Students: Stewards of their own careers?

Published on 15th March 2016 under Blog Topic - Uncategorised,

With only 2 months before the leaving certificate countdown really begins. Many parents are focused on how/when/what to do to support their 6th year students. As a Careers Consultant, I see generally two approaches, Hands off or Hands on!

With hands off– your teenager has told you “don’t worry”,” I know what I’m doing”, “I want to go to” etc. etc. Their certainty and assertiveness with you means you back off.

With hands on– your student can’t/won’t engage in their college/ career choices so you take nearly full control! Checking all the requirements for courses, advising them (even though you get eyes to heaven or deep sighs from your teen)!

I believe that neither of these approaches really work so I’d like to suggest a third way. It’s based on a method of delegation suggested by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s called Stewardship Delegation

Stewardship means the management or care of something. Don’t you think your student should take ‘care’ of their choices?

The basic difference is that instead of micromanaging the college/career decision process– you focus all the attention on the Result.  The method or how they get the Result is up to the teenager. This win: win approach starts with an agreement between parents and their teenager on the desired results or goal i.e. find a suitable career/ suitable college course. This does not mean leaving them to it or not advising them if they need help. But the request for help should come from them.

Here are some guidelines on how to support your teenager

  1. Discuss with each other what the Goal is. What are they hoping college will be like? What other career pathways are available? How long do they want to be in college?  What will the Result look like and by when?
  2. Set Guidelines– what are the parameters within which they can operate? What are the essential components of their choice e.g. Irish colleges, 4 years monetary support, college visits, appropriate research carried out, job pathways following graduation etc.
  3. Identify available resources – what assistance can you offer e.g. travel to college visits, assistance from family, work experience with family friends, any other supports available.
  4. Define accountability – how will you measure success? What are the accomplishment criteria? Who is your teen accountable to?
  5. Determine the consequences– what are the natural/logical consequences if the Goal is/ is not achieved? Attend the right course at the right college, or…..

The benefit of this approach is that your teenager gets the guidelines and support from you (which they need) but the decision and appropriate responsibility is theirs. Too many 6th year students are starting college in September unprepared for the course and the huge differences of a third level environment. Assisting them to take charge of their choices now should make them more realistic and prepared for this transition.