Tag Archives: student career counseling

5 Reasons Parents Should Invest in Career Coaching for High School Students

While a lot is made of overcrowded classrooms and slashed funding for arts, sports and electives, Americans are less likely to be up in arms about a severe shortage of guidance counselors in schools around the country.

Colleges and universities are increasingly being evaluated on the career outcomes of their graduates. However, most institutions invest relatively little in career services. The average annual operating budget for a career services department is only $89,819 and, on average colleges have one career services professional for every 1,889 students, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

And for high schools, the number of guidance counselors ranges from one for every 500 to 1,000 students according to the Association for College Admission Counseling. Very few of these guidance counselors are trained as a career coach. Most are employed in schools to align students to “high school academic tracks” – without any valid, reliable and student-driven career matching method. School counseling has been set up to manage a herd and is not designed to effectively attend to the unique needs of each individual student.

Five reasons parents need to provide their teen with career coaching are discussed below:

Student Career Counseling interview on Here & Now

The Guidance Counselor Crisis. Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston. In this recorded segment, Young and Hobson focus on the need for better career guidance in schools. Tap on the graphic to listen to the blogcast recording.

1. The Very Real Financial Impact of the Hit and Miss Student Career Counseling Strategy

Studies show the percent of students that change majors in college at least once is too high. The number that change majors two or more times (at least three majors before graduating) is too high as well. All that changing results in a delay in graduation. If the standard is four years, every extra college course (3 or more credit hours) and the cost of extending the stay (food and housing) AND the delay in starting their career and bringing in a pay check, results in at least one full semester, and many times, one full extra year at college. National data suggests the average cost of a semester is between $15k and $25k.  The low end of the college graduate starting monthly salary is about $2,500. Multiply that by 4 months for a semester and you add $10k in lost income on top of the added costs. Therefore, one added semester costs a minimum of $25,000.

The Career Coaching for Students program for high school students provides tools, methods and confidence that leads to the right choice of major and college, resulting in on-time graduation and lower student debt. Many of our students find it easy to complete a double major in four years simply because they knew and planned for what they wanted to achieve in college – before they arrived on campus.

2. The Emotional Cost of the Hit and Miss Student Career Counseling Strategystudent career counseling

No one is immune to the feeling of failure when their plans don’t work out. For teens, the emotional turmoil can be especially distracting and takes a toll on self esteem.  If you think your teen isn’t at risk consider that the college drop out rate in the U.S. is described as “awful” by author Jordan Weissmann, in the article America’s Awful College Dropout Rates, in Four Charts. According to Weissmann, “Our dropout crisis doesn’t get discussed a great deal outside of education circles. But it should, since the issue is directly tied to other problems the public rightly obsesses over like rising tuition and student debt.” According to data in Weissmann’s article, of those who started school at age 20 or younger—as 76 percent of 2008 enrollees did—about 59 percent complete a degree. For older students, graduation rates were closer to 40 percent.

Weissmann continues, “While finances are often cited as the number one reason students don’t attend college, the more pervasive problem is clearly college dropout rates. Improving dropout rates will have a cyclical affect, helping promote a stronger future for students that obtain degrees, and improved opportunities for them and their future children as well.”

According to The New York Times, 53 percent of students that enroll in college finish their degree programs – the second worst among a poll of 23 developed nations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Furthermore, 30 percent of freshmen don’t continue on into their second year, while more students are dropping out in their final years of college as well. In 2011, 78 percent of college attendees failed to get a diploma after six years of higher education. Taking financial constraints out of the equation, we find the reasons are much more connected to a student’s emotional and intellectual readiness. Studies suggest there are 5 reasons students are dropping out of college:

Academically unprepared – One of the main reasons that students drop out of college is that they are unprepared for the demands of an undergraduate degree program. These students find themselves burning out quickly.  Looking back, many of these students tell a story of wishing they had  taken different classes during high school. While the “counseling and advising” might have been there, most students don’t gain a personal perspective that they can relate to. That personal perspective is impossible to achieve in high school if the student doesn’t have some vision for their future.

