“Too many of the young and jobless have given more thought to what brand of jeans to buy than their career plan,” writes Neil Sandell in an article entitled Career education lacking in Canada  in the Atkinson Series on youth unemployment published in the Toronto Star. It’s not just youth who suffer from lack of career clarification; adults too lack career clarity. We spend 100,000 hours in our careers, so why do we invest so little time – some estimates put it at less than 20 hours for the average Canadian – in focused career planning and exploration? Sandell says that, for youth, the problem is a combination of unhelpful advice from parents, patchy career education, lack of career exploration experience, among other factors. You can hear more in my interview with Neil Sandell on Career Buzz. From my perspective leading a busy career management social enterprise, CareerCycles, serving individual clients of all ages and stages, it’s a mess out there. Career management is arguably the most important 21st century skill, and yet the vast majority of Canadians don’t possess a high enough level of that skill, don’t realize they can learn it, and don’t know where to turn. Our career management profession is still flying under the radar screen of most Canadians. Good for Sandell, the Atkinson Foundation, and the Toronto Star for increasing the quality of the dialogue on this critical problem. What to do about our youth? Sure there’s valuable career information out there, including useful tools like Career Cruising. But, “does good information alone launch a teenager on a career path?” asks Sandell. He quotes Dutch researcher, Frans Meijers, who says youth “‘make use of the information but only after they have made the choice on a gut level.’ Meijers says the indispensable ingredient is experience.” “He [Meijers] compares making a career choice to finding a romantic partner. We don’t begin by reading up on the conditions of the relationship market. We start by dating, by gaining experience. For a student to make a career decision that is ‘heartfelt and lasting, you need to create opportunities for experiential learning — especially in the workplace.’” I think Meijers has it right. He spoke passionately about this in my Career Buzz interview with Frans Meijers. One Toronto Star reader commented online: “How about bringing back Grade 13 as a co-op year for all students? Half time spent in the classroom over two terms, and half time spent in 3 or 4 different co-op placements?” Not a bad idea! Join the dialogue on this important 21st century issue. What are your thoughts? Join in on Twitter: follow Neil Sandell @youngnjobless, and me @careercycles -mf  
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