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career choicesAccording to Cathy Davidson, 65 percent of today’s kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet. This begs the question: as a parent, how do you prepare your child for a career that doesn’t exist?

By failing to answer this question, your child risks being left behind. Jeffrey Selingo (The Chronicle of Higher Education) states that students are at risk of being “ill prepared for the creative forces that will define the global economy in the future.” We are already aware of several changes that are reshaping our economy: the rise of technology, the ageing of the population and environmental and climate concerns are just a few examples. Organizations are trying to change to accommodate these shifts, and unemployment is rising in the ensuing shifts.

Another concern, unfortunately, is that our education system is not quick enough to respond to these changes.  Karl Fisch (Huffington Post) summarizes the problem as follows:

“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

As a parent who is aware of this change and uncertainty, you need to help prepare your child for a bright future by helping them make these three shifts:

  1. Forget About Jobs and Careers; Look for Challenges to Solve.

Today’s jobs and careers are on a collision course with a new world order. While the jobs, careers and approaches we take might change, the challenges that we are trying to solve will remain. In fact, as our perspective on certain issues evolves, new challenges to tackle will emerge as well. Of course, the jobs and careers that address these challenges might look completely different from what we see now. Accordingly, students need to shift from focusing on jobs and careers and instead focus on challenges they want to solve.

  1. New Expectations for a New World: Welcome to the 21st Century Workplace

New challenges will require new tactics and strategies. 21st century organizations are building 21st century workplaces, which will require 21st century skills. These companies will need self-starters who can learn continuously and lead others in the process. Today’s students need to understand that the rules of work have changed, and that their skill sets will need to align with new expectations.

  1. Know Thyself: Leverage Self-awareness

In order to make an impact in the workplace, the workers of the future need to cultivate their self-awareness. Thankfully, self-awareness can be developed. Psychometrics, guided self-reflection and the gathering and leveraging of feedback from peers can all help develop a self-aware, grounded, future leader. The process of reflecting on values, strengths, personality and interests will build career anchors that help ground, focus and accelerate students during their career trajectory. Through this increased self-awareness, students will be better able to weather changes in their environment, align themselves with causes they care about and understand how they can make meaningful contributions to the workplace.

Preparing your kids for work that doesn’t exist yet may seem like a daunting task a first, but by helping them make these three shifts you are setting up them up to start their careers successfully.

Jean-Philippe Michel leverages his experience coaching high-performing leaders to help high-school students develop their potential, set ambitious career paths, and choose the university program that will help them accomplish their goals. He can be reached through SparkPath, where he leads the development of programs and one-on-one-coaching engagements.

Categories : Career Strategy
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mistakes students makeAccording to the Pew Research Centre, 29% of American students regret their college major decision. At Penn State, up to 80% of students are unsure of what they will major in when they begin their studies, and nearly half will change majors at least once before graduating.

Why the indecision, change and regret? Here are 4 mistakes students make when picking an education program that help explain these numbers.

  1. Lack of information about themselves

Without a solid understanding of themselves and what they want, students lack a strong starting point to begin searching for career and education options.

Answering the following questions provides focus and direction: What is important to you? What challenges would you like to tackle? What sets you apart from others? What is unique about the combination of your personality, interests, strengths and values?

The answers to these questions can come in the form of data from a valid psychometric assessment, guided reflection, self-awareness exercises or from discussions with a professional. Most importantly, the interpretation of how these different data points align with each other and how to take action on the insights is what students benefit the most from.

Students who do not gather data about themselves and integrate it in their decision-making process miss an opportunity to ensure their career and studies line up with who they are.

  1. Lack of information about the future

What will the future of work look like? What is happening in the fields I am interested in? What jobs and career are growing and which ones are becoming obsolete? Answers to these questions can have a significant impact on how a student thinks about and picks what they want to study. Unfortunately, many students chose a career path based on the current labor market, which limits their ability to prepare for the long-term.

Data published in the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook provides some information about the future, but students need guidance to understand how this data relates to their particular situation. In addition, students benefit greatly from speaking to professionals in their fields of interest to find out about future demands and trends. Often, connecting with people in their dream jobs is easier than students think. Those who fail to do so miss out on important insights that could significantly impact their choice of studies.

  1. Lack of education program research

Once students have gathered solid information about themselves and what they want to do, they need to create a tailored list of education programs aligned with their career goals. Some students make the mistake of searching too narrowly (i.e. not enough options), while others search too broadly (i.e. too many options). With thousands of available majors, getting the right balance can be tricky.

After the initial list is created, students should filter their options systematically to create a list of top majors. Next, students need to evaluate each major in depth to understand what problems they could help solve, how they are built and what students are likely to enjoy and find challenging about them.

Often, students get lost in this process and fail to do their due diligence on understanding the programs they are interested in. Without a strategy and an effective research process, choosing the right major is difficult to achieve.

  1. Lack of help

Many students report being disappointed by the support they receive from high school counsellors. For others, working through this process with their parents can lead to a different set of challenges that can hinder, rather than helps, the outcome. Finally, counselors may not be as useful as expected, as the help they are able to provide to prospective students is often limited.

Many students benefit from a neutral accountability partner that guides them through the process. This person should act as a coach and facilitator who transfers career development skills and enhances the student’s research and decision making process.

Bonus Mistakes

  • Falling victim to a cognitive bias that leads to a poor choice in education program. For example, the ambiguity effect: tendency to avoid the “unknown”; confirmation bias: looking for information that confirms existing beliefs and rejecting data that goes against beliefs; neglect of probability: the tendency to disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty, etc.
  • Consistently delaying decisions. For many students, picking a career will involve incremental steps that build onto each other and lead to good choices. By pushing back decisions and commitments, students fail to gather the momentum and the building blocks required to advance in their ideal path.
  • Choosing an education program for the wrong reasons. Following a friend, choosing the most prestigious (sounding) career, trying to please your parents, choosing solely based on income, etc. The list goes on!

