The Netflix series Sex Education may seem pretty far from reality at times; a school of British 17-year-olds talking frankly and openly about their sex lives, asking questions and exploring who they are together and, crucially, with the adults around them.
Why doesn’t this reflect what we see in schools right now?
Well, some of the topics might make teachers and parents feel pretty uncomfortable and ill-equipped to tackle them. So how will our teenagers learn about these subjects unless someone creates a safe space for them to talk about it and ask the awkward questions?
In the wake of the Everyone’s Invited movement, it’s impossible to ignore that there is a problem with rape culture in our schools and in our wider society. Over 51,000 testimonials from people anonymously sharing their story of sexual violence name 10% of all schools and colleges in England have been named.
So where are we going wrong?
As we’ve said, this is a society-wide issue, but we wanted to ask young people to tell us what they think about their experience in school. A whopping 94% polled on Instagram said that SRE classes were not sufficient in preparing them for today’s world. This research was used as part of our event Beyond Everyone’s Invited, to discuss with education leaders how we create genuine change in schools and support teachers to better understand the issues we’re facing.
What did they feel was missing from SRE?
LGBT sex ed
Porn vs reality
Scales of sexual violence
How to have safe, consensual and pleasurable sex
How to communicate with your partner
How to say no
How to talk to a friend about their behaviour
How to deal with being a victim of sexual assault
Better education on STIs
And what do they think needs to change in schools to make this better?
The conversation needs to be started at a much younger age, so it stops being taboo
A safe space to talk about sexual assault
Less gender specific – don’t need to split boys and girls, they all need to know everything
Workshops from third parties not just teachers
Regular open communication not just a one-off class
Less emphasis on uniform codes/less sexist dress codes (shoulders) – boys and girls should have the same level of scrutiny. Gender neutral uniform.
Smaller classes so people can talk more freely
More education for teachers around how to handle it
Need to have a better understanding of what harassment is – what is acceptable and what is not
Sexual assault phone number should be more widely known
Need to shift the blame from women onto the perpetrators
Pretty eye-opening. There’s no denying that every teacher in this country is dealing with so much; talking about masturbation and kinks aren’t going to be top of their agenda when their focus is on navigating the post-covid world, preparing students for exams and keeping their school open. Teachers are being asked to do everything, all of the time. They are doing their utmost to serve their students and their community. They desperately need support and training to tackle this head on – we can’t expect them to be experts on this matter and delivering an effective SRE programme without more help.
There’s a wider issue at play
Yes, we need to be talking specifically about sexual violence, harassment and consent – but we also need to have the conversation around ownership and accountability. Two questions highlighted this:
Have you ever been complacent in a friend’s behaviour despite knowing it to be wrong?
52% Yes 48% No
At school, have you ever made another pupil uncomfortable through your own behaviour?
23% Yes 77% No
Everyone need to take ownership for their behaviour and the impact it has. We need to create cultures where people know what good looks like and are equipped to make conscious, thoughtful choices and have the skills to action them.
What are the foundation blocks for successful behavioural change? This is exactly the question we debated at the event ‘Beyond Everyone’s Invited’. This is just the beginning of the conversation, but the recording is worth a watch to hear from some incredible speakers who were passionate and honest about what needs to change.
Everyone’s Invited: Beyond the policies and procedures
Typically, schools respond to a crisis by checking that their policies and procedures are all in place.
With the Everyone’s Invited movement, this look likes the following:
Educating students and staffwitha clear understanding of what sexual violence and harassment are. Develop an effective sex and relationship education (SRE) programme and a personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) programme. Subjects should include: What healthy and respectful relationships are, what respectful behaviour looks like, what consent is, how to keep safe online.
Promoting a whole school ethos. To create an environment where sexual violence and harassment aren’t tolerated, your school should: Challenge incidents of a sexual nature, not normalising them – respond to incidents in ways that are effective, proportionate – a bystander intervention programme can help to enforce this message while helping students to support each other.
Have clear policies and procedures regarding sexual violence and harassment and peer-on-peer abuse that are reflected throughout your school safeguarding practice.
Have clear procedures for responding to suspected peer-on-peer abuse.
All good advice. But what’s missing?
1. Teaching students the ‘habit of conscious ownership’: individuals taking 100% responsibility for their own actions and the consequences, students and staff taking 100% responsibility for the school culture.
2. Being a ‘courageous learner’ means being willing to look at the facts as they are, not as one would like them to be. It means not judging oneself harshly but adopting an attitude of coaching oneself with the same compassion one shows to others. Finally, it means embracing the principle that the only person in the world you can change is yourself: take responsibility for that, and let others decide if they want to change themselves.