Isolation – Part of college is the social experience students gain to bring them into adulthood. However, many students are faced with a sudden sense of isolation when they transition from high school to college, with no friends and none of the social relationships they have spent the last 15 or 16 years building. This isolation is strongly linked to not having a strong purpose for being at college. Going in undeclared or choosing a major that was thrust on the student by parents’ or teachers’ suggestions rather than an intentional and tangible due-diligence process is the perfect formula for feeling like you don’t belong.

Indecisiveness – One problem that many students face during their first year in college is being unsure what major to choose, or selecting the wrong one and not knowing if and how to change it and start over (the first sign of insanity is doing something over and over again the same way and expecting a different outcome).  Research has shown that the majority of incoming college freshmen lack decision making competencies. This results in indecisiveness which can be extremely limiting, causing students to flounder rather than make the necessary changes to succeed. This is addressed by helping students to learn how to make big decisions such as choosing a major or choosing a career – in high school.

Lack of guidance – Many of today’s graduating high school students feel they have had very little guidance moving forward. Empowering students with best-practice tools and methods for career exploration and planning leads to  development of a sense of ownership in their actions and decisions that will help them overcome any lack of guidance. High school students, with the right tools and methods for career planning, make smarter decisions. The resulting courage to make decisions will also mitigate worries about making the wrong choices that can hold students back from success.

Lack of responsibility – Of course, having a lack of a sense of responsibility for their own actions can cause students to drop out as well. Students who don’t understand and connect with their role to be personally accountable for creating their own future tend to over indulge in social activities and have poor class attendance that  results in poor grades and even poorer self-esteem.

In addition to extra curricular activities such as band, sports, school clubs, boy scouts, girl scouts, etc., consider giving students tools and methods for defining and creating their own desired future. The result is a student with highly developed personal accountability and self management skills, two key success skills consistently found in highly successful people. Give a high school student the opportunity to develop and display these skills before they enter college.

We don’t need studies to tell us that the more failures a student experiences the more likely they will be impacted emotionally. While some experts on teen behavior are concerned about the narcissistic Millennial generation, the college dropout rate may suggest a larger segment of the Millennial generation will suffer from low self-esteem or may self-select out of pathways to personal success –  ultimately resulting in under-achievement and low personal satisfaction.

Career Coaching for Students for high school students prepares the student on multiple levels that lead to high resiliency, many smaller successes while in high school, greater self-confidence and greater engagement and ownership in preparing for their own future.

3. The Ability to Speed Up the Development Processstudent career counseling

There are many skeptics to the idea that high school students can actually make an informed decision about what career direction to go and what post-secondary education is best for them. Yet, many high schools are expecting the incoming 9th grader to choose an education track that basically sets them up for a vocational career path or professional career path (college). To address this issue around developmental stages, check out our article The Detrimental Dilemma for College Freshman: Go in Undeclared? Should I Double-Major? and decide for yourself.

Many so-called teen development experts believe teens are not able to develop the decision-making skills and be developmentally ready to choose a major and career before age 19 or 20 (sophomore/junior in college). If they are right, if you can’t speed up learning and development, then why is there a legitimate and growing executive coaching industry? Why is there a booming SAT/ACT prep tutoring industry? Student career coaching is designed to accelerate the development process – for students.

The Career Coaching for Students™ program is specifically designed for and highly effective in giving teens the development needed to make the leap into post-secondary possibilities.

4. The True Secret: Delay in Career Strategy Planningstudent career counseling is Sadly Pathetic

So, we know that effective career strategy planning can be and is provided effectively to high school students. That has been proven thousands of times with the Career Coaching for Students program based on testimonials from students and parents. We also recognize the financial and emotional costs/risks for students not receiving career coaching. But is there a real need to worry about this while the student is in high school? Most colleges’ academic advising speech to incoming freshmen and their parents includes the following statement: “It is ok to enter your freshmen year as an undeclared or general studies major.”  How can they say that if it isn’t true? Perhaps the better question is “how does a college, university or any post-secondary educational institution benefit from students entering without a plan?”

Perhaps the better question is “how does a college, university or any post-secondary educational institution benefit from students entering without a plan?”

Dan Johnston does college financial aid presentations and workshops at over 50 high schools each year as the Regional Director of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). One of his most frustrating examples of bad college advice is: “If you don’t know what major you want, go as an undeclared student. You can decide on your major after a few basic courses.”

