Posted October 7, 2019 by Mark Perna
Achievement doesn’t happen overnight. Like a tree, it has roots. And it’s the strength and depth of the roots that determines how high the tree will grow. In education and workforce development, the same concept holds true: the young people who succeed are most often those who have a strong foundation—a root system, if you will.
The Career Tree Root System has four main roots, one of which is Experiences. In my last blog I discussed the Academics root; today, I want to explore Experiences and why they are so critical to a person’s success at school and work.
Poet John Keats once wrote that “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” For young people on their education and career journey, this is especially true. Experience turns the passive information they have received into active knowledge and insight.
To today’s younger generations, experience is everything. They live for fresh and exciting experiences that enhance their enjoyment of the moment. That’s why, when promoting a program or pathway of study, it’s always best to talk about what they will do rather than what they will learn. Learning sounds boring, but doing is experiential. Doing is fun.
Experience makes knowledge personal. It wasn’t until my son Nick experienced the culture of a computer programming lab that he was inspired to turn his lackluster academic performance around. He experienced something that day that made him want to achieve more. I could have told him that his education was important till I was blue in the face (and trust me, I did) but he had to experience it for himself to realize why education was important for him.
That single day changed the entire trajectory of his life for the better. He’s a case study of how experience really is everything to the younger generations. They can have all the career information in the world with no interest in any of it until they get to do something with it. And really, they’re not that different from other generations. There’s a place for lectures and “sit and get” learning, but given the choice, wouldn’t we all rather learn by doing?
The “experience is everything” priority of the younger generations is an ally for parents, educators, and others seeking to help young people develop the habits and knowledge to succeed.
Encourage them to take an active role in their career exploration. Researching careers and occupations is a critical part of career exploration, but actually going onsite takes that information to an entirely new level. Interacting with professional tools and equipment, experiencing the culture of the workplace, and talking to the experts will make a far deeper impression than just reading about the career. And once a young person has experienced that field, researching and reading about it will take on a whole new life.
Experiential learning is also important in the workplace. Trainers can make training and upskilling as experiential as possible by minimizing the use of a traditional classroom layout in favor of more hands-on formats. Even group discussion is more of an experience that passively sitting and receiving information.
As parents, educators, and employers, we can help motivate young people by helping them get as much firsthand experience as possible. There are so many opportunities to connect them with experiences that will help them pursue a rewarding career: field trips, job shadowing, interviews with professionals in the fields they’re interested in, internships, externships, and more.
In an age of endless information, personal experience teaches us what we can’t learn any other way. Let’s empower young people to grow in their education and career journey through experience-driven learning.