Recently, my son transitioned to a different middle school than the one he had been attending since kindergarten and originally intended to graduate. This transition got me thinking when it came time for me to write for Women in HR. One can truly correlate the selection of a school to attend to accepting and starting a new job. Overall, it’s a personal choice and the final decision not only has to be the student or jobseeker, but it has to fit with their overall plan in life.
Now you may think “isn’t middle school a bit too young to be thinking about how a school decision fits into your overall plan?” Not really, I personally think kids are “groomed”, hopefully by their own choice and not their parents living their own goals through them, very early in life for things like sports, music, dance and more. Where I live, it seems like the high school all-stars start their journey before they can even tie their shoes. I’ve seen young baseball, soccer and football camps for kids who barely enter elementary school. They wear the gear but they are so tiny it looks like they are going to fall over. So if the focus on team sports can start so early then why can’t kids start making choices from an academic standpoint that affect their career? I have always heard that you can trace your career choice back to what you did on the playground. Me? I used to sing on the porch in front of my audience from the neighborhood. While my dreams of a singing career did not come true, I do have an audience now and again as a teacher, trainer, and speaker in the HR community. So I guess at least from my experience what I hear is true, to an extent, of course.
Now let’s get back to the school choice and its relationship to jobs. Once my son decided to change schools, which he had been contemplating for almost a year, we decided to set up a “shadow” day at two of the schools he had in mind. In addition to hanging out with a fellow student all day to observe, he had to meet with the principal of each school, for which I joined him to listen and ask my own questions. As a parent, I was very impressed at my son’s questions and his maturity while in these meetings. He asked questions I had not even thought of, like: 1) what type of math and English program the school uses to teach the students; and 2) what specific extra-curricular activities did they have related to his personal interests.
One of the things his former school had that neither of the new choices had was Robotics, which was very important to him since he plans at this point to have a career in engineering, technology, or both. However, he justified his decision to continue to pursue his move because the school he did finally decide on had an advanced math course and was willing to start a Robotics club as soon as possible. While starting the club would not allow him to immediately join a Robotics team, allowing him to compete like he did the previous year, it was not a game changer. He told me that since he would now be able to take high school math in 8th grade that would give him a jump start on his high school math credits. That decision will allow him to take college level math while still in high school. Did I mention he is 12 years old and he is telling me all of this? The reason it is so important to him is because he has plans to go to a specific college one day (MIT) that will help him get into the career of his dreams.
Employees (typically disgruntled or disengaged employees) are constantly looking for a new job or opportunity, especially when the job they are in doesn’t satisfy their needs or holds them back from moving closer to the dream job they would like to have. Recently, on Drive Thru HR I heard Jennifer Miller refer to people finding a job that deserves them. How fitting of a philosophy that jobs don’t find people, people find jobs. I remember getting out of the financial services field to move into manufacturing so I could round out my resume to experience the old white collar and blue collar workforce. Someone had told me that my HR advice probably didn’t work in the blue collar world because I had only worked with people in offices. I was not about to have that perception limit my future opportunities so I took care of it by getting the job I needed to work in the blue collar workplace.
Planning at any age, in school or in the world of work, can definitely help to shape your career.
Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @DonnaRogersHR. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.