Guest Blog By Gillian Jones, Careers and University Advisor.
Earlier this week I met a 5th Year 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. I agreed with her that she should be excited because she had her whole future ahead of her and it is an exciting time. But for many it can be a daunting time: too much choice, too many decisions 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.
By teaching students the importance of the career planning cycle we give them the tools that they can refer to throughout their lives: assess your current situation; get to know your interests, skills and values, and think about both the personal and the broader economic factors that could influence your work and learning choices.
Exciting and probably a little bit daunting as it may be, the transition to university or the workplace should also be a smooth one. That relies on planning and making informed decisions – and the Pocklington Careers and University advice team helps students to do that 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.” Never a truer word has been spoken – but I also feel it’s not just about the end product, it’s also about enjoying the journey.
So students should start to think about themselves. After all, we are all different, and the sum of many parts. Surprisingly, this isn’t always easy: 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?
Self-awareness and self-reflection make an important starting point when reaching career decisions, as does having the opportunity to talk through your thoughts with other people – which is where the strong supportive system at Pocklington comes into play. Students have the opportunity to not only meet with myself but to talk to other members of staff who can give them advice and guidance, plus more than a little insight into where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Research has shown that when using their strengths and interests in their job, most people will find fulfilment.
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 our students take, it will involve mobility. So, by encouraging self-reflection, we can help students build up their skills and also help them to understand how they can transfer them from one role to another, and therefore increase their employability.
Along with self-reflection, students need to explore the options and opportunities available to them. At Pocklington School we’re very fortunate to be able to call on a huge range of personal and virtual resources, from careers and course information software, to expert guests speakers, and advice from OPs, friends and parents working in a wide variety of careers. That personal involvement is very important in highlighting not only that even well-made plans may go astray, but also that there may be many routes to your career goal and one way does not suit all.
While we offer structured careers-led education as part of PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) education, every pupil is encouraged to do their own research (the careers department subscribe to several online careers services and carry a range of careers literature), as well as being given the opportunity to demonstrate and expand their employability skills through the wide range of extra-curricular options on offer here.
Following self-awareness and exploration comes the decision-making part of the cycle and, again, the supportive culture of the school, from talking to OPs and asking for advice based on their careers, to discussing GCSE and A’ level options with subject teachers, helps students with the decision-making process, as well as teaching them various tools that they can employ in the future.
After all this thinking and exploring of options, it’s important that students draw up a timely action plan. Every 5th Year student gets to do this with myself during a one-to one meeting where we plan the steps needed and use all they have learnt about their skills, interests and values, together with the information they have gathered about the world of work, to put their plan into action.
Of course, as most people know the road to success is not always a straight one, and that’s where qualities like resilience and adaptability become important.
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!