By Amina El Fayoumy
Pioneer youth career coaching service SpringBoard aims to help high school and early college students match their talents with potential careers, guiding them through the process of identifying their passion and skills and making the correct choices to prepare them for adult life. Community Times speaks to Rasha Reda, Youth Career Expert and founder of SpringBoard, about just how her organization is helping students and filling a gap in the market.
High school students, still undecided about their goals in life, are expected to make crucial career choices at an early age; these decisions determine what colleges they apply for and what they study at university, and may even determine the course of their careers. But anxiety, social pressure from frantic parents, confusion about life in general, and a lack of knowledge about the professional world often means that students are unable to make the right choices.
Founded by Rasha Reda, career-coaching service for high school students SpringBoard was launched in 2014 to help students match their talents and passions with their prospective careers. Youth career expert, trainer and life coach, Reda works with high school and early college students to help them navigate the complicated world of professional adult life. The startup guides youth through their first high-stake decisions in life, including the subjects that they study in high school, deciding what to study at university, and finding a direction for their career.
“Throughout my career, I have coached professionals at different levels, but my passion has always been working with youth; I have always enjoyed a special rapport with them,” says Reda. Reda, who has worked with major multinational corporations in Egypt and the UK, specializes in coaching youth, preparing them for the professional world, and helping them avoid pitfalls that come with career mismatches.
“Their life-determining decisions are often marred by the anxiety of close family members and peer pressure that pushes teens to choose certain college majors that may or may not match their profile,” she explains. She also notes that the anxiety of over-eager parents who are worried about their children taking the wrong career path is rarely balanced with the knowledge of how to help them.
“The idea of matching the profile of a fresh graduate with their best-suited career path within an organization to make them shine and creating a “win-win” for the recruit and the organization was always very exciting for me,” she says.
Through SpringBoard, students get the opportunity to explore their interests, personality, and values, and to identify their skills. The organization familiarizes them with challen
ges in today’s job market, including what employers are looking for, and how to turn their unique qualities into fulfilling and successful careers. They are also coached on how to create an action plan to prepare them for college and the professional world later on.
“My professional and life experiences as well as my studies in self-help have helped me understand that achieving mind, body and soul balance is essential to finding happiness, fulfillment, as well as personal and professional success. I believe that the earlier you achieve clarity on your career identity and your passions, the more you will be able to express your uniqueness in the job market, stand out from the crowd, and make your mark in today’s fiercely competitive professional world,” says Reda.
Reda notes that high school students rarely know what they want, and “are often clueless about which subjects to choose.” She explains that a lot of their choices are made arbitrarily based on their grades in particular subjects rather than on who they are and what their talents or interests are.
“I always say that high grades indicate a strong work ethic or IQ, but they don’t necessarily reflect a passion. Those who suffer pressure tend to be the ones with strong academics or a family tradition of doctors or engineers,” she explains.
But the highly competitive job market does not only look at academics or high school grades, explains Reda. “Employers are always on the lookout for motivated youth with a clear direction and passion to bring to the job. Many adults find themselves misplaced in careers they are not passionate about because they never actually stopped to ask themselves what it is that truly inspires them. Even if they manage to shine professionally, they often find themselves feeling depressed, unsatisfied and trapped in their own careers,” she says.
Schools – partially because of the large numbers of students that they cater to – rarely have the time or resources to provide the extensive personalized support system that students need to determine their career direction early on. SpringBoard’s workshops are delivered to groups of students in schools and through one-on-one coaching sessions – ideally with the involvement of their parents.
And although SpringBoard aims to provide services to all students, their career exploration activities and psychometric assessments are obtained from abroad and require a minimum English language proficiency, meaning that their services are currently limited to students at English-language schools.
So far, SpringBoard has partnerships with the American International School (AIS), Cairo English School (CES), and Egypt British International School (EBIS), and has more partnerships in the pipeline for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Through these partnerships, SpringBoard targets high school and early college students aged 15 and above, as well as their parents. “We do not consider schools our clients, but rather our valued partners in the mission to support students in their quest for career identity and making their unique mark in life,” says Reda.
SpringBoard uses personalized career planning tools, and Reda is certified to deliver Strong Interest Inventory® psychometric assessment – one of the most widely used career planning instruments in the world today.
“The overall student profile is extremely important when applying to university, especially abroad, as they do not only look at academics. Students need to bring character and passion to the table; they need to be go-getters and to have life experiences…they need to stand out from the crowd. This should be apparent in the personal statement that they are required to submit with their university application,” says Reda.
And although SpringBoard does not help students in the actual application process, they do provide a specialized service to support them when writing their personal statements.
“Our clients walk out with a much more solid grasp on who they are as people, what their interests and career motivators are, and what career direction(s) and college majors make the best fit for them. They also receive a detailed report on their profile,” says Reda.
One student, Lama Abo Aiad from Cairo American College (CAC), says that the personality test helped her learn more about herself in general; she also explains that it helped her capitalize on her strengths and made her more comfortable with her decisions in general.
A student at the International School of Choueifat, Yasmine El Bialy explains that the career coaching service guided her choices when applying to university.
“Through all the questions and our extensive one-on-one talks during the sessions, I started to get a grasp of what I really wanted, because everything pointed to the same thing.
The activities made me understand who I really am and what my passion is, so I already had a fair idea of what I wanted before the results came out. Overall, it gave me a clearer picture of what I wanted to do; I discovered that I couldn’t be tied down to a desk job and that I would only be fulfilled if I did something that had an artistic side,” says El Bialy.
And although some of them were skeptical going into it, many parents are relieved to find this kind of professional career support system for their teens.
One parent, Lina Taha, explains that she found SpringBoard especially useful because of the support that it provided to her daughter. She explains that the testing and coaching process helped her daughter choose the right subjects, and that even though the results were unexpected, they helped her learn a lot about herself and challenged a lot of false ideas that she had about her own personality.
“Kids at that age are totally lost and feel very confused about what they are going to study. The most reputable of schools don’t offer the required support and even when they do, it’s usually too little too late,” says Taha.
Another parent, Noha El Ridy, admits that she was hesitant to try it out in the beginning, but that her daughter found the process very constructive. “The outcome of the process was totally aligned with my daughter’s personality. Knowing that the results were based on a scientific methodology made me trust it more. Kids at that age are not experienced enough to make these life decisions and it’s great that a process like this is available to guide them,” says El Ridy.
For more information about SpringBoard,