Is it ever too early to start career planning?

Think high school is a fun time to hang out with friends and not have a care in the world? Well, turns out you should get it out of your system in primary school. High school is all business now, big business.

I’m being facetious but only slightly. Of course high school should still be a relatively fun and carefree time in your life, but it’s also the time to start seriously thinking about a career.

In fact, it may even be starting earlier. Which begs the question: Is it ever too early to start?

Probably. Finding that sweet spot is likely important. You wouldn’t want to burn out, lose steam, peak too soon…

Even still, the realities of today’s job market demand an alert, savvy player, not a sideline sitter. The successful career seeker has likely had his or her eye on the prize for years. If you fall asleep at the wheel, even for a second, you might find yourself having to catch up later in life.

This topic was prompted by an article I read via CAREEREALISM (a site with some great content for young people), which shared tips on how to get kids to start networking in secondary school.

Is this a bit too much? Parents reviewing emails, pushing students to join networking groups? Is this realistic? Most teens would rebel or begin to develop a real aversion to networking. Of course there are always a select few who have the drive to pursue these kinds of initiatives on their own. But they are the exception rather than the rule.

For some students, maybe a more moderate approach is better. Here are a few ideas:

  • Help them develop the social skills to interact professionally with people. Teach them social graces: make eye contact, firm handshake, good conversational skills. Remind them to put the phone or tablet down and engage with people.
  • Help them develop a career plan and show them resources to start exploring. Start slow, don’t push. If they show interest in a career related topic or current event, use it as fodder for mealtime discussion.
  • Talk shop around them. Discuss your work and that of close family, friends, and relatives. Even if they don’t appear to be paying attention, over time the content will filter through. This subtle exposure helps them learn the language of these industries.
  • Make a point to expose them to some unfamiliar careers, too. Take advantage of their captivity on family trips and outings. They can’t escape so you can take the opportunity to tour a museum or brewery or anything that would teach you all something new about a certain career or industry.
  • Encourage them to sign up for public speaking courses or other workshops to help them develop skills that meet an interest and will serve them well in the future. But if, for example, public speaking makes you nervous, whatever you do, don’t project this onto them. No need to rehash that horror story from your first school speech. It’s not helping anyone.
  • Introduce them to LinkedIn and help them build a profile. Encourage them to leverage Twitter for career development. Point out a few effective career sites to follow such as @CAREEREALISM, @myFootpath, @WetFeet_Career, @Doostang, @career_explorer, @TalentEgg
  • Model professional behaviour. There are simple things you can do to give them a head start in life. Be on time, dress professionally for work, demonstrate courtesy, fulfill your obligations to people.

For the parents who are reading this – do you have any tips and tricks to share to get your kids attuned to networking and building professional relationships at an early age? For the students – would you do any of these things? Let me know your thoughts!

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