3. Power of conscious thinking: in discussing difficult issues like sexual harassment and violence people think reactively; they respond to events by being defensive, rigid, and not really listening, by focusing on proving themselves right – they are ‘below the line’ in their thinking. ‘Conscious thinking’ means being ‘above the line’: open-minded, curious, willing to listen and to learn. You can tell when people are above the line by their behaviours: they share information and thoughts; they share feelings; they listen and collaborate; they reflect, consider and change; they are creative.
4. ‘Leading yourself’ means making conscious choices about your own behaviour and your own thoughts and taking total responsibility for these. Students and staff can own the current situation, find solutions to problems, and proactively make change happen.
5. Good relationships with others are essential to happiness. This finding has been affirmed by numerous studies worldwide. This is hardly surprising. What is surprising, given the importance of having successful relationships, is that we do not teach young people how to do this.
Jonnie shared his thoughts at our event ‘Beyond Everyone’s Invited: 3 critical factors for creating genuine change’ in October 2021. Missed it? Catch up with the recording.
Ask most teenagers about an issue they struggle with and underneath it all, ‘confidence’ will be what’s there.
Sometimes it is overconfidence bordering on arrogance but most often it’s a lack of it, resulting in insecurity. You could even argue that an over show of confidence can be a sign of the exact opposite. Both overconfidence and lack of it, have their consequences at whatever stage of life you are at, but especially if you are a teenager.
When we see toddlers learning to walk, we accept that the balance of confidence and insecurity is part of the deal; we are patient with it, we even find it charming. We encourage, guide, model, celebrate and comfort when a toddler takes those first steps and falters, wobbling and falling to the floor in tears. When a child learns to ride a bike without stabilisers, we do the same; this time we hang on to the back of their seat, running alongside them, shouting instructions as they gather speed until we feel they have momentum and then… we let them slip away from our guiding hand.
We watch them fly.
We know this. We have always known this. Yet do we adopt the same principles when they reach a different stage of their lives? Confidence is not just a feeling you either have, or have not, got. It is not something that stays the same across your life, it doesn’t even stay the same from moment to moment. Although it can peak, and trough, it can be helped, understood and developed but we have to be more deliberate about doing so.
Teach what it really is
If we want to develop students’ confidence, we need to be clear what we are talking about. The word ‘confidence’ can mean nuanced things. The Oxford English Dictionary defines confidence as ‘the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something’. Self-confidence is defined as ‘a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement’.
The definitions are not enough, there is a lot more than needs to be defined and we must teach it. Students need the knowledge before it can become their reality; where does confidence come from? How can it help and hinder? What do we know about how it is created and maintained? What are the dangers in having too much of it? How can we check out our own ideas with others and get feedback?
We may of course be very confident or self-confident but that does not mean that our judgement is right. We need to teach young people how to navigate these choppy waters. It is not as simple as encouraging a person to ‘be more confident’. There is a lot more to it than that. Let’s teach the knowledge that will empower and illuminate.
Define your language
The notions of confidence and self-confidence are tied up with so much other vocabulary. It is impossible to talk about these concepts without talking about arrogance, humility, insecurity, shame, inferiority, assertiveness, agency, pride or hubris. As we explore these words, their etymology and our own understanding of the terms, we reveal important things. From this springboard comes discussion and understanding.
If we want to develop confidence, we must help young people choose the right vocabulary to explain what they are feeling. Are they insecure or are they humble and what is the difference? Are they confident or arrogant? There is a difference. We must explore language. Vocabulary unlocks understanding.
In this journey from wobbly rider to free-wheel-flyer, mistakes are inevitable. The way we talk about mistakes is important so that we develop, and don’t destroy, confidence. Every mistake is a chance to learn if we are open to what it teaches us. It is not a failure. It is what learning means. In a world that can be intolerant when it comes to mistakes, we need to show young people how they can re-frame, learn, change and get up and go again.
Confidence can sometimes be misplaced, in themselves and in others, but it is important to learn the lessons and use it to fuel their progress. A mistake shouldn’t lead to a crushing loss of confidence if we help them frame it in the right way.
Care and challenge
Developing confidence in young people is a delicate balance between care and challenge. If we want to give them false confidence, we will praise them for anything they do, tell them they are wonderful and leave everyone feeling great. That isn’t helpful.
