clients would ask me to coach their “graduating senior in college” who hadn’t figured out what they wanted to do with their life. That was a warning sign to me – not about the person but about the system. How could a student go all through high school, choose a major, complete an undergraduate degree in college and not have a clue about what they wanted to do? What was the root cause of the failure? What was being done to help students and why was it not working?

Fast forward to 2013, and nothing has changed. Students continue to struggle with who they are and how their personal talent design connects to career choices and educational strategy. In some ways, it comes down to something even broader – learning how to make big decisions. But I am finding the same assessments used in 2004 are being used today. And schools are letting technology deliver career coaching.

Based on what I am seeing and hearing from school administrators, parents and students, I’ve put together a list of myths that are in desperate need of being corrected. These myths are prevalent with teachers, counselors, school boards and parents. See if you carry some of these myths as your own beliefs:

  • Myth #1 The high school has this covered. They’d like you to believe they’ve got career exploration covered. Even community colleges and universities want you to think they’ve got it covered. Be wary of the high school’s use of buzz words and descriptions of programs. For example, “all students take one or more career assessments to help them identify careers” may be technically true as a task they have the students complete. Ask your son or daughter what they thought of the assessment results. Ask them to show you the report. Ask them how the results are being used and what are they doing for career exploration. And for the bottom line question, ask them if they feel they are getting appropriate and tangible support for identifying and evaluating personal career options.
  • Myth #2 The assessments used by your high school are valid and insightful. The best way to check this myth is to take the assessments yourself and check your reaction to the report. As for technical information about the validity and reliability of the assessments, the school’s website will point you to the organization’s website that produces the assessments. With a little digging, you’ll find some kind of statement about validity and reliability. Some assessment companies will actually state “this type of assessment does not fit the criteria for validity and reliability studies”.  Taking the assessments yourself will surely enlighten you to the horribly designed assessment that is expected to “tell” your student which careers will be best for them. But even if you were to accept the quality of instrument as credible, what insights has it produced for the student?  What insights has the student learned about themselves after taking the assessment?
  • Myth #3 Counselors and teachers are focused on this. Ask a counselor about the amount of time they focus on coaching students in making career decisions and they will start explaining (after they stop laughing) how their day, week and semester is spent. It isn’t focused on coaching students in career decisions. Some counselors are leaving schools because their job isn’t about helping students, its about pushing paper.
  • Myth #4 The paid-with-tax-dollars school-site subscription to a cloud-based software program (Naviance, XAP, etc.)  is focused on helping the student find their path in life. Actually, many of these site-licensed “portals” are administrative tracking systems to help teachers be more productive. It is possible they also help students to be more productive with the college application process too. However, the primary focus isn’t on helping a student gain insight into who they are and what they want to become (even though the web-based marketing lingo sounds like they do focus on this). These systems are more focused on workflow management, specifically, “the process of getting students into college”. Who cares if the reason they are going to college is faulty or once they get there they change majors 3 times and graduate in 5 years. Put the ladder on the wrong building and you get to the top of a building with no purpose for being there.
  • Myth #5 High school students are too young and immature to focus much on career exploration or make any kind of career choice. This one is mostly on the parents. All I can tell you is if you think this, you are wrong. I am consistently amazed at the level of engagement and deep thinking that students put into developing a future direction, career exploration, choosing a major, choosing the right college for what they want to do and setting goals for themselves. Even those students that start the Career Coaching for Students program with less maturity quickly shed that cover and engage effectively. Watch for the colleges and universities to  empathize with the “high school is too early to know what you want to do with the rest of your life” thinking. The standard language at on-campus college visit presentations is to tell the student and parents it is perfectly fine to come in “undeclared” and take a year or two to decide what to study. Sure, you can start taking the “required Freshman classes” and a few electives to see what floats your boat. In the meantime, some students are figuring out a lot while still in high school and walking into college with a clear plan that may include double majoring, targeting specific companies for internships and obtaining summer jobs that will give them experience that makes them a top prospect upon graduation. In the meantime, being undeclared seems like a slow path to nowhere, and let’s not to mention the extra expense (thousands of dollars) for changing majors and extending the college stay by just one semester. Oops, I guess I did.
  • Myth #6 High achieving students don’t need as much career exploration support. One of the most challenging (and exciting) situations in coaching students is when the student is “All American” (or “All Canadian” for my Canadian readers). You know the type – very high GPA, active in sports, band, club officer, outside activities, loved by the teachers, respected by the administration, etc.).  The fact that these special individuals have so many capabilities, they have the most choices available to them. Many of these report feeling that they are expected to just know some how what they are going to do. The pressure to have a career direction figured out “on their own” is tremendous. From where I sit, there is no class of students that holds some special psychic ability to know what they want to do. All groups of students from under-achievers to over-achievers need professional career coaching.
  • Myth #7 Career exploration and planning is a “nice to have” but not the primary purpose of high school so it doesn’t deserve the funding or attention in high school. Many research studies have shown a clear connection between a student’s clarity about their future and their level of engagement in school. The result – higher academic achievement. If a student is under-performing academically, there is a good chance it is because they don’t see the potential in themselves and how that potential relates to a future. Many parents have reported back to me that their son/daughter raised their GPA the very next semester after going through the Career Coaching for Students program. But it doesn’t stop there. Students who were never on the academic honor roll in high school, and went through the Career Coaching for Students program their senior year were found two years later to have been on the Dean’s list at college every semester. The studies say this happens with credible career coaching at the high school level. Our experience is saying the same thing.

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, executive development coach, career coach and author of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students. For information about career direction and job search coaching for college students, check out Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads. Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer.