Promoting a positive mindset in students and young job seekers

By Karen Lomas

How can parents, friends and family members remain positive for their child in their senior years of school and their job-seeking sibling? How can they stay positive themselves, when Covid-19 is still out here?

Secondary school as well as job-seekers may be experiencing quite understandable feelings caused by Covid-19. Some have said that it’s hard to stay focused, or that they’re not as motivated. This year in particular, their words are my starting point, because we need to remind our young ones that humans survived and flourished before and we can and will do so again.

Covid-19 is the tip of the iceberg

There is no quick fix to anxiety, or a lack of optimism. We might all have been struggling to a lesser or greater extent. In Victoria it has been especially tough — there has been a big wall up against physical movement and interaction between friends and even family.

The planet has not seen a global pandemic like this in most of our lifetimes. For those of us with parents who survived wars, theirs are stories that we did not directly experience. Amongst our population, we have migrants and asylum-seekers who have fled terrible conflicts, and droughts. Now Covid-19 is hitting many of us quite closely. For some, it has been overwhelming.

Does your child need a mental health practitioner or a career coach?

If your child is extremely anxious, or you are concerned about ongoing unusual behaviours, I recommend that you obtain a referral for your child to see an adolescent psychologist. This can be arranged through your doctor, or your young person’s medical practitioner.

Some of my clients are already in the care of a medical professional, from whom they are receiving the necessary therapeutic support. As a career coach, my support is designed to provide practical career coachingbased on an established objective. By having hope for a clear pathway, a teenager might feel motivated to re-engage with education or training. The combination of therapeutic and practical career coaching support is really fruitful, resulting in great outcomes for my most vulnerable clients.

I have included some useful links below if you are worried about the well-being of your child or adolescent.

Isolation and loneliness

Several of my clients have been directly impacted by Covid-19. Some have lost grandparents. Others have not been able to attend significant family and social events. Some are on their own at home while their parents must continue their work in difficult front-line roles.

Just as hard for adolescents is not being able to come together with friends, either in school, or at home. Australian Governmentstatistics reveal the extent of loneliness, that is, a subjective state of negative feelings about having a lower level of social contact than desired. This is concerning due to the significant health and wellbeing issues…because of the impact (it has) on peoples’ lives’.

Positive psychology supporting career development practice

A Career Coach uses theories, many of which are psychological theories, to underpin their work. This is what distinguishes career coaching from life coaching, or a human resources or recruitment-focused approach. Positive Psychology is the approach, of case-based, progressive and effective career coaching relationships.

Dr Martin Seligmanrefers to positive psychology asthe scientific study of human strengths and virtues.All coaches aim to bring to the surface, highlight and enhance an individual’s potential. Career coaches use conversation, carry out activities and potentially also use psychometric assessment tools. These provide the student or young adult with clarity; enable the client to practice new ways of thinking and acting and to find momentum.

As Seligman points out, we are hard-wired for the anticipation of catastrophe. Early humans may have looked at the sky and seen a blue-sky day and felt good. But Ice Ages put paid to all that! Therefore, as bad weather animals, ice-flows negated optimism.

So how can we prevent an Ice-Age mentality in your child or young adult? In seligman’s words, Positive Psychologyworks tobreak the hammer-lock of the negative.

How career coaching can help with your child’s optimism

The concept of self-determination refers to resilience,autonomyand intrinsic motivation. These theories underpin my career coaching methods. I do not simply talk to a Year 9 student about their aptitudes a draw conclusions. There is so much more to explore, such as:

  • back-story, or narrative

  • values

  • interests

  • learning preferences

  • personality preferences.

Career Coaching is a process. The process can only be successful if I listen well to clues about how the young person is feeling in terms of self-efficacy and well-being. If a young person has lost momentum and motivation, my first task is to work upon this fundamental issue first. If I neglect to do this and simply launch into a discussion about which subject or university course they might be interested in, the session will not be effective.

So, whilst Seligman explains that humans do have a tendency to catastrophise (it’s those icebergs), career coaching can help a young person to see a future that is fair-weather, indeed sunny.

Karen is a career coach specialising in early career exploration for school-aged students. This article is an edited excerpt of a longer blog post, published with permission — you can read the full version here.

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