If we want our brightest students to flourish in adulthood, finding satisfaction and pursuing eminence within their chosen careers, we need to be intentional about supporting them on their paths. This starts with a great education, but it doesn’t stop there. We, as teachers and parents, need to be purposeful about fostering not just their intellectual development, but their career development, as well. But what does that mean, exactly? How is it done?
Here are three easy steps recommended by Paula Kosin, career consultant. Kosin has spent years working with gifted students and is a popular presenter at Center for Talent Development (CTD) conferences.
1. Teach kids that a) people work, and b) they have choices about that work.
The first step, ideally done with elementary students in the lower grade levels, is simply to make them aware that adults work. “Little kids are aware of firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses and doctors—the people in their world,” Kosin says. She espouses teaching them that the actors in the movies they watch, the musicians at the orchestra, the zookeepers and the bridge builders are all working too.
“Make children aware that people have choices about jobs and there are different work environments,” Kosin adds. “The nurse who works in an emergency room has a different type of job than a school nurse, for instance.”
2. Help kids become aware of their talents.
“Parents can be really instrumental, as can teachers, coaches and other adults.” says Kosin. “They can serve as a mirror, reflecting back to kids the things they do well, and putting labels on those activities.”
This can be as simple as snapping photos of young kids engaged in doing what they love to do, be it drawing, building things, performing, or reading a book. A collage of these photos can be a powerful visual of a student’s talents.
Kosin cites the example of a high school student who organizes friends to do a post-prom trip to the Indiana Dunes. “The parent,” says Kosin, “can then say, ‘You really did a good job. You organized 12 different friends, figuring out transportation, food and music. At the last minute, when some people couldn’t come, you shuffled the deck quickly and figured out how to adapt to change. Those organizational and problem-solving skills, combined with your ability to think on the fly, are going to be really important in a job someday.'”
Children need to know what they do well and why those skills and abilities matter in the world, both for the present and the future.
3. Don’t be afraid to consult a third-party counselor.
“Sometimes, gifted students are interested in a career or subject matter, which is completely foreign to their parents,” says Kosin. “They can do some exploration on their own, but they could also tap into a career counselor in the same way they would a tutor.”
Without good career counseling and support, gifted kids, especially, can flounder. “Gifted students can easily go in one direction, and then another direction, and then another. Each works for a couple of years, but then it isn’t challenging enough,” says Kosin. “You don’t want to have a gifted student with so much potential going all over the place because they’ll get frustrated and not develop their skills to the point that they otherwise could.”
“What you want for anybody, but especially for gifted students, is a career direction they can sink their teeth into and one that will keep them motivated for the long-term,” says Kosin.
If you are interested in learning more about guiding gifted students to plan for a bright future, join us on June 28 for Center for Talent Development’s annual Opportunities for the Future Conference in Evanston, Illinois. Adults attend a keynote address and stimulating presentations while students in grades 4 through 12 enjoy interactive workshops that focus on interesting fields of study and future career paths. Children age 4 through grade 3 are invited to participate in supervised activities while family members visit sessions. Full information about the conference is on the CTD website.