As tutors and mentors we often focus on the academic and personal side of the relationship with our students, but it is also important to focus on your student’s professional development. At-risk youth especially need their tutors to introduce them to the values and norms of the professional world. As a supportive adult in your student’s life you can play a critical role in teaching your student skills that will pay off over the course of your student’s working life.
It is often hard to imagine a student as a professional. After all, as adults we look at our students and want them to enjoy being young. However, the teenage years are perfect for planting the seeds of professionalism in your student and for beginning to cultivate a mature and responsible young adult.
Students require basic training in professional skills that we often take for granted at work: punctuality, good posture, appropriate dress and speech, and organization, just to name a few. Teaching students to take personal responsibility, particularly through punctuality and good organization skills are often (hopefully) skills that your student receives some training in at their school. The finer points of professional, knowing how to dress and speak, are often harder to teach a student. These skills are nevertheless important in helping your student prepare for future job and college interviews and for interacting in a professional environment.
A good way to introduce a high school aged student to professionalism is through a practice mock interview and job shadowing. Help your student prepare a resume, one that highlights their academic achievements, extracurricular activities and an work or volunteer experience they might have and give your student a mock interview for college admissions or job. This exercise will help a student understand the functions and importance of a resume and interviews. Job shadowing can demonstrate the importance of etiquette and professional dress at work. If you have a student shadow you at work, ask them to take notes and report back to you on their observations. Some questions for observations on professionalism can include:
- How do the employees of this workplace speak to each other?
- How do the employees of this workplace dress? Make sure you explain the purpose of your dress code to your student and note that workplace dress codes vary. Some workplaces require business professional or business casual dress while others require a uniform or permit casual dress
- When do employees take breaks from work?
- How do employees share resources, i.e. workspace, supplies to equipment?
Taking the time to focus on professionalism with your student will introduce them to skills and experiences that will frame how they approach the professional world as a young adult. If you address this topic with your student, you can help them become comfortable with behaving professionally and another step toward success.