Work Desk

Developing Character and Workforce Readiness in Students

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Besides talent, what determines the lasting success of someone in any career?  Ask 100 people that question, and most would likely attribute workplace success to character strengths such as perseverance, empathy, kindness, honesty, humility, etc. In fact, one could argue that the importance of character has increased in the 21st Century workplace. Elmer G. Letterman once said, “Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.” This is why it is necessary to promote core ethical values within students. Encouraging character traits helps students set good foundations so they are prepared for the workplace.   

One of the tenets of the 21st Century workplace that differentiates it from the industrial workplace model of centuries past is the empowerment of front line workers, those who work directly with customers, to make decisions. They customize experiences and products, provide advice and personalized service, and solve problems at a hectic pace, often without the oversight of a manager. It is not surprising that employers are concerned with hiring employees exuding character strengths that align with their company visions and missions. Over time, employees who exhibit consistent positive character are often chosen to lead work teams, receive promotions and gain the trust and admiration of their employers.

Therefore, an essential component to preparing students to enter the 21st Century workplace as positively contributing decision-makers is the awareness and development of character. At an early age, students need an opportunity to learn about character strengths, they need to learn about how character is manifested in behavior, and have opportunities to practice it daily. As they mature, students need to have the opportunity to examine, reflect, and express their beliefs and morals, as well as discover how well those beliefs and morals align with their chosen professions. Students should be challenged to align their behaviors, social media postings, and how they present themselves with the character strengths they espouse as they seek to build professional images prior to entering the 21st Century workplace.

How well are your students being prepared inside for the 21st Century workplace?

As school districts work hard to ensure the college and career readiness of their students upon graduation, they should also take care that students are prepared inside as well as they appear to be prepared on a resume. Test scores, grades, multiple activities, accomplishments, and awards all speak to proper preparation for the 21st Century workplace, but are they fully preparing for what they will be faced with in the 21st Century workplace?

While knowledge and glowing resumes are wonderful, will it be knowledge or character that drives their decision-making in the workplace?

Overall, the character strengths we adopt impact decision-making in every area of life, including the workplace.

This is because character is the core of who we are.

It drives our behavior, decisions and feelings toward ourselves and others. Since character is adapted and developed from the inside, employers look for actions related to character strengths. This is why in our day and age, it is more crucial than ever to promote and instill good attitudes that would help students attain high moral standards so they are ready to tackle ethical dilemmas when they enter the workplace.

Dr. Pamela Bruening

Dr. Pamela Bruening, Cloud9World’s Director of Professional Learning, is one of the nation's preeminent experts in RTI/MTSS, Positive Behavior Support, and has incredible experience as an educator, administrator, professional learning developer, strategist, consultant, curriculum writer, online content curator, author, speaker, and implementer of services.

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