Why Extra Focus on Career Exploration Is Necessary This Autumn

 

After a trying 2020/21, career exploration gives students a sense of direction—something tangible and exciting to look forward to.

For many young students, the Covid-19 pandemic has been the most significant world event they have lived through. Their sense of normalcy was taken from them along with connection to friends, motivation to participate in class, and more.

One of the experiences that students had during the pandemic was the feeling of uncertainty around the future. The longer the pandemic crawled on, the more a no-end in sight feeling took hold. Unlike prior years where students could imagine what each season of the year would bring, the last two school years left students unable to predict what the next month would bring, let alone what future years might look like.

This is why, more so than ever, school curriculums need to harness the power of future thinking and career development initiatives to give students something exciting and tangible to look forward to. The power of future thinking can also help students focus less on the insecurities of being behind in their year group expectations and more on what’s ahead in their journey.

 

5 reasons to put extra focus on career exploration

 

1) Self-Knowledge as the Best Roadmap

Returning to school for many students will be a source of joy, a time to reconnect face-to-face with friends and teachers. But many will also be feeling a sense of pressure, not only to catch up on subjects but to make decisions about the future.

As adults, we have more perspective and can say to students asking for advice, ‘there is no perfect path’ but for many students, there’s a real feeling of not knowing the right choice. This is where self-knowledge really comes into play for students who are anxious about making future decisions. When students spend time cultivating a strong sense of self through taking assessments, curating their interests, getting to know their personal strengths, and celebrating their achievements, they’ll be able to make decisions confidently knowing their choices are in alignment with what will bring them success and fulfilment.

No matter what year you’re in, students using Xello can document their journey as they build self-knowledge, explore post-secondary options, create plans, and continually reassess as they grow and learn more about who they are and where they’re going.

 

2) Give Students a Sense of Hope and Direction

A constant feeling of uncertainty is a perfect recipe for heightening a young person’s sense of feeling out of control. After 18 months of pandemic life, where the only constant was a feeling of ‘what now?’ focusing on the future is a great way to give students a sense of hope and direction. When you shift the focus from the pandemic tragedies and learning gaps to students’ strengths and achievements, students can start to feel more in control of their lives and their futures.

‘I always believe that if you can help someone change by giving them an opportunity to see for themselves that they can succeed, then that will never be forgotten by them, or by you’ writes Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes in the forward of Andrew Bernard’s book, The Ladder: Supporting students towards successful futures and confident career choices.

 

3) Fantasising vs. Planning for a Successful Future

In her article How Thinking About the Future Makes Life More Meaningful, Summer Allen acknowledges the benefits of students adopting a mindfulness practice but cites research indicating that thinking about the future is a keystone to creating more meaning in our lives.

As it relates to student future-readiness and motivating them to reach their goals, thinking about one’s future can either help students or hinder them. Research has shown that positively fantasising about successfully reaching a goal results in expending less effort towards realising it, while the opposite is true for having a positive expectation for reaching a goal. It’s like the Henry Ford quote: ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’

But, fantasy is helpful in one way: even when you have a positive expectation for reaching a goal (essentially being optimistic), drawing a contrast between your fantasy and your reality shows you the barriers you must overcome to meet your goal. For students, it’s one thing to fantasise about becoming a movie director and another to research and create a plan for how to get there. With any of the career profiles found in Xello, for instance, students can see the levels of post-secondary education typically required for their dream career and can research their college, university, or apprenticeship choices to create realistic plans.

 

4) The World Changed and So Did Our Students

When we think of teenagers, we often think of young people finding excuses to get away from their siblings or rolling their eyes at the idea of a family holiday. In this article from UCL, students in the UK give their views.

What does this mean for career exploration and future readiness? After experiencing a global crisis that has drastically changed the world and its young people, there will inevitably be changes of heart when it comes to students’ plans for the future. Those who had always planned to apply for colleges and universities away from home may now be looking to stay closer.

 

5) Use the Shared Experience of the Pandemic to Teach Adaptability

Living through an unprecedented historical event is a shared experience that educators can use to teach students about the importance of adaptability and having more than one plan for their future.

Now schools have returned for the new academic year, students should feel that they can share their experiences in a safe space. Additionally, everyone’s experiences of the pandemic can be leveraged as a learning opportunity around adaptability when it comes to future planning. And, it’s not just about students thinking about more than one option for their future, but creating tangible plans A, B, and C.

Xello’s future readiness tools help students throughout their student journey, from year 7 to year 13, to create and modify multiple future plans. Xello Family will also make it easier for students to share their plans with their parents or guardians so that everyone is on the same page!

After all the hurdles faced by careers leaders, educators and senior leaders over the last 18 months, there remains a great deal of pressure on everyone’s shoulders going into the new school year. The education sector is worried about the mental health of students after the pandemic, with many educators also struggling to manage their wellbeing. Getting students focused on their future in every class, not just a careers-specific class, is something educators should lean into. And Xello, which provides personalised future-readiness content and planning tools for students, can help educators get students re-engaged and excited about what’s ahead.