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Business: Students’ preparation to enter workforce

Tomorrow’s workforce will be made up of current students. High school students who graduate and do not enroll in college need to develop work habits that employers are seeking. When high school graduates attend college, either two-year community colleges or if they seek a four-year college education, need to begin early in the preparation for entering the workforce. What can students do to better prepare for careers? Educators and parents both play very crucial roles in the process. Some best practices follow:
1. Decision-making skills —The average person makes over 400 decisions each day. Some are insignificant but others are more impactful. This is a learned skill that is important regardless of age, student status, career choice, etc.
2. Communication skills —  Words have power. The ability to communicate verbally and in writing is of utmost importance regardless of career choice. These are the 2 skills most important in all jobs and are also the most lacking in applicants.
3. Getting along with others — This is more crucial than technical or operational skills. In the workplace you must learn to work with others, including those older, younger, people from different backgrounds, those with extensive experience and inexperienced, those with more education and some with less. Co-workers, managers and customers can present challenges.
4. Teamwork — Ability to think out of the box, working in groups and finding different solutions all are a part of teamwork. Some projects may require independent work but most jobs involve teamwork. Develop an appreciation of others’ contributions.
5. Dealing with failure — Parents who do not allow their kids to lose, even at games, are robbing them of the ability to develop skills to deal with loss and failure. This is bound to happen in the working world and with a lack of experience the real world situations they face will be difficult to cope with. Misguided parents in our modern culture who take a “can’t fail” approach to education and raising children are robbing their children of learning how to cope and develop skills to build confidence. The pathways to success are strewn with failures and developing the ability to deal with them is important.
6. Ethical behavior — Honesty, integrity, trustworthiness are all traits of people who are successful. You cannot start too early in teaching these skills and providing re-enforcement of ethical conduct. Parents and teachers have the unique opportunity to affect kids’ lives by setting the example and emphasizing the importance of ethical behavior in the pursuit of a career.
7. Believing in yourself — Healthy self-esteem is crucial in people to have a congenial working environment. However, too much self-esteem can lead to arrogance and an elitist attitude. Too little self-esteem results in lack of ability to perform, poor teamwork and inability to get along with others. Positive or negative attitudes are inherent, developed at home and further influenced by teachers and other mentors.
Gaining experience in part-time jobs while still a student is valuable for the future. There is nothing that can replace learning hands on. Young people in school today will be joining the workforce of tomorrow. Are you being prepared for success in the 21st century work environment?

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.