Thursday, February 7, 2019





12/01/2018

Preparing Teens to Succeed in the Workplace: A Foundation Initiated Effort

By John G. Bendt

In order to prepare for the future, a seminar was designed to enable teens to answer these two questions: What do I need to do to prepare for career success? What determines who wins the job in a competitive workplace?

The Flaherty Family Foundation initiated a conversation with teens about the workplace by providing sixty of their ninth grade scholarship recipients the opportunity to participate in a career preparation seminar. The foundation provides high school college prep scholarships to high potential students with economic need residing in Minnesota, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Montana.

Seminar Content Detail
Throughout the seminar, a conversational style that encouraged active participation from students was employed. Power Point presentations and videos were used with the following focus.

Fundamental to achieving career success is understanding skill, effort and personal attributes comprise the basis of competition in the workplace, because employers use these criteria to make hiring decisions. Most teens have a vague understanding of this fundamental truth in the work world. They do, however, have experience with competition in sports and academics. Drawing teens into a discussion of who wins a starting position on a sports team, or a scholarship, establishes skill, effort and personal attributes as the key factors. Pointing out how these factors also apply to winning a job provides a connection to understanding workplace competition.

Workplace Skills: To compete for a job, it is important for teens to understand what skills employers value. Therefore, the next step was a discussion defining hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the specific skills required for an occupation (e.g., computer software programming). Soft skills (e.g. communication, teamwork) are required in all occupations. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook was highlighted as a source to identify hard and soft skill requirements for occupations.

Studies have found that recent college graduates are lacking in critical soft skills they need to compete and succeed in the world of work (Strauss, 2016; Bloomberg Next Study, 2018). To help students avoid this pitfall, soft skills in the following categories were identified, defined, and their importance discussed.
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Problem solving
  • Organizational skills
  • Management skills
Discussion led students to the conclusion that both hard and soft skills are required to perform well in a job, and the more highly one develops skills important to employers, the more successful one will become.
Create Skill Advantage: Next, students were introduced to the idea of bundling hard and soft skills to distinguish themselves from others. For example, a physical therapist with strong clinical hard skills can further distinguish herself or himself by using strong interpersonal skills to educate patients about their treatments. Additional examples were used to demonstrate how highly developed soft skills can play a big role in creating an advantage when competing for a job.

Personal Attributes: Personal attributes like being motivated, dependable, goal directed, etc., can turbo charge skill advantages. A list of attributes was discussed and their power demonstrated by asking students to share experiences where these attributes were or were not exhibited in team projects, school clubs, sports and part time jobs.

Communication -Teamwork - Problem Solving: Special attention was devoted to these highly valued soft skills. A Ted Talk video, How Miscommunication Happens, was used to explain key communication principles. Discussion followed. Teamwork was addressed by exploring what a leader is, what makes a leader effective, the role of team members and what makes a team good. A practice exercise was used to bring these principles to life. Teams of eight were formed with a designated leader. Each member was given a plastic tube, which when whacked on a knee, produced a particular musical note. Teams were asked to create and perform a melodic creation.
A problem solving model was presented to teach students a problem solving process. Student groups of five were asked to solve a problem through use of the presented model plus communication and teamwork skills. Each group presented their definition of the problem and solution alternatives.

Opportunities to Learn and Practice Soft Skills: Ideas were solicited from the students to identify opportunities to learn and practice soft skills in the classroom, extra curricular activities and part time jobs. A few examples provided were using team sports or clubs to practice leadership, teamwork and organizational skills.

Career Discovery Tools: Exploration of occupations is a neglected activity for many teens. Thus students were taught how to use career discovery tools such as interest profile test software, O’Net Online and the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Additionally the foundation created a follow-up process to empower students to conduct ongoing explorations of potential career paths.

Seminar Evaluation* and Recommendation
A few examples of feedback from participants (*without using real names) demonstrate the value of engaging teens in a conversation about the importance of developing workplace skills long before they graduate high school.