If we want to DEVELOP their confidence, we must care deeply but we must also challenge and question and give them feedback. We must. It is hard but it is important. It is a balance: too much care without challenge can falsely inflate confidence and too much challenge without the care can destroy it. We must be sensitive about how we do it. We need to give the agency to them by asking questions like; ‘how would you feel if I gave you some feedback?’ or ‘would you like to know the ways I think you could get even better?’ or ‘can I really challenge you now, are you open to that?’. If challenge is underpinned by care, confidence grows.
Celebrate WHO and not just WHAT
It is easy to celebrate what young people DO. It is important that we continue to do so but real confidence comes not just from what you can do, but from who you know you ARE. If we want to develop confidence in young people (and indeed anyone!) we need to encourage them with who we can see them becoming. None of us ever stop learning, growing, changing.
When we see resilience, determination, enthusiasm, organisation, leadership and self-confidence emerging we should tell them we have seen it and we should celebrate it. Sometimes confidence is developed when someone else can see in you, what you can’t always see in yourself.
Confidence is something that we need to continue to develop in ourselves long after the teenage years. We can play a huge part in getting the foundations right, to offer the support, the guidance, the challenge and the running alongside them so that when we let go, they are ready to fly.
Rachel is the CEO of PiXL, a network of 2500+ schools, colleges and APs spanning KS1-5 – collaborating, sharing best practice and equipping leaders in schools. We’re proud that PiXL is a supporter of The Future Leaders Project, resourcing students to thrive in work and life – and empowering them to become the next generation of leaders.
It’s an exciting day – for me, anyway. It’s not a public holiday, there are no new babies, or birthdays or big stories. It’s exciting because we are reopening The Award for 21-22 schools and students and I just love that in a few weeks, 3,000 students and staff around the world will be accessing life-changing learning through The Ivy House Award.
We have come a long way in two years. Starting with a pilot group of students and schools and almost completely rebuilding after year one, surviving Brexit and thriving through C19, hearing some amazing stories from young people facing very challenging environments in schools and bubbles – we are out the other side and ready to go.
The Award is my baby (I have said that before). I have an actual human baby, well, he turns 21 this year so won’t thank me for that statement, and he means the world to me. But this, this beautiful, deep learning programme, specifically designed for teenagers 15-18 fills my heart with joy. I am excited for them to learn about who they are, what’s important to them, how they can improve their communication, their relationships, take ownership for creating the life they want to live, pitch themselves, present themselves powerfully as they complete their school journey and move on… I just love it!
This academic year, 3,000 young people will feel more empowered to own the direction of their lives and will become more mindful of the role they play in their own lives and the lives of others. What’s not to love?
Many of this cohort will have navigated some choppy waters over the last couple of years and may well be coming to this school year with anxious thinking about their studies, their social connections and their futures. The Award will help them to process that thinking and hopefully realise that they still have passions and strengths, can still know how to build meaningful relationships and, when the time comes, powerfully pitch themselves in personal statements, interviews or whatever their next steps are.
School staff that are passionate about putting human development at the heart of education will work with and through a learning programme that will help them too. Supported by some fab resources and the team at Ivy House to facilitate great learning and support students to access opportunities they might not have done previously; they will have some amazing conversations. I know that, because I have these conversations myself when I am facilitating groups working together through The Award.
It’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my many years of working and that’s why it’s an exciting day.
It’s common knowledge that, when it comes to social media and what you see, you magically see more of.
I don’t really understand how it works. I just know that I click on something that appeals to me, and the next time I am online, all I see is more of that! During the US elections, I tested the algorithm. Sick to death of hearing the then President wax lyrical about stolen elections and fake news, I mindfully stopped clicking on certain channels. It took about a week, but at the end of that week, miraculously, no news article about him were hitting my feed.
Netflix is the same. I get push notifications about ‘things you might like to watch’ based on previous viewing. On Audible, I get book recommendations, based on previous listens. On Instagram I see adverts for things I have googled and on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, if I read something about LBGTQ+, anti-racism, Covid etc, more of it comes my way.
I recently read a book called Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. It’s a work of fiction, based in the US and centred around the experience of a black nurse, removed from caring for an infant by a white man, ensconced in the white power movement. It was a tough read, and at the end, there is a note from the author talking about how she came to write the book, the research she did and the people she spoke to.
She interviewed and chatted with people who were once key players in the white power movement in the US and who had left that world behind. I share this not to attract a ton of attention to the book, or to racism (though I would recommend the book and to research more about the origins of the movement), but to share my learning and understanding around how algorithms, typically associated with technology, show up in the human space, and what we can do to hack them!
