Every day, I work with students to help them pinpoint where their potential, passion, and skill set intersects and set in motion a plan for life beyond secondary school. Some of my students will have already made plans for University and beyond, however, many are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tertiary and vocational pathways in Australia.
The truth is, our career is a significant component of our daily lives, and the idea of choosing one can be daunting. Science tells us that teenagers are still developing the neural pathways needed to make long-term decisions, even if they have completed Year 12 and have their ATAR. On top of this, the job market continues to rapidly change due to globalisation, technology, and now, a pandemic. One can understand why students hope to find a crystal ball in their school career counsellor’s office, that will provide the answers to ensure they live happily ever after.
I have heard my students and their parents call me the Fairy Godmother! As complimentary as that is, I do not have a crystal ball, a magic wand, or clairvoyant abilities. What I do have is a Student Futures program that can take the angst out of career planning.
Launched in 2018, Toorak College’s innovative Student Futures program is centred around self-insight, career inspiration, and career resilience.
I credit the success of the program to these three factors:
It is supported by the broader school curriculum
Career planning requires well-developed skills in critical thinking, research, and problem-solving. Project based work in the middle years, that doesn’t lead to one right answer, allows students to develop the strategies they can apply to their own ‘career project’ later on.
In the senior years, the curriculum focus shifts to the development of career management skills students will need to thrive in the future eg. networking, interview skills, and LinkedIn profile development. Students need to understand how to research opportunities and how to sell themselves, both digitally and personally.
A strong connection to Industry
Students have received the message loud and clear that their future job probably doesn’t exist yet. Understanding where degrees can take them, what today's jobs entail, and hearing predictions about the future from industry experts, reassures students they are on the right track. Our VCE students are invited to join the Empower Network, which exists for Alumni to support the career development of students by providing industry relevant mentoring, work shadowing, and employment opportunities. This, coupled with virtual work experience and partnerships with Industry, allow students to test their ideas about different careers safely and independently.
Driven by the individual student, within a culture of wellbeing
Evidence demonstrates that a ‘one size fits all, tick the box approach’ to preparing students for life beyond school is not effective.
Students need to reach a certain level of maturity to actively contemplate their career. No one can make good long-term decisions if they are anxious or fearful, so they need to be mentally prepared and get comfortable with change and being uncertain.
A relationship built on trust with an accredited career counsellor is critical for every student. They need a safe space to discuss their career aspirations and dreams, as well as their fears, and be supported every step of the way. This relationship can only occur when engaging one-on-one, over multiple occasions.
Bianca New is the Student Futures Specialist at Toorak College
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