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Affirming Early Skills for Future Success

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By Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of The DeBruce Foundation

It’s back-to-school season! It’s a time of new crayons, first-day jitters and excitement, developing friendships, and a year ahead full of possibilities and growth. As a former classroom teacher, this time of year will always spark inspiration and purpose in me for the ways we can serve and support students. Now, as the Executive Director and COO of The DeBruce Foundation, I can’t help but see the connections between early growth opportunities and the success we’ll find in our adult lives. 

As the young people in our lives embark on another season of learning and exploration, we, their adults, have an amazing opportunity to help tee them up for success. Unbeknownst to them, they are developing skills and interests, this very minute, that they’ll use in order to be successful throughout their careers. 

The future they are preparing for is full of careers beyond our knowledge — literally! Our economy is developing so rapidly that the workforce as we know it will be vastly different in a short time. As stated by Michelle R. Wiese in her recent book Long Life Learning, technology and other advancements “will continue to give rise to entirely new kinds of jobs and careers, ones that we cannot even begin to name.” Therefore, the way we best prepare our kids for successful futures isn’t as much about setting them on a path toward a specific job but helping them develop skills that will prepare them for the vast array of opportunities that lay ahead. 

At The DeBruce Foundation, we’ve identified work skills that are used in every job throughout the workforce. These work skills, which we call Agilities, can be learned, practiced, and cultivated over time. The Agilities of work are as follows: 

  • Developing Others – the Agility for recognizing and cultivating others’ talents
  • Innovating – the Agility for thinking outside the box 
  • Inspecting – the Agility for monitoring compliance with rules and standards for quality, safety, and effectiveness 
  • Judging and Estimating – the Agility for having sound judgment and critical thinking 
  • Managing – the Agility for supervising people and situations to achieve positive outcomes 
  • Operating Objects – the Agility for working with machines, tools, and devices
  • Organizing – the Agility for creating and maintaining order in work tasks 
  • Selling and Communicating – the Agility for influencing and persuading others
  • Serving and Caring – the Agility for developing strong social relationships and helping others with their needs 
  • Working with Information – the Agility for working with information technology, management, and processing 

Here’s the great news: young people are developing these skills every day in school, in their extracurricular activities, while playing with friends, and doing chores at home. Here are examples of how work skills show up in daily activities, and how they can later be used in careers: 

  • When your child is helping a friend with their homework, they are using their Agility of Developing Others. Some jobs that heavily use this Agility are human resource managers, chefs, civil engineers, and zoologists. 
  • When your child is creating a video for social media, they are using their Agility of Innovating. Some jobs that heavily use this Agility are graphic designers, software developers, music therapists, and teachers.
  • When your child convinces their teacher to give the class extra recess, they are using their Agility of Selling and Communicating. Some jobs that heavily use this Agility are broadcast announcers, architects, fundraisers, and lawyers.

When you observe your child using their Agilities, here’s what you can do to boost their understanding and cultivation of these early work skills: 

Notice and Name It

Notice and name the Agilities your child is using or learning. When they neatly arrange their school supplies before their first day of school, you might note their superb ability to Organize! Or, when they invite a new student to sit with them at lunch, call out the way that they used their Serving and Caring skills to make the student feel welcome. 

Ask and Affirm 

Ask your child questions about what they like to do, and affirm when they are working hard and developing new skills. Your child might have just become the captain of their soccer team and are now in an official leadership role for the first time. They are exploring new skills and interests. Ask them if they like serving their team in this way — or using their Managing skills — and celebrate their new growth! 

Encourage and Explore

Encourage your child to try new things and reflect on their interest, so they have the confidence to explore more opportunities as they grow. After trying out a new coding class after school, ask them what they liked about it, what interested them, and what they would like to learn next time. They’ll encounter new opportunities the rest of their lives; teaching a mindset that is open to doing and trying new things will set them up for lifelong learning.
Get to know more about the Agilities on our website, then learn how you can leverage them in your life and work. By knowing the Agilities you are using day to day, you’re more prepared to help your young one name and explore the Agilities they’re using. Here is a printable resource to put on the fridge or save in your phone with reminders of key ways to support your child’s early exploration of their skills and interests. They’re learning and developing every day; let’s help our kids toward their brightest futures!

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