Does This Sound Like Your Situation?

by Carl Nielson

I am always asking parents what their experience has been to this point with their son or daughter and the career exploration process. Here is what one parent told me just yesterday in an e-mail. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

[My daughter] has done a couple of career interest surveys at school that are supposed to help her figure out what she likes, but she doesn’t like the assessment. She answers “wouldn’t enjoy” to everything!  The one we did from Collegeboard.com asks specific questions like “would you enjoy sorting things into different categories” or “would you enjoy counting items” or “doing inventory “or something like that.  She answered “wouldn’t enjoy” to everything!  She says she just wants to know what she would be good at, but doesn’t know really what she enjoys! 

We haven’t gotten much guidance from the school at all.  One night they did a survey like that and other than that they just refer us to the guidance counseling page on the school website that has links to other sites for college prep.  She knows her best subjects are science and math, so we are looking at universities that offer a good engineering program.  We think she’ll most likely end up in an engineering degree, but she has no idea which specific engineering specialty to try for.  At [major state university] you have to declare your engineering specialty right away, no generic engineering path to begin with...but it is looking like she wouldn’t be able to get into [that specific university] anyway, she’s not top 10%, she’s at 13% right now.


First, let me tell you I have a son who is finishing up his freshman year at college so my wife and I have been through the process recently but it wasn’t like the above at all. I have a duaghter who is finishing her freshman year in high school and has just started the Career Coaching for Students™ program with me. So I can very easily empathize at a personal level with the bigger focus and desires you have for your high school student. To put my bias right out there, I am convinced high schools will not or can not provide an effective career exploration program for students. And while Career Coaching for Students™ can easily be delivered in a semester class or even as a workshop paid by parents, most high schools don’t see the value. Here are some comments to specific points made in the above quotation:

  1. Many high schools are buying school licenses to “online career exploration programs” such as Kuder, Bridges, Naviance to name a few. The parent’s daughter mentioned above is a senior at a high school that uses one of these “online” programs. So how are those “low cost” “online” solutions working for you? For those of you reading this, ask your own son or daughter what the high school is providing in the area of “career coaching” and how they have used that to explore careers and higher education options. 
  2. There are too many assessments on the market and many are “copying” other assessments’ instrument design and report content. Those online programs mentioned above have aligned with the “school standard” assessments that use Holland codes. Without going into gross detail about validity and reliability of assessments (I could really bore you here) let’s just say that “Holland Code-based” assessments are not used by ANY company as an assessment tool to identify talent and match that talent to jobs. Why? Companies are held to a higher standard. When hiring, companies must use validated assessments with reliable processes. But even bigger than that, companies want to higher the very best candidate from their candidate pool. The best candidate is NOT the one with the best GPA or best looking resume or best interview.  Certainly all of those things play into it. Employers large and small are now using sophisticated talent assessments that do an excellent job of letting the best fit candidates rise to the top of the resume pile. Best fit to the job includes a match to the behavioral demads, the rewards/culutre match, required soft skills, technical knowledge and experience (or skill level). Companies demand a valid and relaible assessment to identify talent. Career Coaching for Students™ uses the same assessments being used by companies in the hiring process. Doesn’t that make sense? Guess what students say when they receive their assessment results and debriefing in the Career Coaching for Students™ workshop: “Wow!" “This was incredible.” “How did the assessment get this so right?” Guess what students say after completing the job/career listing review process. “I feel much better.” “I came in here with nothing. I’m leaving with incredible excitement about the two career options I’m looking at.”
  3. A student who is obviously smart (top 13% is good enough for 99% of career opportunities) who may have known when they were a sophomore what they wanted to strive for career-wise AND had identified the university they want to attend for their higher education choice may have realized it would be much better to be in the top 10% when graduating from high school so they would be accepted to that university. With two or three more years of high school, getting to the top 10% is possible. By knowing what they want to do, most students (actually all feedback has been positive on this point but “all” is not something I can claim factually because I haven’t received this specific feedback from all workshop participants) return to school after the workshop with a stronger passion to make better grades so they can pursue their desired strategy.
  4. Guidance counselors at high schools usually haven’t been on the hiring side in companies, haven’t worked within organizations helping hiring managers make better hiring decisions and haven’t provided oversight to countless terminations of employment due to “poor job fit”. They also haven’t used assessment tools to hire people and haven’t been doing actual career coaching. The short point here is that school counselors aren’t equipped to do an effective job in this area, don’t have the experience and knowledge to know how to help students and can only “guide” students to generic online resources.

The Career Coaching for Students™ workshop isn’t free. I’ve even heard some parents who have not attended the workshop and know nothing about the program say it is too expensively priced. I’ve had others stiff arm the idea for their first child and then have their second child in the front row at the workshop two years later.

High performing students seem to have “many” options which makes Career Coaching for Students™ even more important. Too many high performing students are going into a major only to change two or three times during their college tenure.

Underperforming and “average” students tend to not see any opportunities. Career Coaching for Students™ is critical for these students as well. The program enables them to feel confident in their talent and motivated to pursue their passions.

My hope is for every high school student to “see” their potential, to believe in themselves enough to pursue their passion and to feel confident that what they are choosing to do will work out successfully for them. The sooner we can make that happen the better. Career Coaching for Students™ is not for junior high students. It is a program requiring certain skills and maturity. The earliest we recommend the program is freshman in high school. By the sophomore year, it should be mandatory. By the junior or senior year, we have the student requesting on their own to attend.

Listen to the recorded Parent Information Session (54 minutes)

My wish is that every student in high school were able to attend the Career Coaching for Students™ program. We are working hard to train career coaches and other professionals to deliver this program. Career Coaching for Students™ is available in quantity purchases for high schools to deliver. We have certified Career Coaching for Students™ independent professionals who can contract with a high school to deliver the content. We are also exploring the possibility of offering the program through webconferencing and telephony technology. 

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