“Thank you so much for opening my eyes to see that in order to succeed in life, we need to have a lot of qualities that I never would have guessed. I now have begun developing better understanding of how to succeed and ways to get there.” - Meria

“Thank you so much for coming and speaking to us, and teaching us about work and skills, and what we can do right now to be successful in life, and how to prepare for the future. You taught me so much, and I found all of it so helpful. I will take it with me for the rest of my life”. - Josh

“Thank you for taking some time out of your day to come and give us a presentation, and talk to us about business and what it takes to be successful out in the world. I appreciate what you have taught me. I have learned many useful things, like the importance of soft skills and hard skills together, and what it takes to meet those requirements. Thank you for teaching me what it takes to choose a good career.” - Lopez


Unfortunately many teens don’t have the benefit of this type of instruction. Often schools and parents do not connect the dots between school curriculum, selecting a career path, competition for jobs and the skills required to compete successfully. When the dots are connected to form a big-picture, teens get it, and are better equipped to prepare for their future.

Given the benefits teens gained from learning how to successfully compete in the workplace, it’s time to weave these lessons into the high school curriculums. It is time to equip teens with strategies and tactics they can use to nurture their readiness to compete when they begin their career.

References
Strauss, K. (2016, May, 17). These are the skills bosses say new college grads do not have. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2016/05/17/these-are-the-skills-bosses-say-new-college-grads-do-not-have/#4e83d7855491

Bloomberg Next. (2018). Building tomorrow’s talent: Collaboration can close emerging skills gap. Retrieved from https://www.bna.com/uploadedFiles/BNA_V2/Micro_Sites/2018/Future_of_Work/Workday%20Bloomberg%20Build-Tomorrow-Talent_FINAL.pdf




John Bendt is the author of A Roadmap to Career Success; 25 Tips for College-Bound Students. He has conducted career prep seminars for middle and high school students, and has written career planning commentary articles for Education Week and the National Career Development Association’s Career Convergence Web Magazine. He can be reached through his web site, https://careerprepteens.com/


*Names represent pseudo-names and not the exact names of respondents.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Inspiration For Writing My Book
By: John G. Bendt

I wrote A Roadmap To Career Success - 25 Tips For College Bound Students, because I’m concerned that most high school students spend little time and effort exploring and evaluating what they want to do when they enter their work lives. They also have little understanding of the workplace, and no action plan to prepare for a happy and successful future.

It’s paradoxical that college-bound students and their parents put so much energy into selecting and gaining admission to a good college, yet give only minimal thought to such tasks as selecting a future occupation and learning the workplace soft skills required to compete in a global job market. Many students thus enter college with little direction and are naive about how the real world functions.

I find this disturbing for a number of reasons. First, it has serious consequences. Surveys show a gap exists between the soft skills college graduates possess and what they need to be successful in their careers. For example, according to a 2016 study by PayScale (a compensation and benefits information software company) and Future  Workplace (an executive development firm), 60 percent of the 63,924 managers surveyed in their study reported new grads working in their company lack the critical thinking and problem solving skills necessary for the job. Other important soft skills found lacking included: communication skills (46 percent), writing proficiency (44%), leadership qualities (44 percent), public speaking (39 percent) and interpersonal and teamwork skills (36 percent). There is no doubt these skill gaps handicap the start of a new grad’s career.

Second, it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve seen the benefits my four children gained by being proactive in high school to identify interesting occupations they found satisfying and fulfilling. I’ve witnessed them winning the jobs they wanted when they started their careers, because they learned and practiced important workplace soft skills like those listed above while in high school and college. I see them doing well and happy in their jobs today. I also have seen middle school and high school students respond positively in career prep seminars I’ve volunteered to teach. The notion that middle school and high school students are too young for career prep activities does not square with the experiences I’ve had with teens. 

Most schools do not connect the dots between school curriculum, selecting a career path, competition in the workplace and the skills required to compete successfully. When the dots are connected to form a big-picture, I’ve found teens get it, and are more likely to do a better job of preparing for their future.  When I searched for a book that would help teens understand the big-picture of how to achieve happiness and success in their work life, and couldn’t find one, I decided to write one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

OnlineBookClub.org review of "A Roadmap To Career Success" by John G Bendt.]

Official Review: A Roadmap To Career Success
Posted: 17 Apr 2018, 21:58
by CataclysmicKnight
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "A Roadmap To Career Success" by John G Bendt.]

4 out of 4 stars

College is a tough time. It's often the first huge decision a person makes in life, and it ends up being more than just a single choice - what college should I go to? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? These are questions that John G. Bendt seeks to answer in his book, A Roadmap To Career Success, 25 Tips For College Bound Students, just not in the same way many books do it.

