12 ideas to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet


Teaching | Thursday, April 25, 2013

12 ideas to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet

Jobs of the future

The career frontier is an ever-changing one.

Sixty-five percent of today’s schoolchildren will eventually be employed in jobs that have yet to be created, according to this U.S. Department of Labor report.

Educators have a daunting task ahead of them: teach students skills to solve problems we’ve never seen before and won’t see for years.

Even today’s technology skills may be obsolete before students graduate, let alone before they reach the workforce.

Thankfully, some skills are timeless. They’ve been relevant for decades, centuries. They will continue to be relevant into the future. These skills – and a handful of other more modern-day skills – will serve our students well as they enter the “real world.”

Here’s what we can encourage in the classroom:

1. Adding value. Analyze what’s already out there. Figure out what’s not. Then, contribute something that’s worthwhile that people don’t already have.

In the classroom, we can: praise novel contributions in conversations, in student work, in projects.

2. Destroying the “do what he asks me to do” mentality. Education has programmed students to believe that their job is to answer questions, complete worksheets and comply. Do whatever’s asked of them. Those aren’t real-world skills. They need curiosity and resourcefulness.

In the classroom, we can: incorporate “20-percent projects” where students explore their passions, and/or ask some more general questions and let students pursue them as they see fit.

3. Releasing inhibitions. Our creative, innovative sides can be crushed by our nervousness or lack of self confidence. Students need to feel that they can challenge the status quo, even if it sounds crazy.

In the classroom, we can: give less red X’s and more constructive comments. Encourage students to trust their instincts and take risks.

4. Creating content online. The Internet is a medium unlike anything we’ve seen before. It allows anyone to become an author, a public speaker, a movie director or an entrepreneur. If students don’t know how to harness the power of the Internet, those doors can’t be opened.

In the classroom, we can: help students learn how to design websites, create videos, publish books online. But more importantly, we can teach them the process of learning these things.

5. Continuous listening/watching for new ideas. You never know when a passing comment from someone or an innocuous sentence in an article becomes the inspiration for a life-changing project or opportunity.

In the classroom, we can: make a game out of finding great new ideas in unlikely places.

6. Glamorizing hard work. Overnight successes aren’t normal, but they receive more hype than the “slow and steady” approach. True success is often built from consistent quality work over time. Hard work pays.

In the classroom, we can: lavish praise on a student when he/she does exceptionally detailed, thought-provoking or thorough work.

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7. Turning wasted time to productive time. I’m a runner, and I noticed that my 45-minute to 2-hour runs allowed me to think but didn’t yield any productivity. So I started carrying a digital voice recorder with me. In fact, that’s how I prepared for this blog post. I created productivity where it didn’t exist.

In the classroom, we can: help students find ways to make the most of their waking hours. Time spent on TV, movies, video games and the phone is fertile ground for finding a bit of extra productivity.

8. Cultivating relationships. We all can learn from others. But relationships can grow stale. Maintaining contact helps keep our connections with others active and it helps us grow.

In the classroom, we can: create opportunities for collaboration, especially those that reach beyond completing a worksheet together.

9. Being financially responsible. If an opportunity presents itself, we may be bound in chains if we’re stuck in debt. If a cross-country move, an important tool or a strategic plane ticket will help us get to the next level, we can’t be debilitated by our bills.

In the classroom, we can: make the connection between financial stability and students’ goals.

10. Staying on the cutting edge. Follow trend-setters. Watch innovators. Know the new products. Read the news. Know what’s going on so the world doesn’t pass you by.

In the classroom, we can: use new tools and discuss how new information is relevant to work in our classrooms.

11. Maintaining the balance between professionalism and being a real person. The work world depends on goods and services, time management and professional work. But it’s also made of real people who appreciate humor and want to connect on a personal level. It’s important to know where the line is drawn between the two.

In the classroom, we can: have honest one-on-one conversations with students when they stray far from that professional/personal line.

12. Becoming a 24-hour worker. This doesn’t mean working every waking moment. But today’s world doesn’t sleep. E-commerce, social media and business in general has become an on-demand commodity. The best know how to make themselves available in short spurts at many times a day instead of working eight hours and shutting off.

In the classroom, we can: give students opportunities to connect outside of class through digital resources or face-to-face.

Which of these do you think is most important? What are others that have been left off the list? Add to the conversation with a comment below!

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  • […] far for preparing our generation of digital natives to perform in the global community. After all, 65% of today’s schoolchildren will eventually be employed in jobs that don’t exist […]

  • John Bennett says:

    In my view #11 is very important. The late Stephen Covey always talked about the Four Needs; my labels differ slightly from his: Physical (including financial), Social, Educational, and Internal. The one least obvious is the last, Internal; it’s the need to routinely ask how the other three are being met and make adjustments as appropriate. Covey wrote that if all four needs are not satisfied, the person cannot be happy. As I suggested to my students, that means – even being college students, they should not study “all the time” but needed to get exercise, eat well, socialize with others, …. in addition to learning responsibilities.

    What it means, as I see it AND do it, is that one needs to have a schedule that addresses the four needs, that everyone needs to have the skills of effective learning, effective problem solving, teaming, and communicating (to optimize schedule options – how often I heard “but Dr. Bennett, I studied so many hours for this test and look at my grade…”).

  • […] particularly like what this blog had to say. It elicited 12 ideas to prepare children for jobs that don’t exist. My favourite […]

  • […] far for preparing our generation of digital natives to perform in the global community. After all, 65% of today’s schoolchildren will eventually be employed in jobs that don’t exist […]

  • Nikki says:

    Love this article, especially #6 & #12. Hard work is not as glamorized as it should be. I am a firm believer in tried & true hard work and not enough students are raised with this work ethic or are not acknowledged enough when they excel at it. Also, just has “education” doesn’t only happen within an 8 hour time period, neither does work. I think we still have a ways to go for employers to understand this concept. I have a day job, however, I work nights, & on the weekends too sometimes so “work” isn’t confined to 9-5. Yet, most employers still think of paying employees by the hour just like schools still insist on educating from 8-3 and colleges still think students need to be sitting in a seat for 3 hours a week to get credit. It’s a slow changing environment because of what society considers the social norm. I check the news in my industry every night before bed & yes, on twitter too, and it’s the first thing I look at every morning, it’s part of my work, my thirst for knowledge, and my way of knowing what’s going on in my world, yet it happens WAY outside the boundaries of 9-5.

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