Johnston says that, “For most students that is the worst advice possible. Granted, there will always be students whose best initial choice is undeclared, but they represent a very small percentage of students. The idea that a large number of students without a career plan can take a few basic courses, then suddenly ‘find’ themselves (to the tune of $20,000 to $50,000 per year), is sadly pathetic and needlessly expensive.”

We simply can’t say it better than that.

5. Student Career CounselingGaining a Competitive Advantage

Let’s say the first four reasons that we’ve covered above aren’t making an impact in your thinking. Let’s move off of “career coaching” and look at something that seems to be very popular – SAT/ACT prep tutoring courses. These programs are now being offered for free by Khan Academy. The goal at Khan Academy is to level the playing field. It is well documented that high income families, those who can afford a couple of thousand dollars for the SAT prep courses, are spending the money to “increase the odds” of their son or daughter receiving a higher test score that gives them an edge when applying to the more elite colleges and universities. You might call that “gaining a competitive advantage”.

If more students will be receiving SAT/ACT prep, that suggests a higher SAT score won’t be a competitive advantage much longer. Many see an SAT test taking skills course as a superficial prop that doesn’t have any long-term benefits for the student, especially if it fails to land the student in the top tier school. However, becoming self-aware and having greater self-esteem, knowing one’s strengths, understanding the connection between what motivates you and ideal career options, being confident about your ambitions and goals, feeling in control of your future, knowing the critical path for success, demonstrating key soft skills for success and knowing how to make big decisions is a real competitive advantage that elite colleges and universities look for in applying students.

So perhaps it comes down to whether Career Coaching for Students gives students a competitive advantage. A few think it does.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting and executive coaching firm that provides executive development coaching, high-potential development, 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 a career exploration process that works.

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

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

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

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

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

Pricing vs Value/ROI vs Demand

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

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

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

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

A Pricing Formula for In-School Offering

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

Sample educational institution pricing formula for Coaches:

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

Program Benefits and Goals:

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

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

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

Applying the Pricing Formula – A Simple Example for the Coach

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

Analyze for Cost/Value Proposition:

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

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

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

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

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

or  use a simpler calculation:

Teacher annual salary ($57,000) divided by # of classes taught over two semesters (14) divided by average # of students in the class (25)

Teacher-Delivered Cost per Student

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

Your Pricing

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

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

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

Look Past the Now to Understand What You Should Be Doing Now

Advice for both high school and college students

Students who can see the future will be more successful doing things nowAs a student, it is absolutely normal to be focused on the here and now. You may even think you have no capacity for anything else. If you have clear academic goals for yourself, achieving a good GPA, active in a few extracurricular activities, etc. you are certainly on the right track. Things may seem to be going very well.

One of the areas we focus on in the Career Coaching for Students™ program is networking. In the high school version, we introduce the concept of networking to find people in the career of interest. Students are assisted in finding and holding informational interviews to learn about a particular career. In the college version, we go much deeper. Career informational interviews are still important but just the beginning. Networking has a much bigger role to play in your success, perhaps as much as the high GPA you are working so hard to get. If career centers are bringing in employers hungry for your skills and knowledge you may see networking as unnecessary and time consuming. If you take that approach, you are most likely cutting off 80% of job opportunities, including internships that may be within reach if you were to take networking seriously.

For high school students, use career exploration as a reason to do the networking. Adults in careers that you are interested in are very willing to talk about what they do. Once you get to college it won’t be so easy to get that interview. Many will think you are just trying to get a job.

Look Past the Now

J. T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of CAREERREALISM.com and nationally syndicated career expert posted a blog on LinkedIn titled No Job Posted…Send Resume Anyway?  She is speaking directly to people in the work world who are actively looking for a job. The question a reader presents is fixated on the resume and how to submit it. Ms. O’Donnell tries to educate you to the barriers that will stop your resume from getting seen. She recommends a different approach that most don’t follow. Look at what she is saying and see how you can be doing the “planting of networking seeds” now so you have a high-quality network later when you need it.

She starts her article with a quote from a reader:

In one of your webinars recently you said go straight to the companies and avoid the postings. My question is: Do you make sure that a company is hiring or do you just send your letter and resume and hope for the best? Some companies do not accept resumes if they don’t have a specific job opening.

