Yext Life

10 min

Yext & Future Frontiers Partner to Offer Career Guidance to UK Youth

In partnership with Future Frontiers, several UK-based Yexters participated in a career development and coaching exercise.

By -

Jun 16, 2023

10 min

Future Frontiers is an award-winning education charity that works with schools and businesses across the UK to provide a coaching programme and access to professional role models for young people, ages 14-16.

This programme operates over a period of two years, and in three phases. In the first phase, the students meet with professionals and explore career paths and opportunities in their fields of interest. In the second phase, students work with local advisors in one-to-one sessions to produce a personalised action plan for post-compulsory education and career planning. Finally, in phase three, the students and the organisation work together to accomplish their goals.

In partnership with Future Frontiers, several Yexters participated in the first phase, a career development and coaching exercise. Among these incredible Yext UK employees is Sabrina Boudrama, Client Success Manager, Enterprise.

Sabrina is joining us today to share her experience as a mentor with Future Frontiers and the impact this organisation had on her students – and herself.

Sabrina, what motivated you to become a coach with Future Frontiers?

I was motivated to become a coach with Future Frontiers after attending an initial session where the programme leader shared powerful statistics about the impact of a child's upbringing, education and career choices. Coming from a privileged background in Switzerland, where career discussions were a normal part of public school, I realised that not all students in the UK had the same opportunities. I wanted to give back and help young people explore different career options.

I know I'm not a career adviser by trade, but the whole purpose of this programme is to introduce students to someone from a professional setting – someone that is not family, friends or school. We weren't trying to find a job or career for them right there, but to instead give them a bit of exposure to various industries, people and professionals.

What are some of the key skills and qualities you believe are important for disadvantaged youth to develop as they pursue potential careers?

Confidence and curiosity. These are crucial soft skills for young people.

Building confidence is especially important for those who may not have a background in higher education, as they may perceive it as daunting and unattainable. By exposing them to diverse individuals from various industries and backgrounds, we can help them realise that there isn't a single path to success in higher education. Encouraging them to express themselves and boosting their confidence can go a long way in helping them navigate the challenges they may face.

Additionally, fostering their curiosity is essential. Encouraging them to ask questions and engage in open-ended conversations can ignite their desire to learn and explore different career options. Creating opportunities for them to interact with professionals in their fields of interest, while providing support in the background, can further cultivate their confidence and curiosity. Ultimately, these skills empower young people to overcome their fear of approaching adults and encourage them to seek knowledge and guidance as they pursue their career aspirations.

Can you share a success story from the programme, where you helped a young person discover and pursue a career path they were passionate about?

I had the opportunity to work with two distinct profiles, each with their own interests and aspirations. The first boy was already immersed in technology, building computers and possessing extensive background knowledge. He was convinced that he wanted a career in IT, but what he didn't know were the various paths available within the field. Through our programme, he was given the opportunity to speak with an IT professional in India and ask specific questions, during which he discovered his passion is specific to hardware-related aspects of IT.

The second student had different interests, particularly in sports, and exhibited a mix of shyness and outspokenness. Unexpectedly, he expressed an interest in interior design, which took me by surprise. Fortunately, I happened to know an interior designer, and I facilitated a conversation between them. This dialogue was successful in addressing some of his concerns about the profession, such as his perceived lack of skill in maths. The interior designer explained that while maths plays a role in certain aspects of the career path, like measurements and software, it is not the sole focus and shouldn't discourage him from pursuing his interest.

I think these experiences highlight the importance of exploring alternative paths and challenging preconceived notions about career choices. By providing opportunities for young people to engage with professionals in their desired fields and addressing their concerns, we can guide them towards fulfilling and suitable career paths.

What are some of the biggest challenges youth in the programme are faced with, and how did the programme help them overcome those challenges?

Firstly, many of the participants were not aware of the various options and paths available to them in terms of education and training. The programme aimed to help them uncover these options and understand the differences between them. Overcoming this lack of awareness was a crucial hurdle that the programme successfully addressed.

Secondly, one of the challenges was getting the young participants to reflect on their future plans. Being teenagers or even pre-teens, they found it difficult to ask the right questions – either of themselves or the adults around them – and they also struggled to consider the long-term impact of their choices. Helping them understand that their current decisions could shape their future is a challenge that requires careful guidance in order to avoid overwhelming them.

How has participating in this programme affected you personally and professionally, and what have you learned from the experience?

Personally, participating in this programme has opened my eyes to the significant disparities in access to education, not only within a single country like the UK, but also across Europe. It made me realise that the privilege and opportunities I had taken for granted were not universally available. I was shocked by the statistics that revealed how many individuals from less privileged backgrounds did not pursue further education and ended up in low-paying jobs.

Professionally, this experience has deepened my understanding of different educational systems and the challenges young people face in making crucial decisions about their future. It has given me insights into the pressures and stress that students and their families go through, especially when it comes to achieving certain grades and securing desired educational paths.

Overall, participating in this programme has been rewarding, even if I am uncertain about the specific impact it will have on the participants' lives. That I could ask thought-provoking questions or plant seeds of reflection that might influence their long-term choices, I consider that a positive outcome.

