This month I connected two young people as part of a college counselling conversation. One is a former international school student that I worked with several years ago, and the other a current High School student making some tough decisions about her college choices. I loved the way Zoom allowed the three of us to be connected on three continents, something we might not have explored pre-pandemic. I have learnt over the years that there are few things more powerful than connecting young people to each other. They are always so willing to pay it forward to their younger selves! At the end of the conversation, my former student was able to recognise that he was a natural mentor and that this was a skill set that he may want to develop further. Mentorship is so important in all walks of life and I always love to “recruit” mentors to support and guide our young people.
After the conversation I found myself thinking back to when my former student did a work placement experience aged 15. He was convinced he wanted to study finance, but I will never forget him walking back into my office after his work experience in a finance company… and telling me that there was now no way he wanted to study finance! This started a more honest conversation about where his true passion lay and a path towards a very successful undergraduate and masters experience. I wonder how many more young people set off on paths that reality and experience later tell them are wrong for what they truly wish to do in life?
My point is that we need to be proactive in supporting and guiding our young people to access work experience placements. Many international school families often think that their teenagers cannot access work experience in their host country because maybe their host country language skills are not strong enough, or that when they do go “home” their time with relatives is too precious to try to juggle a work experience opportunity. Well, the COVID pandemic has completely changed that! Today, young people around the world are accessing virtual work experience opportunities and I bet if an international school student were to approach an organization or a company which did not have a virtual work experience opportunity, but offered to help them develop one, this may be mutually beneficial to our teenagers and the workplace.