I've seen numerous college advice books that are thick enough to kill the fiercest Australian spiders, so I was surprised that this book was only around 80 pages. Despite the short length of this book, it's packed with information that will encourage and inspire children to plan for their future from the time they begin high school. John's strategies will have students far more equipped with "skill advantages" than the average student and prepared for the competitive world of getting into college and job hunting.

John begins by recommending that people begin figuring out what they want to do with their lives when they begin high school. This isn't just "make a list of everything you might want to do and then throw a dart", it's rather thorough, including: choosing some potential fields of interest, networking, interviewing people who already have that job to see what exactly they do and whether it's something you'd be interested in. He continues on through a total of eight chapters, from defining hard skills (skills specific to an occupation or industry like programming C++) and soft skills (skills that are important for any occupation like being a team player), learning how to improve and develop those skills, learning to market yourself for colleges and businesses and then the actual job searching itself.

The author does an excellent job of going step-by-step through these processes, and includes all sorts of methods to determine what career a person may be interested in, and then collecting life experience to best set oneself up to get it. The way he breaks it down is really awesome - it's essentially a solid method of making a to-do list for your future. Sure, some of these are covered elsewhere; who hasn't been told about the importance of extracurriculars for getting into college? But John breaks it down more - he explains WHY they're important, both for college and a future career, and which ones are best for which skills. One of my favorite tips is to keep records of "how you used soft skills in your activities and jobs" so that you can refer to them freely in the future.

Aside from the six errors I found - half of which were so minor they barely even made it as errors at all - there was only one negative I found. While John manages to go through everything thoroughly and keep things moving smoothly most of the time, there was once in the last chapter that he mentioned questions one should ask an interviewer at a job interview to ensure the business has growth potential and the right culture for you. However, two chapters before that includes writing a resume and preparing for an interview. This recommendation two chapters later feels like it was out of place.

Aside from these very minor issues, I really enjoyed my time with A Roadmap To Career Success, 25 Tips For College Bound Students. Heck, even as someone in my mid-30s I was inspired to begin my own research, find my own dream job and work on the skills I need to get it! I'm definitely rating it 4 out of 4 stars and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has kids in high school or college, or to anyone who is in high school or college themselves. John says he used this method with his own four children when they were entering high school, and as thorough and all-inclusive as it is I believe him.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Would You Pay Your Child $70,000 To Pick An Occupation ?

This Could Happen If Your Teen Goes To College Without A Career Plan!Career indecision for students entering college often leads to extra time to complete a four-year degree. Just one extra year can add over $70,000 to the cost of a four-year degree when your child's missed income is added to the extra college costs.
According to the College Board the average cost for tuition + room & board in 2016-2017 for a public college is $20,090, and a private college, $45,370.  The average 2015 annual salary for a bachelor degree graduate was $50,651 according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

CAREER PLANNING BENEFITS YOUR TEEN & PROTECTS YOUR POCKETBOOK!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Straight A Grades Are Not Enough For Success On The Job

The 3R's alone are not enough for success in today's rapidly changing, highly competitive global economy according to a 2007 report put out by the Conference Board, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management.  The report, Are They Really Ready To Work?, found a disturbing trend developing in the United States:  Many of today's entry level workers, even those with a four-year college degree, lack the critical workplace skills needed to succeed on the job.  (The full report is at www.conference-board.org. )

Will your child be part of this trend?  Sadly, the answer is probably yes, if he or she fails to develop the skills needed to meet the requirements and expectations of the competitive workplace.  Some of the most important skills needed by entrants into today's workplace are:
  • Communications (Written & Oral)
  • Teamwork / Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking / Problem Solving
  • Professionalism / Work Ethic
Lack of career planning by high school and college students is a large part of the reason so many entrants into the workplace are unprepared.  Career planning is a powerful process that should start in high school and continue through college and one's work life.  It provides the tools to develop a career path and to acquire all the skills needed to achieve success.

I believe a good career planning program for teens should include the following elements:
  • Tools to identify occupational interests and to understand their skill requirements.
  • Explanation of the role competition plays in the workplace and how to build skill advantages.
  • A process to follow which will enable one to select a career path.
  • Instruction on how to build soft skills through extra curricular activities and part-time jobs. 
  • Instruction on the basic principles of how to market oneself to prospective employers.