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    The Best Advice We've Found for Helping Students Find Career Paths

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    The Best Advice We've Found for Helping Students Find Career Paths

    At some point, students will want to think or talk seriously about seeking an ideal career path. They might very well have this talk with their parents or even with you, their teacher. Others may choose a career counsellor to help them make the tough decisions and find the best course of action.

    Whichever one you might be (and you may even be all of them), you can be prepared to do your part in helping students find career paths by offering them some of the sage advice here.

    No matter what capacity you end up serving in their quest, these are things you can talk about with students in regard to seeking an ideal career path outside of school.

    Below, we’ll cover the following topics:

    • Values
    • Mentors
    • Self-focus
    • Organization
    • Resources
    • The Future

    Let’s follow the worldly wisdom of Crosby, Stills, and Nash as we seek to teach our children well.

    1. Values

    Do your learners know who they are? Chances are they don’t, not fully. But even though they don’t know who they are yet, they can start with outlining their values. What is valuable to them will guide them on the right path. When they are lost and confused, they will need values to reset them back in the direction of their goals. In the act of helping students find career paths, this may be the most crucial one to begin with.

    Encourage them to list as many as they can think of and then narrow them down to 5 that truly resonate with them. They can do this by comparing 2 similar values at a time and discarding the weaker ones. Once they’ve narrowed the list, then they can take a look at this skeleton, or template of who they are and who they want to be, and have a better idea of which career path they want to take.

    Here’s a list of possible values from Brett McKay:

    • Adventure
    • Balance
    • Confidence
    • Control
    • Creativity
    • Discipline
    • Education
    • Faith
    • Family
    • Financial Security
    • Friends
    • Freedom
    • Fulfillment
    • Forgiveness
    • Fun
    • God
    • Growth
    • Happiness
    • Health
    • Hope
    • Honesty
    • Humor
    • Independence
    • Integrity
    • Kindness
    • Knowledge
    • Marriage
    • Peace of mind
    • Power
    • Progress
    • Reason
    • Security
    • Self-reliance
    • Service
    • Spirituality
    • Strength
    • Success
    • Truth
    • Wisdom

    You’ll be surprised at how many lost souls you’ll see in college. Starting off with a good idea of what values they could have will give them insight into what truly matters to them in life, work, and everywhere else. A values list will give them a lens through which to view important life decisions. Its purpose is to guide them into becoming their best version of themselves.

    2. Mentors

    Ask your learners next to consider whom they admire. Who do they aspire to be like? Who has given them valuable food for thought over the years? They can list these people and rank them as to who they would most like to be their mentors. Next, they can set aside time every week to talk to these people, even if only to have lunch with them.

    Do your learners know who they are? Chances are they don’t, not fully. But even though they don’t know who they are yet, they can start with outlining their values.

    Most people generally want to be helpful to students who are interested in growing and improving. Many will be honoured to be considered role models, even. Students have nothing to lose in asking such people for help, but everything to gain.

    If these are not people to whom they can ask questions directly, then have the students research those individuals’ lives. How did they get to where they are now? What were the challenges they faced and how did they overcome them? What did they learn from the journey, and how do they practice it in their own values today?

    3. Self-Focus

    Career is not the “end all be all” of who we are. It must, however, serve a purpose, and that is to fulfill our values. For instance, if a student values creativity and music and the arts but plans to have a family later on, they had better practice incredibly hard. They must seek to accelerate their growth and play to their highest capacity right now. They won’t have time to excel later when they have other souls to care for. This translates to other disciplines as well.

    Encourage students to fall in love with learning, study hard, and grow now—not when they have less time for themselves.

    4. Organization

    Tell students to write this one down and internalize it: Document and save everything.

    Term papers? File them away safely. Projects that don’t fit in files? Either find a place to house them, or take snapshots and save them. If they don’t want to store things, like model houses or science experiments, then they can take pictures or videos and store those in the Cloud. This is all so they have a database and warehouse to pull from.

    They’ll be writing resumes, and lots of them. If they start compiling all their pertinent data now, and have a file complete with dates of accomplishments, they’ll be way ahead of the game. It pays to keep an inventory of skills that they acquire over time. Finely-tuned resumes and diverse professional portfolios will help them land jobs.

    5. Resources

    Knowing where you’re going is half the story. Point your learners to a few websites that have exercises to help them in making the right decision. A great place to begin is How to Decide on a Career (Even If You Don’t Know What You Want). The author Annie Favreau has some good points. Basically, there are 3 problems or hurdles we have to overcome in choosing our career path:

    • Not enough information: This drives every problem and we agree with Annie that research is the key. Students might consider taking an hour or so every day to do some note-taking on careers using books, libraries, websites, and other people as sources.
    • You don’t know what you want: This is usually because you don’t have enough information. Annie outlines some points that need to be addressed in case students don’t find a mentor:
      • What are you interested in?
      • Do these careers have skills that you’re good at?
      • Does the career fulfill the essentials?
      • What is the current/projected job availability?
    • Indecision: Why do we become indecisive? Again, because we don’t have enough information. Well, one way to get information is through experience. Neil Howe in Millennials Rising says that only about 5% find the perfect career match on the first try. What this should tell students is that if they’re indecisive, then begin by just simply finding work.

    6. The Future

    The information available to us now for helping students find career paths is staggering and often overwhelming. What was available in the past doesn’t compare to today. Resources for looking at college are now multiplied exponentially. There’s a lot of good information, but also a lot of not-so-helpful information out there. Nevertheless, students can be more informed, more prepared, and better equipped with knowledge than ever before.

    Here are 2 websites that have activities to help fill that gap of not having enough information:

    The Journey Begins

    Hopefully you’re able to use these tidbits of advice for helping students find career paths effectively. Just remember that the driving force in all decision-making, whether in life or career, is that list of values that we talked about. Obviously these will change over time as more and more life experience is gained. nevertheless, advise students to make that list first, post it on the bedroom wall, and revisit it daily.

    Students should have people in their lives that challenge them and hold them accountable. These are people who will offer questions and share their experiences—those mentors and models. We’re talking about those who have gone before us can help us obtain our best selves.

    Be one of those, if you can.

    Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

    Originally published Jul 9, 2018, updated Dec 17, 2021

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