Being Inspired By America’s Youth

How many times have you said to yourself; “I wish I knew then what I know now”? A handful? Or, so many times that you have lost count? I certainly fall into the latter category. I have been blessed to have many wonderful experiences in my life. Many of them have taught me very valuable lessons that I have carried forth to this day.

I feel very blessed to be a volunteer with Junior Achievement. Not only do I get to share valuable lessons with America’s youth, but I can also help (hopefully) to reduce the number of times they have to say the above quote to themselves years down the road.

As I was teaching a lesson today about transferable skills, resumes, and careers in demand, I couldn’t help but sense the wonderment in the room. The students, all roughly 18 years of age, were highly engaged as I talked about my experiences in sourcing and recruiting. They asked great questions about what experiences to put on their resumes, how the use of keywords impacted the job search, and how tapping into their networks could lead to a meaningful career. At 18, I wasn’t thinking about those things. I was raised in such a small town in the Midwest that those conversations rarely occurred. I couldn’t help but to flash back to my teenage life and how I was more worried about playing my next round of golf than preparing myself for a career.

The teacher was kind enough to show a video entitled “Did You Know?” by Karl Fisch. The video really helped to tie the concepts together because it showed how transferrable skills would be necessary as jobs come and go in a knowledge economy. Jobs available today certainly will not be available tomorrow. We don’t yet know what the jobs of tomorrow will be because the jobs haven’t been invented yet.

As you work with youth in your community, consider the following:

  • Consistently find ways to challenge them to not accept the status quo. I was inspired by how students accepted their place in the world today, knowing well that they were going to push the envelope in a unique way.
  • Encourage them to make mistakes, as long as they know not to make the mistake twice. To me, failure is acceptable and encouraged if managed well.
  • Push them to understand verbal and non-verbal communication styles. When I told the students that conflict resolution occurs fastest face-to-face, and not through email or SMS, they understood that 93% of communication is non-verbal. They’ll be able to achieve their goals faster if they can openly talk with everyone they encounter.

Although I was the one doing most of the talking today, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the student’s desire to learn about how their skills could impact careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. It brought me joy to watch their body language and engagement with my message of hope and future prosperity. It is my wish to have my message ring so true and be so impactful that they rarely have to say; “I wish I knew then what I know now.

I hope you’ll engage with and be inspired by our youth, too.