I’ve been talking a lot lately about equipping teens with tools for career development in my Career Exploration Summer Program. I’ve shared on Facebook how excited I am to be offering this program because it is a skills-based program designed to give smart and capable teens a way to make great career decisions. You may be wondering, though, what skills does a teen need to be successful?

Understanding Interests and Strengths 

While the economy is changing rapidly and there are more opportunities than ever, it still pays to begin with interests and strengths. One of the challenges of being an early careerist is knowing what brings you the most fulfillment. In some ways, you have to know what you don’t want before you can pursue what you do want. Interests and strengths are a good shortcut to narrowing down the field. There are literally thousands of career paths available so it can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to look at your interests and strengths.

Exploring the Needs of the Market

The second tool that is essential for teens to master is understanding where their strengths and interests connect with the current economy. This is a tricky one! Having the resources to explore the income potential, industry growth and future directions is not a skill to be taken lightly. If anyone could be identified as the hardest of these essential skills to master, I would probably say this is it.

Cataloging and Communicating Transferrable Skills 

Transferable skills are skills you develop over time that you grow in proficiency by using them. Everyone, even teens, have transferable skills and stories that demonstrate those skills. The trick here is to be able to communicate those skills in applications, interviews, goal setting conversations, annual reviews and salary negotiations. This is a skill that few adults are accomplishing at but this is the #1 skill you need to maximize on a flexible economy. 

Professional Communication 

There is a reason why one of the biggest tasks in the program is to talk to someone in the industry doing work that is interesting to the student. There is no substitute for building professionalism (or any transferable skill) than actually engaging in professional activities. Knowing how to initiate conversation, simplify concepts, ask thoughtful questions, demonstrate interest in the other person, and follow up appropriately are skills that all employers value. No matter the industry, the biggest complaint from corporate recruiters on college campuses is the gap in expectations of employers and the level of professionalism of new graduates. 

That’s it! There is no magic here and no hidden agenda. If your student can master these four things, then they will be well equipped to choose an appropriate career path, pivot when faced with the unexpected and flourish in their career. Here’s to flourishing!