Connecting High School Students to Career Mindedness

Connecting High School Students to Career Mindedness

I remember high school as a formative step in my education, getting there on a big yellow school bus, finishing as much homework as possible in study hall, and waking up excited for extracurricular sports and group activities.

My school offered a few electives junior and senior year that helped me get the feel for crafting or framing my own education…outside of the math, science, and gym/health classes that were required.

It wasn’t until my senior year, though, that I began to think about what I was going to do once I was out of school…like, for a job. What was I going to do and get paid to do for the rest of my post-school life? I had had part-time and summer jobs, and worked on the weekends at a local bowling alley since the end of my sophomore year, but I hadn’t really considered long-term plans or how education fit into them.

Building a career, unlike finding a job, is a lifelong pursuit.
Check out Infobase’s College and Career Readiness Toolkit.

Fast-forward a couple of decades: I now work at a digital learning solutions company, Infobase, and have the opportunity to see firsthand how schools are preparing students for these longer-term goals and setting them up for success.

And I also have the opportunity to see how Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center, one of our top databases, is being utilized by schools to provide tools for lifelong career exploration and planning…tools I wish I had had at my disposal all those years ago. The database offers a wealth of resources for users to assess their career goals and interests, plan their education, learn workplace skills, find apprenticeships and internships, conduct a job search, and much more. What’s more, it provides clean, fast access to core content with a fully responsive design from anywhere with internet access: phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, and so on.

I recently had the chance to connect with schools that are seeing really great usage for Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center, and I was impressed to hear how successfully they are preparing students for post-high school career planning. Here are some tips and insights I learned.

Don’t Wait until Senior Year to Start Thinking about Your Career Journey

Of the schools I heard back from, all offered mandatory career courses during the freshman and senior years, or included career-related projects throughout other classes and subjects. A few held annual college-knowledge weeks—within a virtual setting, these are convenient to set up and moderate, hosting local college professors and/or business owners to speak to interested students. Also helpful in supporting career mindedness for students were the school counselors who supported student interests and helped them to connect to educational pathways, career resources, and internship opportunities.   

Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center was a key resource at each school, helping to support student interests across career fields with advice from professionals, up-to-the-minute job postings, job and industry profiles, school searches, and information about internships and apprenticeships for those students looking to build experience or try out an industry firsthand.

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

In my professional career, I have spoken with a variety of educators and influencers across the spectrum—teachers, professors, librarians, other vendors, counselors, directors, and so on—working with students at different levels or across multiple grades.  

Advice offered to me a while back always pops into my head when I hear conversations around helping students to find their own way, and specifically about their career path and options: “Find one or more careers that you really like. Then make a line from that career to where you are in your education or professional career. Finally, start to plan the necessary steps you need in order to get there by your goal deadline.”

High school student's feet with arrows in front of them, symbolizing potential career pathwaysOne vendor I spoke with had two daughters, close in age, and was looking at colleges with them and planning ahead. Through conversations, he found that one daughter wanted to be a high-level accountant and the other, a professional violinist. Ultimately, the violinist found a lifestyle, professional career, and path to follow to reach her goal, but the accountant decided to change professions. The vendor laughed and said that that wasn’t what he had expected to happen, but he felt that it was a helpful reminder that anyone can change career pathways at any time.  

People get to choose their own adventures moving forward by taking deliberate steps toward their goal(s).

To this end, Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center helps students to look across careers within broad fields and majors across colleges and universities to see where their interests may line up, and what sorts of opportunities exist for them to check out. 

When supporting individual choices across career and education opportunities, exposing students to local internships or careers offers hands-on experience and perspective that can inform their approach toward their next steps. 

Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center provides access to a repository of apprenticeships, internships, and job postings, as well as college and university information in support of either journey with your students.

They Look Good on Paper, but What Do They Sound Like? 

Young career-minded professionals preparing for an interview

Interviewing and office professional etiquette are skill sets. Some individuals manage them a little better than others, but today they are more important than ever as we strive to keep the human element alive in an increasingly digital world.

Soft skills are in demand more and more on top of trade and specific job skills. Interacting and networking within your own company is as important as the ability to keep touch outside of your immediate surroundings and offer information to bring back to each of our own systems of employment.

Helping students to establish, grow, or sharpen these skills in lower grades offers more time to master these skills over their lifetime. Just as a language may be learned in as little as a few weeks but mastering that language takes a lifetime—so, too, will interpersonal skills grow stronger as we use them more often and throughout a variety of situations.

Teachers, counselors, and tutors all play important parts in the development of these skills. As the situations change, so do the rules of engagement and the level of interaction. This helps to keep students thinking critically and adapt. 

A recent discussion with a former colleague of mine, I’ll call him Jake, offered some solid perspective on job interviews, the process, and the kinds of questions that you just can’t prepare for. Jake mentioned that his interviewer at one point asked for feedback and ideas on scenarios in which my friend had had no previous experience. Jake luckily realized that the interviewer was looking for mental flexibility and the ability to inquire and adapt to situations that might come about outside of our respective knowledge base, and he was able to respond thoughtfully to the question. A good attitude, confidence, and collaboration are products of honing soft skills, and these tool sets will benefit students in every walk of life.  

High school teacher showing student how to use a databaseFerguson’s Career Guidance Center includes a host of videos on topics relating to soft skills. Positive customer feedback shows that these videos have been helpful in demonstrating and teaching these different skills and that Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center is effectively supporting the needs of students around the world. We have heard about counselors who are using the database with students preparing for college and career interviews, students attending job fairs, teachers placing context around soft skills as they relate to making connections in their career—and how those professional relationships have evolved into mutually beneficial collaborations.  

Discussions about soft skills and exposure to the ideas and motivations behind them are great ways to open up many doors for your students. 

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