A few weeks ago I spoke to a group of 100 high school leavers for their Careers Day about making the transition from school into university and the working world.  It’s been a while since I was at high school (quite some time actually), so trying to put myself in the mindset of a 17 year old was a real challenge.  I didn’t want to be a dull and boring presenter, so I was determined to understand my audience.

Life at 17

In preparation for my presentation I reflected on my personal experience leaving school.  There was no Facebook, no Instagram, no Snapchat, no Twitter, no Google.  Hardly even a mobile phone back then!  So how on earth was I going to relate to these students who communicate via text messages with emoji’s, photos that evaporate after five seconds and written language like “OMG, I’m ROFL”?

Hopefully my animation of Homer Simpson inhaling a few donuts would get a response.  But wait… do they even know who Homer Simpson is?  The Simpson’s started in 1989!  Wow, I was in trouble.

So I did my best to prepare and off I went to face these bright young minds.

The future workforce was sitting right there in front of me1415984253000

Future health professionals, academics, accountants, politicians and even aspiring asteroid miners were my audience.

And yes, I led with the Homer Simpson animation and thankfully it got a great response.  Phew!  Despite a few inattentive students goofing off in the back row (that may well have been me in the past), the group were participative and willing to engage.

After some group interaction reflecting on past occupations that no longer exist (such as “those phone switchboard operator people”, as one bright spark in the front row suggested), I shared the scary statistic, that 40% of the current Australian workforce are at high risk of being replaced by computers in the next 10-15 years.  So I suggested the top three growth industries by 2025 according to Australian employment data might be the way to go, being (1) health care and social assistance; (2) professional, scientific and technical services; and (3) education and training.

What’s your career path?

I wasn’t surprised to learn that only about 15-20 of the audience knew unequivocally what career path they were heading down.  The rest either had a rough idea or no idea at all.  So I had this in common with most of the group.  When I finished high school I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do.  And that’s ok.  Because according to Australian social researchers, McCrindle, if current trends continue, a school leaver today may have up to 17 different employers in their lifetime with five separate careers.  Skills acquisition and continual learning will become the norm because the job for life of my grandfather’s era is gone.  The future belongs to those with agility who can transfer their skills across industries and adapt to the supply and demand of a more contingent and project based working world.

You are in control

A few of the teachers who attended the session were delighted to have a ‘real world’ person talk to the students and share some insight into life after school.  I was asked by someone what message I wanted to leave behind for these students.  My answer was simple.  “You are in control.  Get out of BED (blame, excuses and denial) and hit the ROAD (responsibility, ownership, accountability and discipline).

The minute you leave school for either tertiary study or employment, you are in control.  It is not your teachers telling you what class to be at or how to behave… that part is driven by you and your choices.  You will make mistakes and bad choices along the way but that’s where the learning happens which makes you smarter and stronger.

I left them with a wonderful quote from Apple Founder, Steve Jobs from his 2005 Stanford presentation:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition”.

I don’t know if I made an impact on any of the students.  But they certainly made an impact on me.  The future workforce is full of enthusiastic, bright minds with creativity and a drive to make their mark on the world.

Ben Walsh – General Manager; Recruitment

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