Working on the principle that ’what we put our attention on, we see more of’, it stands to reason that when something attracts our attention, we zoom in, and innocently start to look for evidence to confirm our belief about that specific thing. If it’s a negative belief, it is fuelled by the information we have been exposed to over our time on the planet. Within a couple of days, just like it is on social media channels, our internal news feed is full of evidence to support our negative belief.
This is told beautifully in the book. A lonely, abused and abandoned young man meets a similar young man, who just happens to be involved with a group of people who have bought into a rhetoric about a superior race. He is accepted, liked, supported, and feels a sense of belonging he has never felt before. Before he knows it, he is on rallies, attending meetings and riding along when groups of young men are on the rampage, looking for anyone they can terrorise, beat, or take out their anger and frustration on … anyone that is different. He proactively starts to look for others like him, online, in communities and soon sets up his own website, joining forums of like-minded people who are all reinforcing his belief and providing ‘evidence’ of their superiority. He doesn’t stop to question, to be curious, to communicate or to educate himself. He now has, as far as he is concerned, a firmly ‘locked-in’ belief.
The algorithm is reinforced by the people he hangs out with, the communities he associates with, the news channels he watches and the family he marries in to. What he put his attention on, in the beginning, he now only sees.
Humans do this all the time.
Somebody, somewhere, says a size 0 is the perfect size to be; cue a multitude of women starving themselves, over-exercising and looking for all the evidence to support their behaviour as being a healthy choice. Someone else shares their view on a vaccine for C19 and suddenly it’s a fact and millions of people decide they are, under no circumstances, having that vaccine. The scientists argue the fact with science, and some people shift their perspective. Someone writes a bad review for a restaurant on Trip Advisor and suddenly the restaurant is out of business because people cancelled their bookings and assumed that the experience of one person was a truthful experience.
What’s my point?
My point is that there will be a million (and one) bits of information that come our way as we grow from babyhood, to being toddlers, to being young people, to being young adults and beyond. Bits of information that it is our job to explore, to challenge, to not accept as truth and excitedly take ownership of as a fixed belief. Along with the power of thought, we are gifted with the power of wisdom, of intuition, of fight, flight and freeze. It’s in our gut. It’s the feeling we get when something feels off. When we see or experience something that doesn’t feel good. When we take a path shown to us as being the right path, then halfway down it, that creeping sensation that we’re on the wrong path. We have forgotten how to tune into that.
When a teenager says they feel anxious, we point them to something outside of themselves to fix it. We don’t sit quietly with that teenager and ask them to describe the feeling and what it’s telling them. To deepen their understanding of what feels instinctively right or wrong to them. We recommend medication, talking therapy, distraction… that algorithm kicks in and we go to the internal database to look for evidence that says they’re broken and need fixing.
An 18-year-old doesn’t get the grades they needed to do a specific university course and we access that algorithm to find solutions and fix the problem.
An 14-year-old is so disconnected from his intuition that when a ‘friend’ invites him along to a party and they’re smoking weed and drinking, he doesn’t feel he can say no, so joins in.
We have become much more aware of how to hack the algorithms when it comes to social media and digital resources. How do we hack the human algorithm?
We use that gift of thought, and wisdom for a start.
Acknowledging and understanding that we are always one thought away from a different feeling or experience.
Listen to what our intuition tells us.
If we need evidence, look for it in a positive space.
Ask yourself every day – does everyone have the same thought in relation to this experience? If not, it’s likely that what you’re seeing or feeling isn’t ‘true’ – and if you just breathe for a minute, the thought will have passed.
Always be curious – don’t take my word for it… read for yourself the multitude of evidence (if you need it).
Know that your body is always giving you signals about what feels right for you – listen to it.
If what you put your attention on, you see more of…. Put your attention on the things that make you feel good.
Get to know yourself on a deep level. What’s important to you, what do you value, what are you passionate about, what are you strengthened by and what relationships do you want to have in your life?
Life is a contact sport and we are designed to experience a range of emotions. Let them be. We don’t have to go through life in a perfectly even and balanced state of mind and being to have a great life, but life will be amazing if we hack the algorithm and look for the joy to be had. None of us is broken or needs fixing, but we might need to un-learn some things to really create the life we want to live. It is in our gift to see what we want to see, be who we want to be, and love the life we live.
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15 small things that will make a game-changing difference when building your future
Building your future is like building a house; it doesn’t happen all at once. You don’t decide to build a house one day and the next it’s beautifully finished and all you need to do is put the key in the lock.
