Beth Hendler-Grunt, author and founder of Next Great Step, was an expert guest on two NBC News Daily segments on January 16, 2024, discussing prepping your high school student for college. The Modern Parenting segment was hosted by anchors Morgan Radford and Vicky Nguyen hosting from 12-2 PM, and from 2-4 PM Kate Snow and Zinhle Essamuah.
According to a recent study from the nonprofit organization the Kauffman Foundation, seven in ten high school students feel high school will only somewhat prepare them to succeed in college. And once they’re ready to find a job in the real world, 77% of employers believe high school preparation should focus on real-world skills rather than traditional subject matters.
Here is an excerpt from the first interview with Beth’s perspective on these issues.
Morgan Radford: It’s an interesting topic that affects a lot of families. What should parents ultimately be doing to prepare their child for college?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Parents should start to identify what are the gifts and skills that their child has. There’s lots of pressure to feel like you should go certain places or do certain things, but start with your child. What do they enjoy doing? What are they passionate about, and what are those skills and gifts that they have? And then encourage them to be curious and talk to adults in their lives– ask a relative, “Tell me what exactly you do for work.” Even as parents, explain to your kids what you do and help to foster that curiosity and the importance of being comfortable talking with adults to learn about what the options are.
Vicky Nguyen: I think sometimes it can be a stressful conversation, both for the student and the parents. But what are some of the things, the pitfalls parents should avoid when having these discussions with their kids?
Hendler-Grunt: Well, as a parent myself, too, I understand that sometimes you want to insert your own opinion or what you think they should do. I think we should do a lot more listening versus telling and saying, “I understand. I see you’re involved in all these activities. What do you like about it? What do you start to feel passionate about? Is this something that you want to pursue further? Let’s figure out ways to make that happen. Or let’s talk about who you could talk to to learn more about if that’s a pathway for you.”
Radford: So really listening and trying not to impart our desires. And when you sort of talk about the college process right now, it’s so multilayered, right? I mean, you definitely, in a lot of cases have the interview component. And I remember kids would feel pretty challenged. And that was an intimidating thing for them. How do you suggest that we help them with that portion of the process?
Hendler-Grunt: We find after the pandemic it’s hard for them–skills like looking somebody in the eye and shaking their hand and feeling comfortable. Even calling someone on the phone is very overwhelming and intimidating. So the more we can start to do simple things with our kids, have them book that doctor’s appointment for themselves, have them check out one of the credit card bills, and make sure it’s correct. So just getting comfortable and also comfortable talking about themselves, just helping point out, you know, you have done well in this class or you’re analytical or you’re a great writer. Talk about that when you talk to others and be curious about what others have to do as well.
Nguyen: What are some of the biggest skills gaps happening right now with new grads?
Hendler-Grunt. Employers need new grads who have strong interpersonal skills, strong written and oral communication, leadership, and problem-solving. Companies have problems that need to be solved, and they would love to have candidates who can support them and help them be successful.
Here is an excerpt from the second interview with Kate Snow and Zinhle Essamuah.
In today’s modern parenting, experts say high school is the best time to start preparing your teen for a career. But a lot of young people may still be figuring out what they want to do. A recent national survey on post-graduation readiness found 75% of high school graduates are not ready to make college and career decisions at that point.
Kate Snow: Joining us now to talk about all of it is Beth Hendler-Grunt. She’s the founder of Next Great Step. She is also the author of The Next Great Step The Parent’s Guide to Launching Your New Grad into a Career. It’s great to have you here. This is very, very relevant to my life. Not every young person knows what they want to do. I’m constantly saying to my young people, Don’t worry, it’s going to work out. But what if they don’t know? How do you encourage them to kind of start thinking?
Hendler-Grunt: Absolutely. It’s so common that most do not know, and that’s appropriate. But even as a parent, we can say, I noticed that you enjoy this sport. I noticed that you enjoy this class. Tell me, what do you think about that? How does it feel? Maybe you notice that they’re great at problem solving writing or being creative. And sometimes just pointing out to them these few things makes them realize “ I am good at that” and this can be helpful to get them on that path.
Zinhle Essamuah: Like, how can a parent help their teenager hone in on a career path, whether that’s a vocation or a 9 to 5 desk drop?
Hendler-Grunt: Sometimes it’s just focusing on what skills you have. What is it that you know how to do? I’m a great writer or I noticed that you’re great at doing your analytical. You love puzzles. So helping them figure out what kind of skills they have and then maybe how they can leverage that into different types of fields and get curious about what other people do—maybe explaining as a parent what you do for a living. Sometimes our kids don’t even know. Yes. Like encouraging the conversation. Networking. Absolutely. Curiosity is key. Encouraging them to be curious, and ask questions. And then, of course, that leads to networking because that’s ultimately how people get hired into jobs.
Snow: And you were saying during the commercial, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be like Uncle Joe does something interesting and maybe you tell your kid to talk to him.
Hendler-Grunt: Certainly family occasions are great and make it simple and as low-stress as possible with the people that are around them that they feel comfortable with, whether it’s siblings or someone who they just feel that more comfortable to have the conversation because we know sometimes they don’t want to hear from mom and dad.
Essamuah: I mean, landing an interview, though, can be hard. And I’m mindful that so many grads graduated during COVID. They might be uncomfortable interviewing or talking with a stranger. What do you advise for that?
Hendler-Grunt. So there is a lot of this discomfort. What I share with young adults is that just remember that people hire people, not a tracking system or an AI algorithm, and that forging those relationships through targeted networking, connecting out to fellow alumni actually can yield conversations that help you find out about jobs and opportunities and put you ahead of others.
Snow: Last thing When do parents have to step back and not get too involved like it is their lives?
Hendler-Grunt: I think sometimes we just have to realize that their timeline is not the same as our timeline. I’ll speak for myself as well. And just helping point out what you noticed that they can do well or encouraging, but they do have to want it and they do have to be willing to do it.
But encouraging that professionalism, reaching out, networking, and just a reminder that people hire people to forge those relationships.
Essamuah: That’s really good. I think there can be a misconception that work is just boring or drudgery. But no, you can be leaning into your gifts. That can be an exciting thing, right? And there’s this thing that you think you can just go online and do everything. And as you say, human relationships count, too. Thank you so much, Beth Hendler-Grunt, appreciate it. Thank you. And thanks for watching. We got a lot more news ahead. You’re watching NBC News Daily.
If you would like to learn more about how Next Great Step helps young adults land an internship or first job, schedule a complimentary consultation. Or get the Amazon #1 Best Selling Book, The Next Great Step: The Parents’ Guide to Launching Your New Grad into a Career.