At the end of term I met a student who, having just finished her GCSE exams, told me she was excited about her A-level studies and starting her journey towards university and her career goal – and I agreed with her that she should be excited because she had her whole future ahead of her.
She’s doubtless now enjoying her summer break, but for many this can also be a daunting time: too much choice, too many decisions looming in September can be stressful.
It’s like driving into an empty car park, thinking: “Where do I park?” But it doesn’t have to be so.
The transition to A-levels, university and the workplace should be a smooth and positive one.
The best way to achieve this is to give students the tools to plan their future from the earliest stage.
We do this by encouraging them to start reflecting early about where their strengths and interests lie.
This pays dividends later on, as they’re more likely to progress into a career they’re suited for and will be happiest pursuing.
As Confucius said: “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Research has shown that when using their strengths and interests in their job, most people will find fulfilment.
So students should start to think about themselves.
What are your interests? What do you like to do?
What qualities/strengths do you have?
What subjects do you enjoy? What is important to you? What are your values?
Are there other factors I need to consider?
They should also start talking through their thoughts with other people.
Teachers, parents – even friends – can give advice and guidance, plus more than a little insight into where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Students should also explore the options and opportunities available to them by researching online, talking to their careers advisor, others who’ve been through the same process, and seeking advice from anyone they know who works in a field they might be interested in.
It’s also important that students understand the skills and abilities that employers favour: gone are the days of a ‘job for life’ – and whatever career path they take, it will involve mobility.
The process of self-reflection helps them build up the skills they feel they lack, as well as helping them understand how they can transfer them from one role to another, thus increasing their employability.
I believe that by creating an environment that encourages proactive thinking and personal responsibility, students become engaged and invested in their future. And the future should always be exciting!