The answer is “no.” You shouldn’t blindly submit your materials. But, not because a company won’t accept them. They will. However…

Here’s Why Your Resume Won’t Get Seen…

When I tell people to go straight to the company, what I mean is there’s no point in applying online unless you have someone you know in the company who can walk your credentials into the hiring manager and ask them to pull your resume from the thousands they’ve received online and take a closer look. Yep, I said THOUSANDS. Today, applying via job boards is the easiest way to look for a work – so, everyone is doing it. Yet, it also happens to be the least effective method for getting noticed. Why? The ATS (applicant tracking system) employers use to gather applications automatically screen you out for not being an exact keyword and experience match for the job. Still, people continue to waste hours upon hours filling out online applications only to be shocked and disappointed when they never hear back from the employers. They say to me, “But J.T., I was perfect for the job.” I respond, “Yes, you and hundreds of other people.” The reality is your chances of making it through the online process and into the hands of a human being are only slightly better than you winning the lottery.

Effective Job Seeker Rule #1: Submit Resumes to Actual People

Want to improve your odds of getting noticed by employers? Only submit your resume and cover letter to human beings. How? Network and connect with employees of the companies you desire to work at. Then, when a job gets posted you are a match for, instead of going into the ATS blackhole, you can reach out to your contacts and see if they can help you get your credentials in the hiring manager’s hands. There’s a reason 80%+ of jobs today are gotten via referral – it works!

No Job Posted? Even More Reason to Network

When there’s a company you’d like to work for but they’ve no jobs posted, you’ve got an opportunity to prepare for the day they finally hire for your skill set. You can start the networking process now with employees and get to know first-hand what it will take to eventually earn a position at their company. Better still, you may learn about the “hidden” jobs at the company. The ones that are open but not posted anywhere online. While sending a resume to HR will likely end up in the circular file. (a.k.a. trash can), connecting and having meaningful conversations with employees will result in you being fully prepared to fast-track your resume to the right hiring manager.

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 $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Warning: Campus Career Services NOT There to Help Students Choose a Career

B-Schools With Career Services That Rock—MaybeBusinessweek conducts a survey of college career centers each year. The way they wrote the article (see link), apparently college campus career services are not expected to assist students in choosing a career. So do you go to academic advising for help? Not really. They refer you over to the career center.

Excerpt from the Businessweek article:
One of the more perplexing things about business school career services is that student perceptions of how good a job their school is doing often bear no relation to the school’s real-world performance at placing students in high-paying jobs.

But wait, maybe there’s hope
Based on the survey data, students who took the Businessweek survey (summary article at http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-13/b-schools-with-career-services-that-rock-maybe) consider career services to be more than just placement and salaries.

In fact, the services include much more, from organizing career events on campus to connecting students with alumni who work in their targeted industries and providing help on job applications and résumés. Students who rate their school’s career services highly—notwithstanding mediocre success in the job market—are effectively giving them an “A” for effort. So if you’re looking for schools where you’ll get lots of help in your job search, consider those on our “best” list—you may not land your dream job, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

Many career centers offer career counseling. Just keep in mind the “counselor” you are working with may be a grad student who has never had a job outside of the college. Or the counselor’s skill set may be stronger around how to write an effective resume than how to understand your talents and identify careers that are ideally suited to your talent makeup. Even if you are aiming for a business school education, there are many career paths that your education will support that you are less or more suited for talent-wise.

So where does a student go for assistance in choosing a career?

The Worst and Best Paying College Majors – Are we asking the right question?

Are you driven by high earning potential? I mean real money. Payscale.com recently published their 2011/2012 salary survey by college major. I guess when you have data you can do anything with it.

For some college majors, for some people, the Payscale.com survey data is meaningful. For it to be useful, it has to be a specialized major that connects (strong correlation) to a specific type of work. For example, it is likely that those who complete an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education are teaching elementary education. In that scenario, the Payscale survey is meaningful and helpful. If you are fully self-aware, understand what a career in elementary education entails (what soft skills, continuing education, etc. are required)  and see yourself as a good fit to the job/career, then you can expect to earn right around the median (geographic differences will explain most of the higher or lower pay range). Money won’t be a personal motivator for that career. However, helping others is a personal motivator for the Elementary Education Teacher career path. What that means is that the job of Elementary Education Teacher rewards “work” that helps others.

