Will coaching right from higher education be the key to success for young adults faced with the changes currently transforming our society? That's the argument put forward by Alice Le Scouarnec (E11), founder of HumanOz, who accompanies her clients on the road to self-awareness.
Youth coaching has taken off. For many years now, increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults – sometimes encouraged by their parents – have been seeking coaching services to define their career plan, learn to manage stress or overcome an academic setback, in a wider context of high pressure to perform and endemic unemployment.
Coaching support, however, offers more than just access to the employment market. It’s a particular response to the advent of a new paradigm in our society: that self-awareness is the pillar of career planning and personal success.
The world is changing, and us with it
We are currently experiencing major economic and social transformation on a national and international scale. With these changes come new needs, behaviors and values, both socially and individually, changing the way we see the future and interact with one another. This cultural, political and cognitive revolution, cleverly explained by Michel Serres, marks our entry into a new epoch: the postmodern era, defined by Jean-François Lyotard as "the state of culture following the transformations that have affected the rules of science, literature and arts from the end of the 19th century onwards."
We can't ignore the scope of the ongoing shift. As a sign of the times, many people aged 18-35 "see things differently", particularly their choice of career. Choosing a profession, and before that a degree program, is becoming increasingly complex and intense against a backdrop of continuing economic crisis and an increase in the average level of studies – which in turn raises entry-level competition. This is true of higher education, and even high school or junior high, with the fear that bad grades will ultimately prevent young people from finding a job. The pressure is now so high it can interfere with people’s capacity to make decisions.
Economic sectors have changed exponentially since the new technologies revolution. 50% of jobs that exist today won't be around in 10-15 years and "60% of jobs we'll be doing in 2030 don't even exist yet". One active professional in four has changed career in the last 12 months, and for young people the probability is higher (source: Lab'Ho and Lispe/IGS-RH). One of the roles of education is to prepare students for the job market by providing the know-how needed to work in a given profession. What will be the role of education when that profession is destined to change – or even disappear – once you graduate?
Given the context it’s understandable that young generations experience work differently, and tend to rethink the way our businesses operate. New management methods are emerging on the basis of a "give-take" model, which creates meaning and social value within organizations that assume their responsibilities. With this major transformation comes a change in the notion of leadership which, let's not forget, is the capacity to lead other people or structures in a single direction. Being a good leader doesn’t just depend on the individual leader, but also on those who follow and the environment in which they evolve. The qualities of a good leader are therefore also changing.
These changes lead to situations we’ve never dealt with before, and they’re preventing children from thinking about their adulthood in the same way that we did. But how can we prepare them for a future where all our points of reference are blurred? How can we help young people acquire the skills needed to be the leaders of tomorrow?
We have to rethink emerging adulthood
Our traditional methods don’t apply in an uncertain, unstable, and constantly moving world –which is what the future promises. If we’re going to have several jobs in different fields during the course of our career, what does it mean to "get a good education" and to make the "right choice"? Does it still make sense to link these notions to a certain degree subject, or such and such a job "because there are good perspectives"?
Considering how quickly professions change, the ideal is to aim for a match between career choice and core identity. Soul-searching once you start your studies allows you to choose a target profession, or discipline, based on your interests – which has a higher guarantee of motivation and success. But it also helps people learn right from the start of their career how to carry out this type of reflection, which will stand them in good stead when they come to deal with future career changes.
Scientific advances in neuroscience have refined our understanding of how humans function. We know that success is directly related to a person's intrinsic motivation for a given subject. Yet initiatives that encourage people to build their career plan based on this motivation are rare. It’s even more surprising given that half of young adults go to college, often for 5 years or morehalf of young adults go to college, often for 5 years or more or more. This is a valuable time during which they can take time to reflect on who they are and what is truly important to them – crucial information for building solid foundations, in line with their identity and aspirations, once they become independent. This in turn helps to identify the type of environment where they can reach their full potential; to become a good leader, you also have to know how to identify the context where your leadership style will bring value.
