Pave the way for your career

Start early, be proactive and think beyond your classes when considering your options

Your high school career is rapidly coming to a close, so “What’s next?” 

For some of you, what’s next could mean a two- or four-year college or university, but all of you will need to answer the question, “What am I going to do?”

According to Richard Paiva, career development counselor at Milford High School & Applied Technology Center, career planning has as much – or more – to do with the development of “soft skills” as technical ones.

“Soft skills are career readiness skills – communication, working in teams, and other related skills,” he said. “You could be a great chemist, but if you can’t be part of a community or work in a team, you won’t be of value to anybody.”

Will Arvelo, president of Great Bay Community College, agrees and said that these soft skills are in high demand across numerous industries.

“Generally, businesses and industry are interested in hiring individuals that will be able to work in groups and have good communication, problem-solving and analytic skills,” he said.

In working with students to explore their career options, Paiva said his job is less on helping them find the right fit than it is on assisting them to develop the ability to manage themselves.

“Can they construct their careers as time goes on?”
he said.

He said this emphasis is necessary, as no one today is entirely sure what career options will exist 10 to 15 years from now.

“There will be jobs in things we never even heard of,” he said. “If you think about it, a social media manager did not exist 20 years ago. What we want is for kids to embrace change because that ‘right fit’ will change a lot.”

“By the age of 38, research shows that the average adult has had 10 to 12 jobs,” he said. “People tend to stay at jobs for two to four years.”

Doug Cullen, past-president, Vermont/New Hampshire Career Development Association, and current manager of career services at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, said his advice to students is to think beyond the classes they are taking.

“Think about your interests that you have and how your classes might relate to them,” he said. “Think about what you like in your life and what subjects you might enjoy. Focus on that and your skills.”


As you begin to explore your options, you may hear the term “Guided Pathways,” which is often used at community colleges in New Hampshire. Within Guided Pathway Systems, Beth Doiron, director of College Access and DoE Programs and Initiatives at the Community College System of NH, students are provided with fewer choices when they enroll in a particular program.

Because of this, “They’re less apt to go off track,” she said. “Many times what happens is a student comes into a particular major and then doesn’t pick the right courses, so that when they’re two years down the road, they’re still only halfway to a degree.”

Doiron said Guided Pathways is part of a larger statewide initiative,”65 by 25,” which seeks to ensure that 65 percent of adults 25 and older in New Hampshire will have some form of post-secondary education by 2025. She said their work on guided pathways has resulted in opportunities for students that can save them money.

“We’ve worked really hard to package courses so that students can take some concurrent enrollment and dual-enrollment courses while they’re still in high school,” she said. “They come to college with a significant amount of credits under their belts.”

In building what many educators refer to as a career pathway, Donald Jalbert, director of Technical Studies at Milford High School & Applied Technology Center, said the key for students is to start early.

At Milford High School & Applied Technology Center he said they help students outline “a four-year high school plan of attack” that includes core academic requirements and electives.

“We figure out what options make sense for you if you’re going on to a two-year college, a four-year college, or into a career field,” he said. “We’re thinking about the student in a whole different way – whether their future lies in heading off to a career or to college, here’s what we can do to get him or her ready for that path.”

At Green Bay Community College, Arvelo said advisors also sit down with students and discuss their short- and long-term goals.

“Do they want to go to work immediately upon graduation, or do they want to transfer to colleges such as UNH, SNHU, or Granite State?” he said. “We help students think about what is important to them and what they want to do for work and life. This allows us to have conversations about programmatic options and how these tie to jobs and industry needs.”

If Arvelo had one bit of advice to share with students as they evaluate possible careers, he said he would keep it simple.

“Be proactive. Learn about the different industries and career options available in New Hampshire and what it takes to get hired and be successful in those jobs,” he said.

Rob Levey is CEO of Exponential Squared, a marketing and organizational development company focused on helping small to medium businesses achieve their business goals and promote wellness in the workplace. With an emphasis on working with nonprofits that serve youth, Rob merges his business development experience with much of his freelance writing.

Categories: Getting started