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"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
This quote (attributed to Howard Thurman) appeared in my email inbox courtesy of the marvellous Escape the City community newsletter a week ago. It gave me pause for thought as I agreed deeply with the sentiment. But then I stopped and pondered what this way of thinking means for careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) in our classrooms, schools and homes in the 21st century.
Surely in order to truly appreciate what makes you come alive you need to explore, to take risks, to overcome challenges and to have an open mind. And the question I have for us all is - 'did your experience of childhood and education help you to explore and find out what makes you come alive?' and 'Do you think it should?'
Current CEIAG techniques often assume that the exploring and the learning has already been done - students sit in a classroom with a computer completing a test to receive recommendations regarding careers that match their strengths and interests or watch videos online to hear what it's like to work in different professions. Informative yes. Likely to help you find out what lights you up, not so much.
There is no longer a requirement for students to complete work experience whilst at school and the number of young people taking part time jobs is declining - it seems that the opportunities for safe self-exploration in the comfort of childhood are disappearing.
The best examples of CEIAG that we've uncovered help students to explore different sectors through projects, talks and trips. They are not often labelled formally as CEIAG. Good careers support is not something that happens in preparation for a big decision point (KS3 to KS4 or KS4 to KS5) but rather something that happens regularly and is both integrated into the curriculum and embraced as an extra-curricular activity.
There's no doubt in my mind that the 'right' mix of activities to help you find what makes you come alive is best achieved when supported at school and at home. Rather than pointing young people of a certain academic or personality profile towards a certain career, perhaps we can support them to explore these options whilst actively nurturing their sense of self and inner-confidence.