The need for students to find their personal brand

I’ve always relished the opportunity to talk to students to get perspective on their needs of technology and the way in which they respond in classroom environments. Tuesday, I had the chance to meet with dozens of high school students at the Summer Search Career Discovery Days in New York. This was especially rewarding because I got the chance to talk to students about their careers and lead them in a discussion on career exploration.

If you haven’t heard about Summer Search, it is a leadership development program providing ongoing and long-term support for low-income high school students with some pretty outstanding results – 100% of Summer Search seniors graduate from high school; 97% go on to college; and 72% are involved with community service. (Photo on the right: courtesy of Summer Search.)

My talk focused on how to find a personal brand, and how students should connect their passions, values and interests with potential career options. As our workforce evolves and gets more specialized, many of the jobs students will be going into don’t even exist yet, so it’s increasingly important for students to reflect on how their individual skills and competencies align with their personal passions and values. Skills and interests like working with others, writing, applying creativity, problem solving, etc. In connecting with the kids, I was surprised that this was a conversation they haven’t had. This notion of finding a personal brand was a very new concept for them.

We really need to strive to do this with all students...have them start to connect their skills and their values in terms of what they want to accomplish in their lives and map those to career choices, as opposed to identifying a couple of iconic jobs then working backwards. We can have kids really take control of their careers by focusing on their skill sets and their interests. And I think this is very empowering, especially for these inner city kids who may not feel like they have all the opportunities that are afforded to students from other backgrounds. All the kids were from the Bronx where I am from, so it was personally rewarding to see them get excited about their career aspirations and potential. It made me think back to when I started at Microsoft very young, as a student, and the competencies and values I brought to the company…passion and a commitment to hard work.
I presented to the kids our Education Competency Wheel. It’s a competency-based framework we use at Microsoft to hire new employees and develop professional skills. The wheel focuses on these broad sets of skills that are transferrable to any career. It’s a good resource for teachers to have this conversation around transferrable skills with their students and it will help them make an action plan to maximize students’ strengths. We train educators on how to use this at their institutions as part of our Microsoft Institute series and other events. The Education Competency Wheel can be shared with administrators, principals, teachers and students to have a common language around competency development. Currently, the tool is only available in English, but it can certainly be used globally. The competencies are being leveraged worldwide in countries like Finland where they are looking at it and asking, how can we take this work and apply it at a country level, as opposed to just a classroom or school level.

Check out the website for more on how to leverage this resource at your school…and let us know what you think.

Comments (1)

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I teach high school web design in a vocational technical school district and employability skills are extremely important. This would be a great way for us to incorporate these necessary skills!

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