Additionally, this experience has enhanced my empathy and awareness of the diverse educational journeys that individuals everywhere undertake, from these students to my coworkers.

What advice would you give to other individuals who are considering getting involved in youth mentoring programmes?

My advice would be to go for it. Don't let your perceived level of seniority or experience hold you back. It's not about how long you've been in your career or how many years of experience you have. What matters most is your willingness to share and connect with young people on a personal level.

Mentoring is about breaking down the barriers between professionals and young individuals, showing them that we're all just people, regardless of our roles or backgrounds. If you have even the slightest interest in making a positive impact on someone's life, I encourage you to take the leap and get involved in a youth mentoring programme. Your presence and guidance can make a meaningful difference in their journey.

How important is it to have diversity and representation in the careers that you showcase to the young people in the programme?

It is incredibly important to have diversity and representation in the careers that we showcase to young people in mentoring programmes. London and the UK as a whole are diverse, and it's essential that young individuals see themselves reflected in various industries and professions.

Diversity goes beyond just ethnicity; it encompasses factors such as socio-economic background, gender, age and more. By exposing young people to professionals from different backgrounds and stages of their careers, we broaden their perspectives and show them that success is not limited to a specific group.

Seeing successful individuals at Yext who may not have English as their first language or who have studied abroad helps break down the notion that certain industries or jobs are only for a specific group. It empowers young people to believe that they, too, can pursue their aspirations and overcome any barriers they may face.

How did you ensure that these youth have access to a wide range of experiences as they explore potential future careers?

To ensure that the youths in the programme had access to a wide range of experiences as they explored potential future careers, I focused on building rapport and finding common ground with them. I didn't want our interactions to feel like a rigid checklist, but rather a genuine conversation aimed at helping them.

I started by finding shared interests or hobbies, discussing what they did on the weekends, or asking about their family and siblings. These conversations helped establish a connection and made them more comfortable opening up. From there, I would naturally transition into discussing their interests and aspirations.

I encouraged them to engage with their teachers and seek guidance from them, asking about their teachers' own career paths and how they ended up where they are. I also emphasised the importance of asking questions and seeking advice from other people in their community, such as neighbours, school staff or individuals involved in their extracurricular activities.

By broadening their perspective and encouraging them to explore different avenues, I aimed to help them think outside the box and consider various career possibilities. It was important to me that they understood the value of seeking guidance from diverse sources and tapping into the knowledge and experiences of different individuals in their lives.

Can you share any tips or strategies for other mentors who are building strong relationships with the young people they mentor, and for helping them navigate any challenges they may face along their career paths?

As a mentor, try to spark their curiosity. Additionally, try not to intimidate the students; let them know that you're friendly by trying to find a personal connection with them. If you're having trouble breaking down some barriers, get them to ask you a question. Joke with them, take them around the office, keep things lighthearted at first. And importantly, make it a good experience. If they laugh with you a couple of times, they might remember this experience for longer, and more fondly.

Also, don't talk about career and jobs as a daunting, scary topic. At school, the way career conversations are approached can be quite serious; but if you break it down and just open up about your own personal experience, they come to understand that it's more about how interested in a subject you are; how passionate; how hard working.

I wanted to let them know that they have to put energy into where they want to go. But at the same time, just because you study something now, it doesn't mean that it's going to be the end of every other possible career path. More than anything, just try to keep them open-minded.

Finally, what do you hope the young people in the programme will take away from their experiences, and what impact do you hope to have on their lives and future career prospects?

I hope they think about what they like, and think about all of the things they can do with that. My advice to the students was to think outside of the box and ask lots of questions – both of other adults and of themselves. I told them, just start with something that you're interested in, and that you know you'll be able to devote a lot of your time to. Because if you pursue a degree that you think is good on paper, but you're not interested in the subject matter, it's going to be hard and difficult to remain curious and engaged in your profession.

Ultimately, pursue an education and/or career in something you'd like, because it will lead to discovering other things that you like. And somewhere along the way, if you work hard enough, and you're open to it, then there'll always be a new but related career path to explore.

We scare kids with serious career talk, but this one decision is not forever. At least, not in these times! Nowadays, you can start off as an accountant and end up being a filmmaker.

As long as you start off pursuing something you're interested in, your career path can take many turns – but you'll enjoy each one.

A Few Words from Future Frontiers to the Yext Volunteers

'The programme was a huge success; the Yext coaches were enthusiastic, engaged and inspirational. Each week the students left Yext full of ideas and excited to come back for the next session! This is a testament to the coaches at Yext ensuring the students felt heard, respected and that their ideas had meaning and potential.

The programme has had a real impact, with 100% of the pupils agreeing their career coach has guided them to discover an inspirational career, and 89% leaving the programme feeling confident they could identify employers and organisations relevant to their career interests!

A huge thank-you to all the coaches and everyone at Yext who made the programme such a success!' – Lola Manville, Future Frontiers Transition Manager

Ready to inspire UK-based youth? Learn more about Future Frontiers corporate volunteering opportunity here.

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