You do your research, gather all the materials you need and then set about putting them in the right order, gradually working your way up until you’re putting the tiles on the roof.
So what are the materials you need to build your future? This list is by no means complete, but it does offer you 15 small things that will make a game-changing difference:
Build your network. Want to work for Coca Cola? Connect with people who already do on LinkedIn – drop them a message, find out more about what they do and how they got there.
Choose the thoughts you hang out with – instead of saying ‘I don’t anything about this’ try ‘I don’t know anything about this YET.’
Trick your social media algorithms and change the content you consume. Follow hashtags that will mean you engage with posts and articles related to your passions.
Swap 30 minutes of Netflix or YouTube for 30 minutes of reading. That book you’ve meaning to read might just change your life.
Don’t assume that person won’t read your email. Send it. What’s the worst that could happen?
Become a super-thanker. Thank everyone for their help, no matter how much or little they’ve supported you.
Do not stop asking just because you get a no. Build your resilience. Sometimes people will say no. That just means you are a step closer to someone saying yes!
Increase your awareness of the language you use. “I can’t, it won’t, yeah but, I’ll never, I always, it just is, I don’t know, I’m rubbish at…” challenge yourself… are any of those things true or helpful?
Break it down – small changes make a big difference!
Do the things that make you feel good.
Just do you! The people who are meant to be in your life will find you
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. They are always an opportunity to learn.
Feel the fear and do it anyway – often our own limiting beliefs can hold us back. Try things, say yes to opportunities that might scare you and don’t believe that inner voice that tells you can’t do something.
Discover what makes your heart sing and do more of it – What’s the thing that makes you truly happy? That feeds your soul, makes time fly and allows you to be truly in your element. Find those things and do more of them – they will take you closer to creating the career and life that’s perfect for you.
You don’t always have to be right, often you learn more from getting it wrong so don’t beat yourself up when that happens, see it as an opportunity to learn and do it better next time.
This is a great foundation for building your own future. We recommend taking a look at the two videos ‘How to get your head around your future’ and ‘Creating a vision for your life’ within the Teach section, and then head over to the Self-Leadership Resources for an activity on how to find your element.
This article is part of The Future Leaders Project, supporting 15-18 year olds to understand their options for the future (although the advice here is useful to adults, too!) Register for access to a whole resource portal packed with inspiring lesson plans, expert talks, activities, interviews and advice from leaders from a whole range of fields.
Standing out from a crowd has never been more important when applying for jobs and interviewing for roles.
If you don’t believe me have a look at some of these stats:
Most graduates looking for a graduate scheme make over 25 applications
16% of graduates applied for 100 jobs or more
The average ratio of job applications made to receiving one invitation to interview or assessment centre = 21:1
Top employers report receiving over 100 applications per graduate position
It is estimated that 1% – 2% of graduates applying for Grad Schemes are hired
Employers featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers cut their graduate recruitment by 15% in 2020
The countries leading employers report receiving 41% more graduate job applications than last year
(Sources: High Fliers Research, The Times, Personnel Today, GraduateJobs.com)
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Most people don’t know how to stand out from the crowd, they don’t know how to be remarkable – and it’s actually not that hard once you know how.
When I say remarkable, I mean that literally; to be worthy of remark. For an interviewer to remember you and remark about you, after the interview process, so you stand out from the other applicants.
It takes a bit of prep, a bit of practice and a bit of courage – before, during and after – but honestly, it is not hard!
I say it’s not hard to stand out because most people follow a pretty standard process. Before an interview they Google the company, go on the company website, find out a few facts. During the interview they are polite but passive and have prepared a couple of unremarkable questions to ask at the end. After that they do nothing but wait to see if they have been successful or not, because they think there is nothing more they can do. The likelihood is they will not get the job because they have done nothing remarkable and have not stood out from the crowd.
So, here is what you do:
Do your research. Don’t just Google the company and go on the company website – that is standard, a hygiene factor. These days you can find out so much more. Find out what the customers are saying about the company and the products. What is their reputation like? How do they compare to their competitors?
LinkedIn is king. Use social media to find out about the people interviewing you. Not to stalk them or use the information in an inappropriate over familiar way (that would be weird). Find out what articles they are sharing or writing. Find out who they are following. You are not doing this so you can lie or be inauthentic, people spot that a mile off. But if you are well informed you can say ‘I see you wrote an article on LinkedIn about equality in the workplace. I enjoyed reading it. I share your passion for …’
Do some digging. Find out about the company values. Do they align with your own? Do you know your own values yet? If not, it’s really useful to get clear about what your values are so you can look for organisations and roles that will support you to honour your own values, rather than ignore or even violate them.
