A successful education and career path is like a tree. We see and admire the sturdy trunk, the spreading branches, the luxuriant canopy of leaves, and the delicious fruit. What we don’t see is everything that has taken place below the surface to grow the tree to its present size and strength. To enable the tree to reach so high, the root system has provided critical sustenance. Even after the tree has reached maturity, the root system is still hard at work keeping the tree nourished, anchored, and stable.
Strong roots = good fruits. Unglamorous and mostly hidden, roots are nevertheless essential to a healthy and productive tree. And the same case can be made for the roots of a healthy career. There are many positive attitudes, traits, and knowledge that form a person’s personal root system. I’ve chosen to focus on four in the Career Tree strategy: Academics, Professional Skills, Experience, and Passion. In my next several blogs, I’ll go in depth (pun intended) into each root to uncover why it matters—and how we can help young people cultivate it.
Root 1: Academic Knowledge
In America, we prize academic performance. This is evidenced by the amount of money we invest in public education, to make sure every young person is literate and possesses a basic academic foundation for success. Academic prowess is prioritized, measured, tested, and praised as the foremost indicator of a young person’s capacity for success.
Framed as one of the roots of achievement, academics represents the subjects and performance that young people need to master in order to enter the next level of education and reach their career goals. The academics root encompasses not just intelligence, but also study habits, persistence through challenges, curiosity, growth mindset, and a willingness to learn.
Not all students and trainees are academically gifted, but they all need a basic academic foundation from which to grow. For these young people to perform at their full potential, they need motivation. They need to see that their academic performance now really does matter later, that it’s actually important, relevant to their future, and worth showing up for.
Encouraging Academic Growth
Relevance is one of the main benefits of focusing on the academics root. Education becomes relevant to young people when they can connect the dots between their coursework today and their careers tomorrow. Relevance leads to motivation, as they understand and buy into the reasons for investing time and effort in their education. The following actions can help young people at all educational levels to start developing strong academic habits and performance:
- Seek and understand connections between subjects
- Meet deadlines with quality work
- Ask for help and feedback
- Unlock opportunities through academic success
- Take initiative to identify problems and produce solutions
And there are many others. The goal is to inspire young people to take ownership of their own academic growth with simple actions that are not overwhelming or intimidating. These behaviors, practiced regularly, will become habits that lead to growth and success.
Strong roots make growth possible. Students who see the relevance of work done below the surface and behind the scenes will be motivated to do it, and do it well. And the reward? The fruits of a thriving career to fund the lifestyle and dreams they’ve envisioned for themselves. Let’s encourage young people to dig deep and grow downward so that they can then grow upward toward their educational and career goals.