I’ve been a careers adviser and coach for over fifteen years, as well as working in communities and with private clients I work in schools and I am in the unique and, I think, privileged position to talk one to one with every single student in a school by the time they have reached 16; I talk to them about what motivates them, what they are afraid of, what they want to improve and what they want to achieve. I have worked in areas of deprivation and areas of influence, and every young people predominately share the same feeling at one time or another…the feeling of not being confident to take the route that they have previously considered. During a workshop with high achieving post 16 students, the entire year group admitted to being scared of making the wrong choice with reasons for that fear ranging from it being the wrong university to it having a detrimental effect on their entire long-term happiness and existence. Recently a student I was working with told me I sounded like a Ted talk, so I applied for their 2019 'Reflect, Rethink, Reboot' event and was lucky enough to be short-listed and attended a workshop for speakers. This is what I am most passionate about:
When we reflect on our younger selves, we often don’t connect the dots as to who we were and who we are now but what motivated us then, our values, natural skills, interests and talents may well still be the same, or similar. I work with anyone from 15 to 50 plus; one story I love to reflect on is of a 60-year-old who wanted to change from the charity sector to being a comedian. Almost without fail a client will refer to their school days as having been the point where they changed their minds, and with it, their course in life. Having dreamt his entire young life of a creative career he took a safe route and regretted it. There’s a famous study done by a palliative nurse on the regrets of the dying, the top 5 included working too hard and choosing a life that others expected of them. Many of the people I work with already have that regret, they are not waiting until the end of their life to make changes and are looking to rethink their career path; studies show a massive 37% of people are not happy in their job in the UK, it could be worse, in the US it’s almost 60%.
When I’m working with a client, no matter their age, I often start with the question, what did you want to do when you were younger? Not only is it a way to take the pressure out of the now, but it allows us to remember a time we thought about careers more freely, and very often, the motivation behind the past ideas based on a knowledge of very few careers, can link to now. For example, a little boy who wants to be a superhero, may then want to be a police officer, may then end up being someone who gives people advice on housing. The link is a caring nature, and perhaps that boy will end up being someone’s hero, even if it is not as obvious and certainly, he may not know it.
What I want to do is change the world’s perception on what is possible… starting with us. The language we use, the opportunities we share, the actions and behaviours we present have the strongest influence on young people. The media are only just starting to change out dated adverts of women doing the child care and men fixing the house, during a recent study, girls, who, following a question on ‘tell me about yourself’ would identify with themselves via their looks and relationships, are now redefining themselves by now identifying in a similar way to boys, by sharing their skills and interests first. Things appear to be changing, but at ground level, the biggest influencers are parents, carers, family, friends and teachers and the young people still have the same obstacles – a 15 year old I once met wanted to be a marine biologist, her face lit up when talking about science but she had already opted for accountancy and business because ‘it would be too hard to have a family as a marine biologist’, I’ve met too many students who were thoroughly depressed because they were trying so hard to become a doctor or lawyer, but academia was not their strength, the grades would simply not be met and the belief that they were not good enough was growing ever stronger, all because of unrealistic cultural expectations that could have been redirected to create an army of amazing, caring and practical people making a difference in their own way. I have met a fifteen year old boy who wanted to become a barber but was taking the academic route towards engineering because otherwise his friends would laugh at him – I’m grateful to say this one did follow his passions, but an hour with me is generally not enough to follow dreams when outside of my office is a world that says we should be doing something else. What society are we creating to put this pressure on young people, the society where we work hard to get a good job to buy a home and have a family? We need to recognise that life has changed and our aspirations may not be those of our next generation.
I could get political here, I could talk about social mobility, about funding cuts to schools, about how creative subjects are being taken off the curriculum whilst emphasis is put on English, Maths and Science. But I won’t mention all that. We can create change and reboot as a nation, we simply need to reflect on how we communicate, with ourselves first and foremost, we can have results or reasons and every time we point fingers we have three pointing back at us. What we tell the next generation is important, ask them why and tell them they can, then find a way. Language used with young people that can install beliefs and behaviours, beliefs that can have the power to create or the power to destroy. Let’s get creative, remember the time when our imagination was used for joy and play, rather than control and anxieties? If we, as adults, can get back to that, then we can redefine what is possible for ourselves and recreate our story and in doing so, reboot the possibilities for our future generation.
Please feel free to comment or get in touch to find out more and if you want to follow the #giraffedreams project you can find me on Instagram @holsamlife