Junior Achievement (JA) is a terrific and worthy organization. JA designs programs for middle school classes with the primary goal of educating students on entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and work readiness. The course I recently volunteered to teach was for a sixth-grade class called, JA - It’s My Future. This program teaches students how to begin thinking and visualizing their future working world.
The program first introduces to the students the importance of developing a positive personal brand. Time is spent educating the students on how choices they make today will influence the range of choices they will have in high school and possibly in college or in the working world. With that personal brand in mind, it also educates the students on a multitude of career clusters available today. It also discusses the skills, education, work environment and job outlook for each career cluster.
Career mapping was a really fun and relevant topic for me to teach. In my professional world, the teaching required while helping a client map a comprehensive wealth management path is very similar to teaching a sixth grader how to map a potential career path. They both need to map short, middle and long-term goals. The skills involved in this process include analyzing data, goal setting, tracking progress, and working within a team. I emphasized the importance of looking at their future career as the destination at the end of a journey. I asked them to imagine driving across the country to an important event. I then asked, “What would happen if Google Maps or the onboard navigation computer only told them to head west and figure it out on their own”? Seems extreme but the point is mapping, whether it is for a career destination or a retirement destination, requires two phases: mapping where you have come from and where you are going to next.
The final two sessions focused on job hunting and workplace ethics. I spent time discussing with the students how to market their personal brand when it comes time to look for a job. This required them to learn about the importance of a well-crafted resume and how to best use and manage their social media footprint. Here are few tips we discussed that I feel apply to everyone, regardless of age.
- Be perfect with your resume and cover letter. Remember, you are presenting yourself (i.e. Brand) to hiring managers and they will quickly spot grammatical errors and sloppy verbal communication skills. Avoid tacky border graphics, use only black ink, and don’t use a non-professional email.
- References. If you are new to the working world, finding good references can be challenging. As a general rule, it is best to avoid using relatives as references. Consider asking your teachers, volunteer organization leaders, past coaches, neighbors, or church leaders for your character references.
- If you are on social media, expect that hiring managers will find you. Does the profile you presented in your resume and job application match what is on these sites? They will also focus on what you follow online and what you publically post or blog about. So if your resume says you are active in the community or in your industry, then these sites can confirm these claims. It can also work against you, so be mindful of what you post online.
- Be ready for the big four questions all managers want to know:
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for us and how will you make me look like a genius for hiring you?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your strengths?
- Accomplishments. Nothing wrong with tooting your own horn, if you don’t who will? Just make sure your references can back them up.
I look forward to my next volunteer opportunity with Junior Achievement. I believe opportunity always looks a lot like hard work, so work on the good things in life!
Written by Phil E. Gose
Capital Resource Management, LLC