The pressurized world we live in today makes this soul-searching uncomfortable, even difficult. Fear and doubt are the biggest obstacles to our development. As Franklin Roosevelt said: "The only limit to our fulfillment tomorrow will be the doubts we have today."
Which is why we have to encourage the younger generations to have a positive approach to life, with all the energy and confidence needed to help them meet the challenges that await them. We all have a role to play to accompany them on this path. There are several roads to self-awareness; it’s up to each person to find one that suits. What’s certain is that it doesn’t happen overnight – so it’s a good idea to start early!
A coach helps find direction
Young adults are building themselves as independent people. They have to take their first big life decisions. They are leaving behind adolescence, a complex period in and of itself that plays an important role in developing self-esteem (source: Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood – A Cultural Approach, Jeffrey J. Arnett, 2013). They also face a difficult economic and social climate.
Which is why they need to take a step back. But it's hard to take your time in a society where everything around you is speeding up. And that’s why sympathetic, personalized and individual support from a professional is beneficial. Whatever the objective, coaching is first and foremost a way to reflect differently and make informed choices over a given period of time. In a few sessions you change your perspective of yourself and your situation to find innovative solutions perfectly adapted to your identity, your history and your personal requirements. This approach helps you hold yourself accountable and gain autonomy at an age where that's exactly what each of us needs to learn. Even more so because it’s a period where everything is being created: it’s easier to work from good foundations than having to rethink it all 5 or 10 years down the line...
Coaching is particularly useful while planning a career as it helps to:
- Connect to your deepest desires and motivations so that you enjoy what you do
- Become aware of your talents and limiting behaviors to develop your potential
- Experiment with your ability to find solutions for and by yourself
- Learn to succeed by finding new ways to face a "problem," guaranteeing long-lasting results
Accessing this type of support during studies helps young people discover their strong points and feel the benefits of self-awareness very early – while defining a practical and effective action plan for their career. The whole process allows them to build self-confidence and self-esteem, become more assertive and reach their full potential before entering professional life.
You can invest time in personal development in different ways, but whatever the method, it must be the individual’s own decision. And the work will only be useful if the person is motivated. It’s up to us to encourage young people to take this path.
Know yourself: a social imperative
But what skills do we need as the world changes shape? And what knowledge should we transmit to the younger generations? In 7 Things to Know for the Education of the Future, Edgar Morin invites us to reshape our way of thinking and adopt complex thinking, which covers three ways of thinking: critical, creative and responsible. There are three paths for reaching them:
- Collaboration: the complexity of the situations we’re going to encounter is such that a single individual or a single discipline cannot have a clear enough vision to find solutions that respond to all the challenges. We therefore have to work collectively.
- Creativity: we have increased capacities for innovation and, as a result, the impact our inventions have on our environment become increasingly complex and interconnected. We have to demonstrate creativity and responsibility in dealing with the problems of the future (e.g. artificial intelligence, big data or blockchain).
- Retroactivity: the speed of transformation means there’s no point in analyzing information we have today for a change we want to make tomorrow. Tomorrow our world will be so different from the one in which we obtained the information, that consumer and public expectations will already be obsolete. We thus have to build (products, solutions, decisions, etc.) by drawing inspiration from design thinking and by using feedback from end users.
This means an end to competition, becoming more selfless and developing self-confidence and emotional intelligence. Otherwise, how can we trust others and the future? This is why self-awareness is so essential. How can whole societies challenge and reinvent themselves if most people within them find it very difficult to do so?
Individual support such as coaching is an effective way to take the time to think differently, to learn to change and give oneself the means to succeed. Rethinking how we deal with our arrival into adulthood, by linking career guidance to introspection, is a way of participating in our individual and collective success. And of helping to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow.
Important: We strongly recommended that you look into your coach's certification and investment in their own personal development before choosing to work with them.
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