The Defining Power of Three Small Letters: Helping Students with their A-level Results
Posted by: Reena Jamnadas, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight
With A-level results released today, we won’t be surprised to hear, yet again, that double-edged sword of a question: Are exams getting easier or is the intelligence of our students increasing? The pressure for students, nonetheless, is fierce. Places at university, internships, and jobs are more competitive than ever before; choosing the right course or vocation could be career-defining, and the fees for university places are higher than ever before.
Capp’s experience of how successful students rise above the rest is by knowing their strengths. Whether you are a parent, guardian, or a careers adviser, there is a significant role that you can play in enabling young people to do this.
Strengths are the things we do well and find energising. People management research shows that when we use our strengths, we experience higher levels of performance, productivity, engagement, self-esteem, resilience, happiness and vitality.
As a result, it’s no wonder that graduate recruiters in companies such as Ernst & Young and Barclays Investment Bank are using strengths-based recruitment to hire graduates who are high performers; graduates who have the natural strengths and motivation to deliver exceptional performance in their role.
In addition, as a result of graduates knowing their strengths through strengths awareness sessions led by Capp, Warwick Student Careers and Skills at the University of Warwick found a measured increase in self-awareness, self-confidence, career clarity, confidence in writing CVs and articulating their strengths to recruiters.
You can play your part in helping students go from average to A+ through helping them to make the right choices about their future career. The key is facilitating a conversation about the specific activities that they perform well and find energising, and then helping them to align these to their career search, through the steps I set out below:
Step 1 – Strengths Spotting through Tasks: Look for things that the person does well, enjoys doing, and picks up easily. What do they have natural motivation for? What do they learn quickly? What do they do when they have the choice? These are all things that can be signs of a strength.
Step 2 – Check the Data: Review the strengths that have emerged through the above questions and check this against a student’s past and current academic grades and feedback. If a student has described a passion for being detail-oriented, curious, and being great at conducting experiments, yet have consistently achieved lower grades in Science subjects, you may want to know why.
Step 3 – Caution against Learned Behaviours: Learned behaviours are defined as things that we do well but find draining to do. Over-using our learned behaviours has shown to lead to increased levels of stress, disengagement and burnout over time. Be aware of these when conversing with students: If a student’s grades are high in specific subjects, but the interest, energy and motivation isn’t there, search deeper for a student’s true areas of strength because that is where they will excel sustainably. If you don’t, they could burn out over time.
Step 4 – Align Tasks to Potential Courses / Careers: Once you have identified possible areas of strengths for a student, start to identify the specific activities that a student would naturally perform well in and find energising. What courses or vocations would provide the opportunity for your student to do these activities and therefore use their strengths?
Step 5 – Go for It: When you have helped the student to spot their strengths, distinguish them from their learned behaviours, and match these strengths to their course or career choice, then help them to demonstrate that they have what it takes to interviewers, assessors and recruiters. See the earlier blogs of School Leavers’ Fortnight for more help here.
As Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. Enabling your students to understand the richness of their strengths is one of the greatest gifts that you could ever give to them.