Recap:Do remarkable research, not basic
What impact are you making? The thing to remember is: you cannot not make an impact. To put it another way, you are always making an impact – either negatively or positively. It is worth remembering that, from the minute you walk into the building or join the zoom room.
If the interview is taking place remotely consider where you are. What is your background like? What have you chosen to wear? What facial expression are you pulling? Are they all contributing to the positive impact you want to be having?
With face-to-face interviews you are making an impact from the minute you walk into the building. One company I worked with used to ask the receptionist their first impression of the candidates; were they polite and friendly? If the receptionist said no, they did not get the job.
Be early. This is obvious and seems like another hygiene factor, but it actually means you get to sit in reception and absorb the atmosphere, the culture. Someone is likely to collect you to take you to the meeting room. Be aware, the interview has already started at this point. Don’t walk in awkward silence! Stand up as they walk towards you. Smile, initiate a handshake (assuming no restrictions are in place!) and have some curious questions ready to ask as you walk.
Ask questions. Some people fill an awkward silence by over-talking about themselves. The best way to have a positive impact is to fill silence with a question. If you are nervous it gets you out of your own head and concentrating on the other person. You won’t over talk out of nerves if you just ask a question. And it shows interest and curiosity about the other person. For example: Great offices! How long has your company been based here? How many people work here? What is the local area like? How long have you worked here? So, what is your role? What do you like about it? I am not suggesting you be over familiar, cocky or precocious – that would be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Consider what impact you want to have and do the behaviours associated with that. You are probably best aiming for confident, professional and friendly.
Body language. Once in the interview room, approach everyone, shake hands, get names and remember them! Get water if offered, get comfortable and then don’t fidget.
Be authentic. Take your time. Don’t lie. Interviews will spot that. Be yourself, answer the questions asked and try to weave some of what your research told you into your answers. You could refer to the company values, the customer research, something you read that an interviewer had published on LinkedIn.
Story telling. Tell stories, rather than recite your CV. They can read that and it’s not memorable. Stories are memorable. If you don’t believe me watch this.
Be brave. At the end be brave enough to say ‘I notice you haven’t asked me about ABC / my experience in XXX which I think is relevant to the role, could I share that with you?
Killer questions. Come up with some memorable questions to ask, more personal ones are memorable such as:
Why do you like working here?
How would you describe the culture?
What sort of person fits in here?
If I got the job, what would I have achieved for you all to say I was over performing?
In six months’ time what will the successful candidate have achieved that will make you say ‘wow’?
What is the biggest challenge I will face in this role?
If you offered me the job, why do you think I should accept it?
Whether I am successful or not, I would love to get some feedback from you, is that OK? What is the best process to get that?
Thanks. On leaving thank the interviewers for their time, let them know you enjoyed talking to them, be super polite. Proactive politeness is underrated when it comes to standing out from the crowd.
Do remarkable curiosity, not small talk Do remarkable storytelling, not CV reciting Do remarkable questioning, not bland
Be proactive. Most people think there is nothing more to do but wait. There are two remarkable yet simple things you can do:
Email the interviewers to thank them and let them know you enjoyed the interview
Follow up on any questions they asked you that you didn’t know or didn’t fully answer, demonstrating proactivity
I was once interviewed and asked if I knew about a specific personality profiling tool. I answered honestly and said I didn’t. When I got home, I searched it and found out I could take the test free online. I did it and sent my results to the interviewer – I got the job based on that proactive act.
Recap:Do remarkable follow up, not waiting
My neighbour’s son was chatting to me about a graduate apprenticeship interview he had at a large surveyor firm. He was despondent as he knew 100s of people had applied. I talked him through how to be remarkable and stand out before, during and after the assessment centre. He was up for the challenge. Afterwards he told me he really enjoyed putting all the behaviours into practice. They made him feel more confident. Building a connection with the receptionist relaxed him and chatting to the person who walked him to the interview room put him at ease early on. That feeling of confidence meant he was his best self in the interview. The follow up email letting the interviewer know he had enjoyed the interview was actually genuine… and guess what? He got the job!
This article is part of The Future Leaders Project, supporting 15-18 year olds to understand their options for the future (although the advice here is useful to adults, too!) Register for access to a whole resource portal packed with inspiring lesson plans, expert talks, activities, interviews and advice from leaders from a whole range of fields.
