Quiet is the new loud

Writing a careers blog about Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” won’t stun the world with originality but, after reading it recently, there’s lot to take from it especially when approaching Careers work with young people.

A lot of young people are naturally reserved and awkward in new situations and so avoid those challenging moments or encounters, putting them off until they really have to. This can have a limiting effect on both the (career) taster opportunities they encounter in these formative years and thus the subsequent routes they would consider. The book reminded me that, for some of these students, this is a personality trait rather than a stage to grow out of.

Sections of the book compelled me to reflect on my own practice when working with those more reserved and introspective students. Those students who find quiet corners like tutor rooms to hide away at break times, who won’t seek out support but will accept it if you find them and offer it and those who will be the last to sign up to taster events as they had been putting off handing the permission slip in.

The students who need going to rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Schools are great environments to offer Careers advice. Through being involved in the wider life of the school you have the opportunity to get to know the young people better and, get this, the law means they literally have to come in every week day – Captive audience!

The downside to this setting though is that schools can be sometimes be frantic with movement and noise and resource light and time strapped so only those who ask receive all that they need.

In a an attempt to reflect the real world that rewards extroverts, schools also reward what Cain terms the “cult of personality” by appointing positions of responsibility such as Head Boys or Senior Prefects to those who are confident enough to apply and stand out. Participation in extra-curricular activities such as Duke of Edinburgh, trips or film clubs can be on a come along and sign up basis.

All of this may be in vain for these students though as Cain describes, “at school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’ – that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go.”

The book has highlighted three areas of my practice to invigorate:

1) Take the time to encourage as many young people as possible to participate in extra-curricular activities, and not just careers ones, don’t just assume those that are interested attend.

Through this spread of opportunity young people might find something which sparks a lifetime of interest which follows Cain’s own advice on achieving career satisfaction:

3 key steps to identifying your own core projects –

  1. Think back to what you loved and why you loved it when you were a child

  2. pay attention to the work you gravitate to

  3. pay attention to what you envy”

2) Take the time to get around tutor groups to promote and follow up taster days and careers events, don’t just assume that an assembly presentation will get all those interested to step forward.

3) In face to face meetings, when appropriate, introduce action plan versions of individual “Free Trait Agreements,” for example, to encourage those introverts to speak to three exhibitors at the careers fair to find information or encourage those extroverts to take five minutes to sit at the side and actually read the prospectuses and leaflets they’ve rushed around to collect. 

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