Think back to life right after high school. Did you feel prepared for the real world? Nearly 40% of people surveyed by HCM Strategists and EDGE Research believe that high school did not adequately prepare them for life after graduation. Another 31% said it prepared them only “somewhat well” for their next step in life. These respondents also wish they had received more personalized guidance during high school about which education and career options were right for them. Some also reported feeling pressured to attend a four-year university, as if it was the only path to success.
Fortunately, the stigma around vocational and technical (vo-tech) schools as a post-high school option is decreasing. This comes at a good time because there’s currently a shortage of skilled and trade workers in the US. As long as digital skills are emphasized, vo-tech education can be a great alternative to traditional colleges and universities. From The Atlantic:
“In the United States, college has been painted as the pathway to success for generations, and it can be, for many . . . The ever sought-after college-acceptance letter isn’t a guarantee of a stable future if students aren’t given the support they need to complete a degree. If students are exposed to the possibility of vocational training early on, that might help remove some of the stigma, and help students and parents alike see a variety of paths to a successful future.”
How do Educators Know Which Career Path Students Should Take?
A recent Forbes article introduced the idea of career lattices as an alternative to the proverbial career ladder. The idea is that fulfilling work can involve vertical, lateral, and diagonal moves. It’s less about working your way up the ladder and more about working through things like skill development and job experimentation. Trade, vocational, and technical schools are a big part of that. In fact, many people even opt for vo-tech school after earning a traditional degree.
But this poses a critical question: how do educators help high school students decide which post-graduation path is right for them? More importantly, how do educators know which path is most suitable for a specific student so they can offer more personalized guidance? The answer is simple, but nuanced: learn about students’ interests and personality type.
Interests and Personality Can Predict Career Satisfaction and Success
Interests are powerful predictors of academic performance, career choices, and overall success. This means that if a student’s interests don’t align with their field of study or eventual occupation, they’re more likely to disengage and be unsuccessful. Thanks to research from Dr. James Round and Dr. Rong Su, there’s evidence to support the importance of structured, interest-based planning so that eventual career satisfaction is more likely to occur. It’s what assessments such as the Strong Interest Inventory® (Strong) do so that individuals can connect with education and career opportunities they’ll find genuinely interesting.
Similarly, personality type plays a significant role in career satisfaction, work preferences, and performance. For instance, educators can use personality type to understand why someone might prefer a specific kind of STEM career or in what capacity they prefer to work with their hands. Through the lens of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) assessment, an individual’s personality type indicates four major data points about their natural preferences and behaviors:
- How they direct and receive energy (Extraversion or Introversion)
- How they take in information (Sensing or Intuition)
- How they decide and come to conclusions (Thinking or Feeling)
- How they approach the outside world (Judging or Perceiving)
Both assessments are particularly useful during high school students’ junior and senior years – a time when future plans begin to take shape. Together, they provide educators and career counselors with the framework to offer personalized school and career pathway recommendations to each student. As long as students answer the assessments honestly, they can explore the full breadth of industries and occupations that could be ideal and fulfilling for them. They’ll also learn what kind of schooling is required to get there.
If we want future generations to live to their fullest potential, simplified advice like, “just go to college” may do more harm than good. When educators seek to understand what students are interested in and how they exist in the world, it reveals a much more targeted path for success.