Careers workshops for teens

How to help your not-so-little ones make the right choices


I’m not that old, but when I left school, mobile phones were the size of a breeze block, the Internet was little more than a romantic notion and an apple was green and something you ate. Oh, how the world has changed.

And, if the experts are right, it’s all going to change at an even greater rate going forward, which makes grooming our children for their future careers a tricky (if not downright impossible) task. The current thinking is that our children are preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist, in which they’ll use technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet. Get your head around that!

Schools are, of course, adapting to this, altering teaching methods so that children are taught ‘how to learn’ rather than how to recite facts and figures by rote, for example. But is it enough? Dubai-based career coaching company, Smart People Coaching, believes more needs to be done, and has launched a series of interactive workshops aimed at preparing teenagers and young people for their careers ahead.

‘Even the pace of change is changing,’ says Nicola Tanner, who founded Smart People Coaching and, together with co-developer Banan Hadidi, is the brains behind the new workshops. ‘In this uncertain environment, it’s more important than ever that our kids are clear about what they want,’ she says. ‘Those who are really aware of their strengths and their skills as individuals will be the ones who thrive in their career. Those who stumble along will struggle.’

Parents are often guilty of steering their kids into traditional occupations, yet there are a startling number of new careers opening up to which their offspring may be better suited. Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that Social Media Manager, Web Designer or Wimple Analyst would be real jobs? (OK, I made that last one up – but you weren’t sure, were you?)

‘We need to focus less on guiding students on their future careers and more on developing their career navigation skills,’ says Nicola. The workshops, run over five hour-long sessions, focus instead on furnishing kids with the right tools – think personal responsibility, leadership, self confidence, resilience, sense of purpose etc – to guide them as they seek out their chosen path.

‘We equip kids with a backpack to take on their journey,’ explains Nicola. ‘They don’t know where they are headed, so it’s not possible to come up with a life plan, but they are going to need self-awareness – what they are capable of and what they are interested in – as well as resilience to handle challenges and confidence in their ideas.’

The workshops, aimed at students aged 13-18, take them on a process of self-discovery, inspiring them to identify their interests, abilities, values and ideas. After all, if you don’t know what you like and what you’re good at, how do you know which career path to follow? Through games, audiovisual experiences and interactive activities that simulate real-life professional situations, students create career opportunities, experiment with their ideas about their future and consider how they will respond to the obstacles that they will face.

‘I found it really useful,’ says 14-year-old Robyn Hunter, a Year 10 student at Dubai British School who is keen to train as a lawyer. In her case, the workshop helped clarify her aims. ‘Nicola and Banan are really quirky and friendly, and they get you doing things like greeting people as your future self and imagining yourself in 10 or 20 years time. Where will you be? What are you doing? What are you wearing? It really got me thinking about what I can be if I put in the effort and, yes, I still want to be a lawyer.’

One element of the workshop Robyn found particularly helpful was how to deal with her ‘inner saboteur’. ‘We talked about the voice you hear in your head that warns you about a risk or discourages you, and we came up with personal ways of dealing with that voice. Now, whenever I have doubts and hear that saboteur, I have the ability and the courage to say ‘hold on, I’ve dealt with you before’ and move on.’

The sessions complement schools’ ongoing careers advice, but where schools tend to focus on aptitude assessments, help with college applications and vocational guidance, Nicola and Banan support students in thinking about their futures.

They are certainly relishing the opportunity to work with young people at a crucial time when they are making important choices. ‘If nothing else, we want the workshop to give kids the confidence to go with what they feel,’ she adds. ‘I didn’t find my vocation in life until I was 35. Maybe if I’d been given some insight into how to think about my future and not just given advice, I would have got here a lot quicker.’
For more information about the workshops, contact Nicola Tanner or Banan Hadidi on 04 443 9283 or visit

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