High School Career Guidance

It was at the Queen’s Croquet Ground in the story of Alice in Wonderland, that the game begins with Alice using a flamingo tucked under her arm as the mallet, a rolled-up hedgehog as the puck and the Queen’s soldiers bent over, acting as the hoops. The players all start at the same time without waiting for their turn. The hedgehog continually unrolls itself and the Queen’s soldiers are called away to another beheading. The game quickly turns into disorganized chaos with everyone running in different directions.

For many High School students, planning for their future training or career can, at times, resemble this croquet game. With so many career opportunities available, each with different skill requirements, how do students begin to consider making decisions about which direction to take?

Working on employability while studying isn’t just for those wanting to get on to prestigious graduate programs. Doing so helps students to discover what sort of work they want to do so they can start to plan their future study and work experience.

Like all students, I went through the same levels of confusion, which is why today, I spend my days providing what is termed ‘expert’ virtual speaker sessions for schools across the US.

As school counsellors will appreciate, giving each student the right information and advice comes with the same challenges; what a student may be inspired by today, may not be the career of their future.

From my experience many of today’s students need a wake-up call to tell them what is going on in the world of employment and the steps they should be taking. The objective of my sessions is to not only inspire them but to open up their minds to potential careers and the skills they’ll need. Being young (I’m only 26 years old myself) certainly helps to ensure they feel more aligned to my advice.

My career has taken several turns, from community theater, to helping small businesses find their ‘voice’; making their ideas a reality and helping to visualize and create their brand.

The first thing I share with students during my sessions is that, to a certain extent, there are two main skill areas that are required in all careers; marketing and IT.

Whichever career path a student takes, marketing is a central requirement. Whether a student wants to run their own website development company, work for a law firm, become a teacher or be a hairstylist they all need to market themselves. A lawyer has to ‘sell’ his defense to the jury, a web developer and hairstylist have to market themselves to potential new clients and a restaurant owner has to market the business to the surrounding community. In fact, everyone has to market themselves. If you want to apply for a job, you’ll need to write your resume to be appealing to the company and then, if invited in, you’ll need to promote yourself to the people conducting the interview.

IT is another skill that thankfully most of today’s students have. Creativity and artistic skills play a major role in technology. If they are to become a website developer or graphic designer, today’s new-age careers demand a high level of creativity. Whether they run their own business and set up a marketing database or use an online system for invoicing, they will all need to know how to use technology in their future careers.


One common trait in all my sessions is that the students want to know the formula. They want me to tell them what they need and the career they should embark on. I therefore spend time ensuring that students recognize that they are the only ones in charge of their future.

The next most common question I’m asked is whether they have to go to college. While I dropped out of college, I always encourage them to go; after all the experience of college life is so valuable and you learn skills beyond pure academic achievement. But what I do stress is that if it’s just not practical for any individual student, it isn’t 100 percent necessary.

And finally, in terms of setting up my own business, they want to know how hard it was and how long it takes; again, expecting a set formula. It is interesting that however honest I am about the hard work and long hours they seem to value this honesty. I start with hard facts about the failures, long hours and the loneliness of working alone. The bottom line they need to understand is that ‘the world is a lot more difficult than you think.’ I want these students to understand that whatever stage they are at in their career pathway, they may certainly feel like they are running around the Queen’s Croquet Ground, feeling confused, taking constant knocks, experiencing failure, and being at a loss to see a clear direction. These are all completely normal; it’s an important part of career guidance.

Ryan Hertel is an expert speaker on Career Exploration. He carries out face to face and virtual sessions in classes and assemblies across the US. For further information please visit www.LessonALive.com .