I attended an event held by Salford Foundation which ended with a keynote delivered by Professor David Spicer.
He asked the audience of 100-odd souls to raise their hands if they were pursuing the career they anticipated whilst they were at school. A solitary mitt rose skyward. The room laughed. What a daft question. Of COURSE you’re not following the path you sought when you were at school. Careers do not WORK like that!
I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was at school. I felt like there was something wrong with me and that I needed to shape up fast. Every day of indecision was harming my future working self. I stressed over my career and felt deflated whilst inspiration hid.
Every careers talk compounded the issue. Is this my calling? Who knows!
Careers advice feels like you need to pick a destination in order to create a plan. This is a paralysing approach.
A better approach would be to teach careers strategy. Semantics? No. The mindset is completely different.
A Careers Strategy
By treating careers in a strategic fashion, we try to design ongoing processes that increase the odds of our success. For example, if you do not know what you want to do, a strategic approach might be to:-
- Develop writing skills by keeping a blog every day. Writing skills are the cornerstone of today’s economy (think email). Having the ability to write well is a game changer.
- Volunteer for a charity and offer to organise an event: – this will help increase your organisation skills and visibility to the outside world
- Find 3 different types of work experience: – one you think you’ll love, one you think you’ll hate and one in a field you have never heard of. Use LinkedIn to connect with people in these industries and arrange these experiences
- Interview 10 people you know who are in different careers. Write up their answers on a blog
- List the top 10 employability skills businesses seek. List examples from your life where you have demonstrated these skills. If you keep using the same examples, get involved in more activities; volunteer, join clubs, sign up for events etc
- Get a part time job and WORK HARD – people help helpful people. If you pick up a brush and sweep the floor without asking, people will notice you. This will give you a leg up.
- Learn an extra skill – coding, a foreign language, selling (a MUST), presenting, SEO etc etc. Learning new skills increases your value to the economy If you can sell, you’ll literally be able to help 99% of organisations in the UK. You’ll also be above the 99% of your classmates who are unwilling to do this.
These activities are all systems. They are valuable in and of themselves. Pursuing these items on a daily basis will have a POSITIVE effect on any career, as well as increasing the chances of success.
Even people who know what they want to do will benefit from this approach. What happens if an aspiring doctor misses a step by receiving rejection letters from all of her universities? A goal orientated approach might result in devastation. A strategic approach will result in success, as the skills you develop can now be applied to other areas. For example, a strategic approach to her career might have been to: –
- Volunteer in nursing homes to improve her empathy and ability to care
- Write a blog on fitness programmes to help people with prevention of disease – this would improve her writing skills and provide new knowledge
- Volunteer for a medical charity to organise events – this would teach her the ability to organise, deal with people and commercial awareness
- Find work experience in 3 different settings – following a doctor, working in a related health profession, and working in a completely unrelated sector. If she’s eventually successful, she’s able to tell her interviewers that she worked as a telesales person which gave her the insight that the world of business definitely wasn’t for her!
- Learn how to sell – if she ever becomes a doctor, an ability to sell will help get her ideas noticed at conferences, on the ward or in writing. If she misses her original goal, she’ll be valuable to all sorts of other organisations.
As you can see, the idea behind strategic thinking for a career is to create practices that are valuable even if you miss your overall goal. If you don’t know what you want to do, your strategy is to arm yourself with skills that are transferable to lots of different settings. If you DO know what you want to do, you’re arming yourself with skills that will ENHANCE your career if you’re successful, and propel you forward even if you are unsuccessful.
Careers professionals in schools and colleges should teach students how to develop winning strategies. It is easy to sit someone in front of a computer and tell them to research potential careers. It is much harder to develop a mentality and an approach towards career development. A strategy is the formulation of an approach that will work. Strategies that do not work can be altered. By teaching students to develop strategies, you’ll increase their likelihood of success.
A career is not an exam. It is a series of experiences. Teaching students how to profit in every situation should be the goal of a careers professional.
Kloodle is built on this mentality. We are a means of recording and reflecting upon activities that propel you forward into a career, regardless of your goal. Building employability skills is always a good strategy. Pursuing activities that expose you to new people, scenarios, problems and situations and THEN reflecting upon them is always a good strategy. Reinforce this idea at school and you are arming your learners with an approach that will work for the rest of their lives.
That’s growth mindset.