Through awareness of these common mistakes, students and parents can avoid the negative impacts of choosing an education program that is a bad fit. Please share with those who could benefit!

What other mistakes have you seen students make?

Jean-Philippe Michel leverages his experience coaching high-performing leaders to help high-school students develop their potential, set ambitious career paths, and choose the university program that will help them accomplish their goals. He can be reached through SparkPath, where he leads the development of programs and one-on-one-coaching engagements.

Categories : Career Strategy
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summer jobIs your teenager ready to take on new challenges? Are you looking for opportunities for them to grow, learn and develop new skills?  Here are a few local growth experiences that might be just what you’re looking for:

Volunteer: Volunteering can help teens develop crucial teamwork and organization skills, all while exposing them to the world of work. It can also help them clarify what they like and don’t like.

You can help your teen pick an organization or a cause they believe or are interested in. For inspiration, students can visit Volunteer Ottawa’s site to find postings. Alternatively, they can think of their favorite places in the city and research their volunteering programs. For examples, museums, hospitals, community centres and some businesses offer volunteering programs for students.

Work: Summer jobs can offer invaluable experience to students who are interested in exploring the world of work. There are many resources available for young people looking to work, such as the Youth Services Bureau Employment Services and the City of Ottawa Youth Job page.

School Programs: The University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Queens University all offer fascinating options for students looking to explore a specific subject during the summer. All their summer program pages are worth exploring. One example is the engineering school at the University of Ottawa, which offers several programs: TeenSci, TeenTech, Enrichment Courses and MakerSpace. If these programs aren’t a good fit this summer, you can always participate in the Enrichment mini-courses that happen at the beginning of May.

Summer camps and leadership programs: A popular option for an immersive experience is to send kids to summer camps or leadership programs (day and/or overnight camps). Here are several resources that can help you find a camp that fits:

Government of Ontario Programs: The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has created a terrific list of Enrichment and Summer Opportunities. Featuring over 20 opportunities, this list has some exciting options that are sure to engage.

Online learning: For an intellectual challenge, your teenager could take an online postsecondary-level course (for free) from some of the world’s best colleges. This would expose your teen to fascinating topics and could ignite hidden career and education interests. Through these classes, students have access to online study groups and forums to interact with students from around the world. Here are two sites to check-out first: and

Create your own: In addition to these options, students should strongly consider creating their own summer experiences. For example, they should reach out to professionals whose work they find interesting and organize short coffee dates (or informational interviews). Students get to meet with professionals who share their experience, expertise, enthusiasm and zeal for what they do for a living. Sometimes these conversations could lead to ad-hoc one day, one week or one month internships. For example, by asking: “Are there are any projects I could help you with this summer?”, students might unlock hidden opportunities that might be mutually beneficial for an employer and the student.

What other experiences would you recommend for students in Ottawa?

Jean-Philippe Michel leverages his experience coaching high-performing leaders to help high-school students develop their potential, set ambitious career paths, and choose the university program that will help them accomplish their goals. He can be reached through SparkPath, where he leads the development of programs and one-on-one-coaching engagements.

Photo © diego_cervo / depositphotos

Categories : Career Development
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Generation Jobless?

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When Amanda finished her studies, she was filled with hope and optimism about her future in the job market. “What will I do? Who will I be?” she asked herself. It seemed like there was so much to discover and accomplish. However, several months after graduation, Amanda was still jobless, with no opportunities on the horizon. Her parents had tried to help but nothing they had tried was working. That’s when reality hit home. Perhaps starting a career wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be?

Amanda is not the only millennial struggling to launch her career. A quick glance at newspapers reveals headlines such as “Generation Jobless” and “Young, Employed and Giving Up Hope.” Here are some of the facts:

  • Recession: Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for more than half of the 430,000 net job losses (Canada) during the recession, although they make up 16.5% of the workforce.
  • Debt: The average post-secondary graduate is now carrying $28,000 in student loan debt.
  • Global Trends in Unemployment: World Bank surveys suggest that 262 million young people in emerging markets are economically inactive.
  • Overqualified: One in four millennials with a university degree is employed full-time in a job that doesn’t require that level of education.

Amanda would love nothing more but to land the job of her dreams, but clearly there are some obstacles in her way. The markets, the education system and companies themselves have all played a role in getting us to where we are today. And what about the graduates; should a lack of employment also be interpreted as entitlement and laziness on the part of some millennials? Perhaps.

Faced with these challenges, there are several actions that youth can take to prepare themselves for a difficult job market, such as developing self-awareness, building career development skills and getting help from professionals and contacts in their network.

Once Amanda learns about the necessary steps to succeed in the 21st century job market, she will likely completely shift her job search strategy. The rules of the game have changed, and, to land the right job after college, students need to learn about a new approach to career preparation so that they can overcome the challenges they face.

Faced with these new rules, parents and students are increasingly teaming up to tackle career challenges. Given this partnership and the questions I get from both parties, I am cohosting a teleseminar with my colleague Wayne Pagani titled: Future Careers for Today’s Youth: a Dialogue with Parents. During the November 27th teleseminar, we will be presenting solutions and resources to support a more meaningful process to making the critical decisions about moving forward into careers of the future. You can find out more and sign up for the seminar here.

Jean-Philippe Michel leverages his experience coaching high-performing leaders to help high-school students develop their potential, set ambitious career paths, and choose the university program that will help them accomplish their goals. He can be reached through SparkPath, where he leads the development of programs and one-on-one-coaching engagements.

Categories : Career Development
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