Warning: Education minus human development can equal tears
A*s in every subject, a place at a top university and the ability to remember facts and figures? Or self-belief, confidence and an ability to stay well no matter what situation comes their way?
Now, these aren’t mutually exclusive. In an ideal world, young people would be leaving our education system with all of the above. But when we get down to it, what are the top things we want young people to be equipped with when they enter the work place?
Let’s look at the standard measurement of success in schools: Exam results. Yes, these are important for getting into university and for many students they give a seal of approval – cast iron proof that their 11+ years of learning has culminated in tangible assets that can be added to a CV.
Ivy House Founder, Elke Edwards, recently shared this anecdote: “I was visiting a client at a top FTSE 100 company, and as we walked through the foyer there was a young man in tears, hunched over in a leather chair. I subtly pointed a thumb towards him and murmured to my client ‘Is he… should someone check on him?’ He glanced over and said ‘Oh him? He graduated top of his class but can’t take feedback. That’s why we avoid employing people with just the best grades’.”
Top grades might get you in the door but they won’t help you to build relationships with people, understand your strengths and passions – or be able to separate your job performance with you as a person, which may result in tears when you get some honest feedback.
When we asked teachers what the top 3 things they want their students to leave school with, the same answers always came back:
Given that, how much time do we spend actively focusing on equipping students with these attributes? The answers average out at 5%. You don’t find ‘hope’ on the curriculum, or a 30 minute lesson in the day to teach resilience.
And, 85% of school leaders said that now is the time to change and embrace a different way of doing things, according to a recent PiXL survey.
So how do we ensure young people are leaving school with the critical human skills that will see them flourish as well as the academic results that get them a foot in the door?
There are two sides to this.
How do I become the leader of my life? What should I do as a career? What do employers really want? How do I stand out from the crowd? What should I do with my life? Am I a leader?
There is a missing link between education and adult life. Students gain so much knowledge, but you can’t use algebra to work out the equation for happiness; knowing the names of all Henry VIII’s wives won’t help you learn how to progress in a career (but it may teach you not to marry a King known for bumping off spouses).
Learning about all the options available, having clarity over their future and understanding what it takes to get them there is something all young people should have access to.
That’s exactly what The Future Leaders Project is here to do – provide that missing link between education and adult life.
Led by industry experts and free for schools and students aged 15-18 to take part in, it comprises 2 elements; a free resource portal, containing lesson plans, activities, events, interviews and advice from leaders from a whole range of fields; and a competition that provides an incredible opportunity for students to be seen, heard and developed; to hear directly from employers, connect with some of the biggest brands in the world and help them in answering some big questions.
After everything the last year has thrown at young people, this is a brilliant opportunity for students to improve their understanding of self-leadership, leadership and make conscious informed decisions about their future.
Knowledge is power; human skills unlock this power to create an extraordinary life.
Knowing what field of further study will be beneficial or having a dream career is a brilliant starting point. And, unless young people have the confidence, resilience and the skills to build great relationships to thrive when they reach their next steps, there’s the potential for tears in foyers.
Students need skills that enable them to stand out in a globally competitive market; skills that employers are actively seeking and that ensure they are prepared for life beyond the classroom.
The key to all of this is helping students to understand themselves – knowing who they are, their strengths and passions and how to celebrate their unique character.
The Ivy House Award does exactly that. Built around 7 transformational leadership and life skills, The Award develops ownership, initiative, confidence, self-leadership and – that word again – resilience. It teaches them how to manage and not be scared of their thoughts and feelings, and how to proactively take care of their wellbeing.
Of course, we’re going to say that this is the best way to equip students with those three things we all want them to leave school with – and, it’s based on over 20 years’ experience of coaching global CEOs, in over 40% of the top FTSE 100 companies.
If we can give young people the opportunity to learn these game-changing skills now, when it can make all the difference not only to the leaders they become but to all aspects of their lives, why wouldn’t we?
In a world that focuses so much on gathering intelligence (other people’s wisdom), many of us have lost sight of our own insight.
And, whilst there is a place for both – our inner guidance system, our personal wisdom is the one, that in my experience, always serves us best.
In the days when I used to coach senior leaders there were, on occasions, attempts by potential clients to play the ‘mines bigger than yours’ game.
They would start by telling me what degrees they had from which universities, how quickly they progressed up the career ladder, their amazing lifestyles and all the wonderous opportunities that they had before them now. I would respond by telling them I was the daughter of a hairdresser and got my degree from Coventry Poly.
