The idea that adaptability and goal setting are good for your career isn’t rocket science. In fact, the University of Toronto’s Towards 2030 report highlights adaptability and self-management as two of the top 15 core competencies that positively impact your career. But while many people only begin seriously mapping out their goals in the early to mid-years of their professional life (or after a real or imagined career crisis), some students at David Thompson Secondary School in southeast Vancouver are getting a head start thanks to a new innovative career conference.
Launched by their principal Iona Whishaw with the help of career counsellor Jacky Mulder, this year’s David Thompson Career Conference was inspired by evidence that Whishaw saw presented at an education conference in San Antonio, Texas. At the conference, Whishaw was inspired by a workshop led by a principal from a poor neighbourhood in Los Angeles, who explained how simple goal setting at the age of Grade 9 had led to a significant increase in his class’ eventual graduation rate. The act of focussing on a goal/career and mapping out what’s needed to achieve it worked wonders for many of the school’s urban students.
David Thompson is a long way from an inner city school, but Whishaw discerned that the principles could be just as valuable to her students as the poorer kids described in the San Antonio workshop. Forget what The Harvard Business Review tells you about goal setting, because the Center for Education Policy at The George Washington University Graduate School of Education of and Human Development released a report in 2012 that says it does matter. A lot.
This year’s Career Conference drew roughly 300 Grade 8 students, 55 mentors (or “panellists”) and a handful of Grade 12 students to facilitate the conference’s workshops. During the daylong session at David Thompson, students had the opportunity to explore a variety of different sectors by asking candid question of local professionals from a wide range of fields of work including Trades, Film, Arts and Design, Air Traffic, Business/Commerce, Journalism, Health Sector, Enforcement, Hospitality (to name just a few). You can read more about the conference from a panellist’s point of view in the Vancouver Sun.
After talking to panellists in at least two sectors, students were then tasked with developing their own personalized career plan. While there’s discussion about the value of building a career plan for a job that may (or may not) exist yet, it is clear that the practice of thinking about what fields of work you want to work in and how you’re going to get there is a transferable skill that can used long into the future. With this in mind, students were tasked with researching the required courses and post-secondary education requirements they’d need to enter the profession they were most curious about and tasked with outlining the type of skills they’d need to hone in order to help their future employment prospects.
It was clear to Whishaw that what a student thought was interesting in Grade 8 might drastically change by the time they got to Grade 12. With this in mind, everyone was encouraged to modify/update their plan yearly. While the goals will evolve, Whishaw says she felt the practice of consciously mapping it out in an organized and thoughtful manner will yield significant dividends for her students in the future.
We weren’t all lucky enough to have someone force us to think of our goals (and more importantly the skills and time we’d get there) at such an early age. But we all have the opportunity to consciously consider our goals and what the best way to accomplish them. There are a number of resources out there connected to goal setting, particularly in a career context.
Once you’ve arrived at your goal – or your idea – career development research finds that the next logical, and exciting, step is to explore your options. Sure there’s always the internet, but an equally effective way to judge whether a career path or position is suitable for you is to discuss it with someone in an industry that interests you. That’s where information interviews can be so helpful.
Ultimately, there’s a reason why New Year’s Resolutions are so popular. Goal setting can be valuable to the evolution of your career. Research and information gathering from someone doing what you might be interested in doing in the future is a great way to begin transforming your ideas into reality. So what are you waiting for?
Photo courtesy of jean-louis zimmermann