by Gloria Welton
JP Michel, who is founder of SparkPath in Toronto, recently made a virtual presentation at a national conference for Career Development Professionals. His message was a call to change the way young people are helped to prepare for their career by altering the conversation from what they want to be to what problems they want to solve.
He talked about a student who was asked to fill out a career exploration quiz. “One question asked if she likes to buy and sell stocks and bonds. She answered no because she had never heard of a stock or bond. This was a missed opportunity to help this student reach her potential.”
JP says that these career tools are based on identifying interests and preferences. This can limit student options because they may have a limited exposure to the world of work.
Why career awareness conversations need to change
JP says the experience of meeting and working with people who don’t talk like you, look like you, or have very different backgrounds can stretch you to think more critically and creatively.
“At SparkPath, the company I started, we think about career exploration in many formats. We find that focusing only on job titles limits people’s ability to explore career options.”
He went on to explain how traditional career exploration systems used in educational and career services environments recommend a list of job titles or categories to explore. “This method is too narrow and continues to limit people from reaching their full potential.”
Research reveals a new approach is needed
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is one of the world’s largest sources of comparative socio-economic data and analysis which provides knowledge and advice to inform better policies.
“OECD surveyed 11,000 students to explore how the career dreams of young people have changed over the past 20 years, how closely they relate to actual labour demand, and how aspirations are shaped by social background and gender,” says JP.
Summary of the findings:
- Narrow: 47 percent of boys and 53 percent of girls expect to work in one of just 10 popular jobs.
- Mismatched: Significant mismatch between the career aspirations of children and labor market demands.
- Stereotyped: Choices are heavily influenced by social background and gender. Stereotypes start at a young age.
- Locked in early: Career aspirations are set at the age of seven and change relatively little between then and 18.
- Lacking role models: Less than one percent get to meet role models from the world of work.
The research indicated that almost half of young people pick their dream job from a small list of the most popular, traditional occupations, like teachers, lawyers, or business managers. The surveys show that too many teenagers are ignoring or are unaware of new types of jobs that are emerging.
“The report also shows that young children are hugely influenced by who they know and what they see, either from the jobs their parents do or their friends’ parents do, or the roles they see in the media.
“Asking students what they want to do or what they like reflects what students already know. Let’s create a more equitable world by broadening horizons, seeing the bigger picture, and exploring new possibilities.”
Start with the challenges in our world to find your fit
JP explained that if we want to help others maximize their career potential and better match labour market demands, we need to help them look beyond the narrow view of job titles.
“Start by identifying challenges, then help students explore the companies working on these challenges, what jobs they offer, who works there, and what they have to learn to be qualified to work in that field. This helps students understand the critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving and technical skills sets needed for their future.
“When students look at what challenges spark their attention, they can take ownership, be motivated and engaged, and things start clicking for them.
“I use a digital tool called Challenge Cards to make this idea come to life. The cards invite students to explore a challenge happening in the world, look at companies that address the challenge, what jobs exist now at these companies and what will be needed for the future, and what educational options are needed.
“The Challenge mindset is more diverse, balanced, and inclusive, helps students become more aware of the many career choices, and helps unlock their potential.”
“Youth today need to know the world needs them,” says JP. “We need to encourage people to become problem solvers.”
He suggests another activity to use in the classroom. “Ask students to choose their favourite story from a newspaper, identify the challenges in the story and who works on these challenges, and consider if they have any interest for their own career path.”
He says encouraging the Challenge mindset prepares students to face real world issues while sparking their interest, an amazing motivator while choosing a career.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about a new approach to career discovery, visit www.mysparkpath.com