Last week, we conducted user interviews with a group of students. Amongst other things, we chatted about what they wanted to do with their future. What ensued was an insight into the scary world of a 21st century late-teenager.
First, we explored angst around impending exams. Revision was stressful and the stakes high. A dropped grade could destroy their university plans.
Next, we discussed careers.
This created the same anxiety. The students fretted about making the wrong choice and feared a false move would ruin their life chances. Their mentality has been imbued with the education mindset: everything has a correct or incorrect answer. Choose correctly and youre a star. Make the wrong choice and youre bottom of the class.
Careers education reinforces this. We make careers plans that solidify the future. Students feel pressure to decide NOW. This spawns anxiety. The lucky few have a clear plan. For the rest (and this included me), indecisiveness reigns supreme. You feel stupid. Why cant you choose? Are you normal? University becomes a safe haven. Everyone else does it, so it must be right. This defers the problem until much later. But the problem still exists, ready to rear its ugly head at a later date.
Why do we do this to young people? We know from our own experiences that plans rarely pan out. Careers are zigzagged at best and can sometimes have no discernible pattern whatsoever, yet we continue to give students the false belief that theres a choice to make.
This compounds anxiety.
A better approach is to equip students with the skills they need to make the most out of the opportunities presented to them, all the while allaying fears that one wrong move will lead to doom. We must impress upon young people that careers occur over the course of a lifetime, and cannot be made or ruined in front of a piece of careers software.
Careers success is a product of skill meeting opportunity. If you accrue the correct skills and carve open opportunities, you will meet success somewhere along the line. Careers education should reinforce this. Planning is a minute aspect of it. Even exploring jobs you may like is unimportant. What is important is you know how to develop skills people find valuable and how to create opportunities for yourself.
Careers education should teach strategy, not detail. Give a man a fish and hell eat for a day .teach a man to fish hell eat for the rest of his life. Id like to apologise for any wise quotes butchered in the making of this blog post