Assuming they didn’t ask me to leave at this point, I then asked them to reflect on whether they believed they would find the answers they were seeking from intellectual knowledge or insight.
If they wanted more ‘intellect’ on how to lead I could suggest a ton of books. If they wanted more advice on how to improve their relationships – again I could hook them up with advice givers.
If on the other hand they wanted to get quiet, get connected and find their path back to them – then I was their girl. At this point the dynamic of the conversation invariably changed. The client started to breath and the work began. My passionate wish is that we could create a world, an education system, that instead of taking us away from our insight takes us towards it.
The word education derives from the Greek word Edukos – it means to ‘draw forth from within’.
Let’s just take a moment to think about that. Now let’s think about the education system we have right now where students spend years having information pushed into them just to regurgitate it over a few hours in and exam and then get on with their lives.
But is corporate education much different? Groups of people in a room having the values of the firm pushed into them – being told about the leadership behaviours and what is expected.
What about their values? What about the kind of leader they were born to be – creative perhaps, strategic maybe, a tech guru… how about we take a lesson from the Greeks and begin spending a bit more time drawing from within?
It’s time we put human development at the heart of education, to allow young people to learn deeply about themselves and what kind of life they want to create. If you agree, then we would love to talk to you.
With young people now four times more likely to be unemployed than any other generation, there has never been a greater need to put human development at the heart of education.
It is these skills of confidence, communication, networking, pitching, managing your mind, choosing your behaviour, resilience and collaboration that make all the difference to whether people thrive or not. If the purpose of education is to enable young people to thrive – we have to give them the skills to do that.
Whether you term this human development, character education or social and emotional learning, this is about developing the critical human skills that set students up for success in work and life.
I was speaking to a Headmaster the other day who said ‘almost all Heads and teachers are hugely passionate about human development, but the truth is we’re all just winging it. We don’t know how to teach this stuff. Leadership, self-leadership, wellbeing and confidence are all essential skills for a young person to flourish, but we don’t know how to really teach them. The reality is most Heads and teachers have never left education, thus are woefully ill-equipped to prepare young people for life outside of the classroom.’
The courage of his honesty was refreshing. Winging it. The deep human development that sits at the foundation of who we are, that allows us to understand ourselves, how our thinking and feeling works, how to build brilliant relationships, have challenging conversations, manage our minds and stay well – the skills, let’s be honest, that we all need and use every single – are being left to chance.
Yet would we wing chemistry, physics or psychology? Would we assume those subjects can just be picked up by osmosis, or think it enough for a passionate teacher to read a couple of books on those subjects and create the whole GCSE programme? I suspect not. That’s because this kind of development requires deep knowledge and expertise in the same way as teaching any kind of technical subject. And the truth – winging this kind of deep behavioural change and human development has far greater consequences. This is what has led us to the skills, wellbeing and employment crisis we’re facing today.
88% students admit to struggling with anxiety
Only 4% of 2020 grads have secured a job
69% of employers said that new grads were not adequately prepared for the world of work
48% of students believe the negative consequences of the pandemic will have a long-term or permanent impact on them.
It’s time for us to face up to reality. The way we’re preparing young people for life beyond the classroom is not working. However, it seems to me for all of the challenges and frustrations of the pandemic, this extraordinary forced experiment has given us an incredible opportunity to rethink education, putting human development at its heart; to create a business-education coalition that ensures we are truly preparing young people for life beyond the classroom and to work together to turn ‘the forgotten generation’ into the most well-equipped generation of all time. To do something different.
We vote to do something.
That’s why we’ve built The Future Leaders Project.
The Future Leaders Project is a life-changing schools’ project bringing together a collaboration of changemakers from education and business to support students aged 15-18 to flourish, in work and life.
Led by industry experts and free for schools and students to enter, it comprises a competition and resource portal, allowing young people to be informed, developed and inspired – building a bridge of connectivity between education and the world of work and equipping students with the knowledge and inspiration to step up and become the leaders of their lives.
It allows students to hear directly from employers, connect with some of the biggest brands and influencers in the world and support them in making conscious, informed decisions about their future. With speakers, judges and mentors from a whole range of organisations including Nike, Deloitte, the BBC, Netflix, Bright Network, Pearson, NatWest and Google, The Future Leaders Project is all focused on ensuring students come out of what has been an incredibly challenging time, stronger than ever.
As Einstein once said, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” This is about creating opportunity; it’s about working together to set students up for success in the classroom and beyond and ensuring we are no longer ‘winging it’.
Want to know more about The Future Leaders Project?