Coaching youth about life, career

published by the Nashville Business Journal

One truly rewarding part of being a leader is handing down knowledge to the next generation. Coaching young people about life comes with the territory, but shaping someone’s career often gives leaders as much inspiration as it does to those being mentored. Experience gives us the ability to listen, guide, direct and challenge the career thoughts of youngsters. 

My philosophy has been to start with the big picture. I try to get young folks to develop a broader vision for where they want to go in life. But to be honest, I recognize that few teens have a clear plan for the future. However I have also learned that for many youngsters it’s preferable to talk to an “outsider” about careers rather than their parents, who often infuse the challenging topic with their own expectations and baggage. 

Over many years of attending corporate conferences, mentoring workers, learning hard lessons in the business world and banking a variety of hands-on teaching experiences, I have collected some pointers for the next generation of professionals. Full disclosure: I borrowed part of a framework for success from an expert on youth development, but have added my own spin as my coaching formula has progressed. 

Let’s look at three key stages that can lead to great success in work—and life. 

  1. Directing education. The first critical step is to get the right education. Of course any higher education will be helpful in the professional world, but an education tied to a focused career plan can be exceptionally powerful. Leaders can help teenagers narrow career interests by discussing natural skills, passions and curiosities. We can also facilitate learning by arranging some direct exposure to work environments—trying a part-time job, shadowing a specific worker, touring a workplace and meeting with other young people on the job. The goal is to help make the connection between a targeted education and career ambitions. 
  2. Chasing a career. The second step is actually finding and securing the job that’s right for you, a topic on which most senior leaders can provide important assistance. The key message is explaining to job-seekers that finding the ideal position is a “full-time job” in itself. The process requires diligence, persistence and thick skin. Young people must be prepared for rejection, not sheltered from it. There will be a lot of “no’s,” but it only takes one “yes” to get a career moving.
  3. Securing support. Third, our most important leadership decisions come down to choosing to surround ourselves with the right people—in business and life. With competent, caring, courageous people by your side, your odds of success are very high. Young people need to understand the importance of making good decisions about the people they choose to spend time with, and, when the time is right, a life partner who will be there to support them in whatever career direction they decide to go in. 

When you are coaching young people about careers it’s worth discussing these three simple points. The right education, job fit and support network is a solid blueprint for success. 

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