Springboard Helps Students Make the Right Choice
By Hilary Diack
How many parents have children coming to the end of their school years, yet without any clear idea of what future career they plan to go for? There are so many things to consider, natural aptitude being just one. That’s when a professional can step in and make it a lot easier. Cairo East Magazine went straight to Rasha Reda, youth career expert and Certified Strong Counsellor from SpringBoard.
CEM: What is covered in SpringBoard’s counselling program?
RR: Youth career coaching is working with high school and early college students on determining the career direction that best fits them and, for high school students, the related high school subjects they need to take to qualify for their university major of choice. We consider factors such as their innate passions/interests, their personality, their skills, motivators and personal circumstances. The objective is to arrive at the career direction that will enable them to shine, make their mark, and most importantly to be happy. We strongly believe that when you do what you love, what inspires you, what comes naturally to you, this leads to happiness, overall life balance, and that success will surely follow.
What motivated you to specialize in youth career coaching and to pioneer this service in Egypt?
I am actually living out my own personal passion with SpringBoard! It is a much needed guidance service for young people when facing their first high stakes decision in life, which is choosing their high school subjects and deciding their career direction. School systems in Egypt do not provide the students with career classes or exposure to the professional world, so students are not equipped with tools to make these decisions, or acquire knowledge about the decision making process. I have met so many stressed parents who are anxious about their teenage son or daughter’s future and don’t know how to help them. Youth often have nothing to go by except the subjects they have taken at school and managed to get good grades in, along with family and peer pressure to pursue a certain direction. Their own personality and interests are so often not factored in – which is a huge mistake – and this is due to the lack of tools or a personalized support system within the schools who provide generalized support but may not have the time or means to individualize the coaching as is so often needed for youth at this age.
The professional world is not about academics only or your grades in school – employers are looking for youth with purpose and drive, and passion to bring to the job. I have also seen many adults who have found themselves in a career that is not their passion, and they never had the chance of asking themselves actually what it is that they like. Even if these people are successful professionally, they often reach a stage where they burn out and feel trapped in their careers, even depressed. I launched SpringBoard with a vision to help youth avoid these pitfalls from early on, to take control of their career direction, and to enable their first career plan to be fine-tuned as they go along.
What age do you counsel young people from?
We work with young people starting from the age of 15 or 16. At this age, they have begun to reach a level of cognitive maturity to enable them to conceptualize the process and they possess the minimum required problem solving and decision-making ability. Research has shown that the only difference between youth at this age and any adult is actually experience. Younger ages can benefit from career sessions to increase their awareness of the professional world and what different careers entail.
Do you encourage parents to participate?
Absolutely. Youth need all the support they can get, and one of the key objectives of my youth coaching process is to get teens and their parents on the same page. Career decisions are not made in a vacuum, and what my coaching process does is bring personality and interest factors to the table, to be considered in the context of everything else in a rigorous career decision-making framework.
Together we work to arrive at the career direction the young client feels most comfortable with and the path that makes the most sense on the ground.
What skills and aptitude tests do you conduct?
We use a variety of tools and activities for career exploration depending on the needs, including the Strong Interest Inventory from the US, which is internationally recognized as the gold standard of career planning tools. These tools and activities generate a wealth of information aimed at raising the young clients self-awareness to answer the question: “Who Am I?” This is the starting point from which we work to tie the findings to potentially matching careers, college majors, and the high school subjects they need to choose to take them in that direction.
Do you help in arranging training and internships during vacation periods?
We do not arrange the actual internships for our clients, but together we identify the job-related experience they need to acquire to fine-tune their career exploration, be that in the form of internships, job shadowing, interviewing professionals, or internet research.
Do you give young people an idea of what amount of study is needed to follow various career tracks?
Definitely. Learning style and work style are important factors that we explore together using various career planning tools, and each college major has its unique study requirements that need to match the young client’s profile.
How do you help them prepare for university?
Basically by providing them with a helicopter view and a long-term vision. High school students are used to planning for the short term, looking at the subjects they are taking now, or preparing for upcoming exams. My coaching process provides them with a wider perspective and directs them to the importance of deliberate longer-term planning of where you are going rather than just floating and seeing where you will end up. Many students nowadays are seeking acceptance at universities abroad, and these universities very often have requirements that are much more than just academics and grades. Through our coaching process, we work together on what extracurricular activities are needed to be pursued in the remaining time leading to applying to university, in order to build the personal profile that will maximize their chances of acceptance into their major of choice.
Do you advise them as to the careers with the highest probabilities of employment?
Of course. You cannot plan your career direction in a vacuum based only on your interests and passions without consideration of the employment market, and the socio-economic and political factors surrounding you. It is also very important to know that with the exception of very specialized technical and scientific careers, most careers out there have successful professionals that graduated from a wide variety of disciplines. Life is flexible that way, and there is always the chance of choosing a more general college major that will keep your options open and pursuing further more specialized studies upon graduation from university to learn new skills and fine-tune your direction as you gain further clarity. It is about choosing your own unique path to lead you where you want to go, and that is your own personal choice.