As counsellors, we always receive questions from students on how to prepare for university and a career. In spite of compelling pitches to “be the explorer,” students are choosing to narrow their focus and to place emphasis on a possible career. While accurate vocabulary for the next generation of jobs is always evolving, employers are precise: employees who are the most agile are also the most valuable.
The global workforce values people who can write and solve problems, who are creative, flexible and critical thinkers, who are multicultural, adaptable, technologically able and ethical, all in one.
Our observations, from many career fairs, is that success is rarely the result of a consistent trajectory or focus. Therefore, we suggest to study broadly, choose subjects that challenge and require different skills. Resist the temptation to skip the arts or the traditional humanities. Modern executives and engineers will approach problems by integrating domains and they will weather uncomfortable challenges to find new solutions. Creative innovators, able to draw from a wide array of knowledge and experience, will be the small and great leaders of our time.
It’s not just us! Recently, the McKinsey and Financial Times Book of the Year, ‘Range’ by British author, David Epstein, argues persuasively for breadth, and cautions against early, single-minded specialisation. Specialisation, he argues, is useful in rigid situations where learners must master a narrow set of patterns, and feedback is quick and accurate. Generalists, research suggests, are better suited to work in more challenging environments where trends are more difficult to discern, and the feedback is unreliable or inaccurate. Many professionals credit a broad range of subjects in school and unusual life experiences for their ability to persist through challenges.
How does a student prepare for a dynamic future that requires agility? Possibly, by not doing the obvious. Doubling-down on a single preparation at the expense of Arts and Humanities is a missed opportunity to create a treasure chest of knowledge.
Students in Phuket are fortunate. The location offers impressive, unique life experiences. Society needs people who can combine expertise, doctors of the ocean or physicians for social-justice. Tourism, too, searches for new combinations. Soon, the carbon footprints of every traveller might be mapped and stored in databases. The conscientious vacationer might use a data engineer of geography to ask, ‘Where shall I go next?’
The most respected schools in the world aggregate the disciplines, requiring students to study multiple disciplines; science, language, literature, technology, the arts, the humanities, and maths. School curriculums, like the IGCSE, and the IB, provide for students to take advantage of this philosophy. Our advice is to explore and don’t leave anything out!
Casey Nolen Jackson and Jacqui Brelsford are the two University Counsellors at British International School, Phuket - BISP.
For more information, visit them at www.bisphuket.ac.th