Last week, I did something that I never expected to do.
I received a call from my colleague, “Franki, please can you go to a mock interview process for some kids at a high school, I’ve come down with flu and can’t go. Oh, Dress smart”.
Great. I was planning on putting my comfy’s on and working with endless cups of tea in front of my computer screen on this cold Friday in January.
I did not expect the turn my day took.
I arrived at the mock interview process, a little unsure of my task but excited for the chance to talk to some Generation Z students.
I spoke to (approx.) 10 different students and each one of them presented amazing qualities, they didn’t even know they had.
The first 2 questions on the (set) list asked, “Tell me about yourself?” and, “Tell me your strengths and weaknesses”.
None of the children were able to tell me a story about themselves or identify their most valuable strengths and weaknesses. So, I took a different approach, I asked their favourite Netflix shows. Through asking their favourite Netflix shows I identified common ground and the children immediately became more comfortable around me, because I was discussing a narrative they related too, we suddenly appeared from the same world.
Now in more fluid conversation, I asked what their hobbies were, extra-curricular activities and general interests. When we talked about sports, which many of them did, we identified traits such as commitment, determination and discipline. I explained that these were all important traits to a job and when your employer asks “What are your strengths”, You should not deny yourself of the hours you have put in and the work you have already achieved, remember who you are and what you’re good at, have a conversation, tell them about your world.
The children told me stories about computer science, architecture, dancing, boxing, football, netball, ice-skating, basketball, skydiving, mountain climbing, army cadettes and fire cadettes amongst other exciting activities. Yet, not one of the children understood how these experiences were shaping them.
These kids didn’t realise the power of their own potential therefore, we must begin to empower our future workforce at an educational level. As well as teaching them basic curriculum, we need to inspire and motivate them to find their own potential within their own purpose. If we can begin to attribute not only the right skills, but the right passions to the right jobs, businesses would be much more productive and successful.
One boy, who went mountain climbing with his dad in The Lake District and Scotland, couldn’t tell me anything interesting about himself at first! I’m glad I helped him find himself interesting on this day. We also identified strengths such as determination, willingness to succeed and problem solving as strengths he wasn’t even aware, he had.
One girl was social media savvy and when I asked her “Have you any experience with technology” She replied, “No”. I smiled at her and said, “Tell me how many devices you have.” We listed about 8, she had so much experience with technology during her youth that she didn’t realise it’s technology! She loved being on social media and I explained that this could be a strength in the future to help her organisation with their social media as an extra responsibility to keep her engaged, we agreed that would be something she would enjoy. We talked about things relevant to her and discovered her interests and strengths. By the end of the interview she had transformed into this bright, bubbly character. I told her that’s what people need to see and, to be comfortable in her own skin. She was bright, funny and interesting and she should use that to her strengths.
Then, I interviewed a boy and, I thought about him all week. After our initial conversation, in short he told me ‘I get into detention all the time, I spend time in isolation, when my teachers tell me I’ve done bad on a test, I feel I can’t give enough, so I then don’t care. I care for my mum at night, try to revise for my exams, game the rest of time and I don’t sleep at night’. I asked him “Why don’t you sleep at night?”. His reply broke my heart. He said, “I reflect on all the bad stuff I’ve done in the day and think of all the ways I should have done it better, then I can’t sleep. I know it’s my fault.”. He then went on to tell me about how he was making changes for himself and kept referring to “The old me” and “The new me”. Well, we didn’t shut up. This amazing kid, saw no worth in himself and I wasn’t leaving that room until he felt otherwise.
I explained his willingness to change his attitude to the way he handled situations, is a special quality in anyone. To admit to yourself that you know you can be in the wrong, is an honest and mature trait and, some people go their whole lives without recognising their weaknesses, let alone understanding how to form a better version of themselves. We talked about how he doesn’t need to be perfect every day and, when he feels his anger burning up, he just needs to breathe and think that extra second about handling the situation in a positive light. I told him it would take consistent effort, but to not be hard on himself for having an ‘off day’, I told him that his only competition is the person he was yesterday and, that if he feels ANY sense of self-achievement from small to large, to be really proud of himself. We discovered that actually, he did care an awful lot and he used the excuse ‘I don’t care’, as a mechanism to not get upset instead. We agreed this then probably gets perceived as a bad attitude to the teachers and he completely understood. We painted a picture of the person he wanted to be and recognised no obstacles out of his control to achieve that, he now had a clearer understanding that personal wellness and success for himself, was not a million miles away.
This kid has no bad bone in his body, he did have a rebellious attitude against challenging systems that don’t work for him (which I love) and, he was actually one of the brightest kids I spoke to in terms of ‘life experience’. He told me he’d quit football because he didn’t have time to take care of his mum and study, but football did make him happy. I said, “Make sure you take time for yourself to unwind and do something that makes you happy, you seem like you spend so much time caring and worrying for everything else, that no-one is inspiring you to find your purpose.” I didn’t tell him to get back into football, when he shot up and said, with a huge smile “I’m going to do it, I’m going to get back into Football, you’ve motivated me to do it.”
Having someone look at you in relief, as if you’ve hit the nail on the head, is amongst one of the most rewarding feelings. I empowered a student to feel better about himself and to do the things that make him happy. I told him that in a bad moment, simply to survive today, seize tomorrow! That every day is a new day and a new opportunity. We continued in great conversation and he displayed qualities that I would hire in any employee.
I didn’t tell him what he should be, I just inspired him to find a version of himself he’s happy with. I predict that it won’t matter what job this boy ends up with, what he will require is a mentor that is willing to give their time and engage him and, in return he will be one of the hardest workers because he will feel accomplished every second of their appreciation.
When I left the interview process, I saw him with two teachers, or it could have been a pastoral or support teacher. He was smiling and excitedly telling them a story, I can only hope he was inspired by the conversation we had just had.
Empowering others will empower yourself. I achieved a sense of self-purpose last week that I strive to achieve for as many days that I'm lucky to be on this stupid, crazy planet, that we call our home.