If you look at the survey list of college majors, there is one fundamental flaw. The data does not take into account what the person is doing job- and career-wise. Isn’t that the better (more valid) question? How you get there is insightful but not predictive of your potential income as much as “what” you do in your career.

I had a boss back in the ’80s by the name of Don J. Redlinger. He was actually my bosses’ boss. Don was business unit VP, Human Resources. His income, including stock options, put him on a trajectory to being a millionaire. He later was promoted to SVP, Human Resources for the entire multi-national Allied Signal corporation. He was in his 30’s at the time. What degree did Don have? A B.A. in History. Looking at the listing of college majors based on mid-career median income, Don should have been at about $69,000. If he had received a degree in Human Resources, his salary might have been around $62,600. Both are wrong. His degree was a strategic choice along with the college he went to. “What” he was doing was most important and relevant to his income. The industry he was in, and the career path he pursued are much greater predictors of income. How he got to the VP position early in his career has a lot to do with the “total package” which includes your “talent” as well as what you did back in high school, college, internships and early jobs out of college.  My learning – a B.A. degree in History can be extremely valuable across a broad range of careers. Your talent and your strategy determine how well you leverage the degree.

Let’s look at another example – a long-time colleague and client of mine, Freddye Silverman. Freddye has a B.A. degree in  Spanish and M.Ed in Spanish and Education. So what is she doing today, 20+ years since her completion of her education? She is Vice President, Eastern Region at Jeitosa Group International. She is a respected and recognized leader in the HR technology solutions field who has more than 25 years experience as a practitioner and consultant in HR IT.  Freddye also has a teaching background in foreign languages which “enhances her global view”. Prior to Jeitosa she was VP, HR Technology Solutions for Cendant Corporation.

Because she has been a long-time client of The Nielson Group (corporate consulting where we use assessments to coach professionals and executives and assist with evaluating candidates during the hiring process using assessments), Freddye has been assessed using the same assessments used in the Career Coaching for Students program. When she reads her assessment results, she quickly says, “this is who I’ve been all my life“.

We know a great deal more than we did 20+ years ago about measuring personal talent and job matching. In Freddye’s case, what we now know, if used back then, might have suggested she look at a double major, Spanish (foreign language is a passion of hers) and Business Management, specializing in IT project management. Instead of starting her career in teaching (she is “behaviorally” a good fit for teaching/training as well) she might have gone directly into a corporate environment where her income in those early years might have been higher and she would have experienced much greater passion for what she was doing.

Hierarchy of Personal Motivators

Freddye's Personal Motivators

Behavior Insights Wheel

Freddye's Behavioral Style

For Freddye to have remained in teaching (lower pay, help others), her Social motivator (see chart above) would have needed to be much higher and her Utilitarian much lower. While Freddye may not have recognized the forces at work, she has the kind of behavioral style that “easily recognizes and accepts the need for change”. She isn’t one to stay in a situation that doesn’t excite her. She made a career shift early on. Over 50% of the population (including student populations) do not have a behavioral style that can shift as easily and dramatically as Freddye’s.

Many adults are in roles they chose while in college – by default. For those where the choice was a good one (the job’s talent demands fit the person’s talent make-up) it worked out well. For those that weren’t so lucky (around 50%), the chance of watching ten or more years tick off while they feel less than fulfilled and mediocre is high. Choosing a major based on “earning potential of that major” isn’t a good strategy.

We can’t predict the future. But we can do a much better job of helping students look at careers/jobs that match their talent design (behaviors, motivators, sometimes referred to as personality). If a student has a clearer idea of what makes them excited to get up in the morning and how the work they do feels natural to them, they will be much more likely to be successful. Money is one type of reward. There are other types of rewards that are equally powerful and important for success. Look at the job or career-match to your talents rather than the income potential of a major as a first step. Then look at the possible educational strategies that will support your career aspirations. If your career choice is aligned with your talent, any major that allows you to enter that career will work.

Annual pay for Bachelors graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have 2 years of experience; mid-career have 15 years. See full methodology for more.

By the way, there is no “best major” for a Sales career (see article about groundbreaking research on top performing sales professionals) yet, sales is one of the highest median income career paths. The type of sales and choice of industry are much greater predictors of potential earnings.

Best and Worst Undergrad College Degrees by Major - Are we asking the right question?

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching.

Is it time to revamp career guidance in schools?

As a corporate management and organizational development consultant with over 25 years of hiring, firing, training, coaching and development, I find a mixed population when it comes to people with clear, passionate career direction and those without that clarity and passion. My observations and various academic, corporate and government surveys suggest more people fall into the latter category. Yet those in positions of authority within the secondary and higher education career guidance field seem satisfied with the status quo.Is it time to revamp career guidance in schools?

What has changed over the past 30+ years in career counseling in most schools can be summed up in three letters: WWW. Schools are now offering students an online portal to career information. Most of these programs offer personality assessments that point the student to Holland codes.  So if that is an appropriate assessment for students, how many employers use Holland code type assessments to match people to jobs? My informal scan came up with zero. 

Why revamp career guidance in schools?
I’ve listed some reasons (goals and rewards) that support an effort to revamp career guidance in schools.

  • Higher student self-esteem
  • Higher academic achievement across all student populations
  • Better choices for higher education
  • Shorter time in higher-ed (a change in majors delays a student by at least one semester)
  • Lower student loan debt
  • Higher quality workforce
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Improved society
  • Higher personal income
  • Higher quality of life
  • and greater employability in a passionate career

Career Guidance redefined.

Career guidance starts with bringing self-awareness to the student. This is minimized by schools, or, if attempted, counselors use personality assessments with relatively low validity and reliability. The typical public school administrator thinks they do not have the budget to consider highly reliable, valid assessments and properly conduct counseling or coaching with each student. As one administrator explained, “we need to leave something for the parents to do”. Colleges and universities are found to have very few resources as well. Many continue to use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as the tool of choice for expanding students’ self-awareness.   

With solid self-awareness, a valid connection needs to be made to career possibilities. Most students get off the train at this point. They didn’t find the “personality assessments” valid (face validity is critical) and found the career suggestions from the assessment report made no sense. The reality is that making the talent-to-career connection requires the help of a professional career coach or a well-developed career coaching program that guides the student through the process.

From initial investigative research to in-depth career analysis, the ability to research careers has been improved drastically thanks to the Internet. However, left on their own, students find the Internet is a rather large, disorganized information bank that has the potential to get the researcher distracted or totally lost and confused. Students don’t need a Google list of Internet resources or school marketing website disguised as a career guidance site. Internet resources need to be found, evaluated, vetted and categorized in a way that allows the student to stay focused with their research and avoid chasing links to questionable or low-value content.

Career research can’t be defined by Internet resources. At some point, the student must meet people in careers of interest, interview these people, go on job shadowing ventures and get internships working for companies that employ people in his career of interest.  There are several other strategies students can take to learn and identify career choices. Most students don’t complete any of these steps. A very few might do some of this.

Researching ideal careers is half the battle. Today’s students lack skills such as decision-making. Life skills that are learned early support students as they go to college or enter the work world. Life skills are just that, skills learned by experiencing life. However, our culture has changed significantly in the past 30 years. Students do not live in an environment that enables them to develop these life skills the way kids did 50 or 100 years ago. Yet school administrators and parents seem unaware of programs they can use to introduce students to key skills required for success. What are the key skills found in highly successful people? Here is a short list of 18 skills. Which of these aren’t needed to be highly successful? 

  1. Continuous Learning (try this one!)
  2. Personal Accountability
  3. Self Management
  4. Decision Making (Conceptual Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Role Confidence, Balanced Decision Making)
  5. Goal Orientation
  6. Proactive Thinking
  7. Initiative
  8. Project and Goal Focus
  9. Planning and Organizing
  10. Flexibility
  11. Problem Solving
  12. Persistence 
  13. Creativity Innovation
  14. Futuristic Thinking
  15. Influencing Others (Conveying Role Value, Gaining Commitment, Understanding Motivational Needs)
  16. Interpersonal Skills (Evaluating Others, Personal Relationships, Persuading Others)
  17. Written Communication
  18. Personal Drive

What are the chances the typical high school student is being developed in these skill areas? I think it is time to revamp career guidance in schools? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box.

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 (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), 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.   Carl speaks to groups on request and offers parent webinars and seminars for communities.

If you are looking for true career guidance for a student, check out http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out resources and services at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered.   

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