A Gallup-Bates report in 2019 stated that 80% of college graduates surveyed say it’s important to find purpose in their work. Yet less than half felt they were successful doing so. 

The report titled Forging Pathways to Purposeful Work found that there’s also a “purpose gap,” where today’s students want purpose to play a major part in their lives compared to previous generations. 

The report concluded there were four key undergraduate experiences that propel students’ feelings of engagement in meaningful, purposeful work:

  1. Having realistic expectations for post-graduate employment prospects.
  2. Participating in a class/program that helps them think about pursuing meaning in their work.
  3. Having an applied internship or job.
  4. Having someone who encourages their goals and dreams.

But where do you start when trying to uncover a student’s purpose? And why does purpose matter in career exploration?

3 questions to uncover purpose

Before I go into why purpose matters, let’s get right to the three questions you can ask students. Later, I’ll go deeper into these questions.

  1. What did you dream about doing when you were younger?
  2. What of the things that bring you joy are most important to you and crucial for you to pursue in life?
  3. What major problem or issue do you want solved in the world?

Why purpose matters

Today’s workforce faces a significant skills gap. Roughly 85% of high school students are graduating, and yet millions of jobs go unfilled year after year. Furthermore, about 40% of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. The skills gap is a complex, interconnected issue that creates a disconnect between education and the workforce. 

Bottom line: employers are struggling to hire individuals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to fulfill their needs and mission-critical work.

There are two sides, though, to every story. When it comes to the student perspective, many feel they’re disconnected.

How can you create more connections to help students re-engage? For one, you can use YouScience solutions as part of a meaningful conversation with your students to help them feel engaged and find purposeful work.

What is YouScience? 

YouScience is an ed-tech company that offers an aptitude-based college and career readiness platform to help students realistically find best-fit postsecondary opportunities. After students complete a series of brain games with YouScience Discovery, they access personalized aptitude and interest results that affirm how they’re naturally wired and what careers suit their wiring best.

Discovery also shows students companies with real-world internship and job opportunities and lets them explore more than 6,200 postsecondary schooling options, including technical and vocational schools and programs. And it gives teachers and counselors conversational touchpoints and questions they can ask students to encourage them in their goals and dreams.

YouScience also offers Precision Exams certifications that let students earn industry-recognized certifications based on what they learn in middle school and high school career and technical education (CTE) classes, making them more marketable and career-ready for life after graduation.

At its core, YouScience helps you help your students think more meaningfully about pursuing purposeful work. 

How to help students uncover their purpose

To help educators engage their students to meaningfully reflect on and talk about purpose, here are three questions you can ask students to consider before, during, or after students complete their Discovery brain games and/or earn certifications. These questions can be asked through one-on-one conversations, classroom discussions or activities, or individually.  

1. What did you dream about doing when you were younger?

A major part of who we are comes from childhood. We are born with natural talents, interests, likes, and dislikes. Looking back on their childhood can help students think about what gives them joy, what makes them curious, and what they love to do. When asked in relation to a student’s Discovery results, childhood dreams can affirm who they are and who they’ve been all along. 

Added questions to help students connect with their purpose:

  • When you were a child, what were you curious about? 
  • What did you love to do? 
  • What made you lose track of time? 
  • What got your attention? 
  • What did you get bored with? 
  • What are some things that might connect with your childhood interests? 
  • Are you living out those interests/curiosities? 
  • If not, how might you reincorporate them into your life again?

2. What of the things that bring you joy are most important to you and crucial for you to pursue in life?

Too often we will only consider our professional lives when asked about what we want to do. But family, spending time with friends, hobbies, volunteering, or activities are major components of the life students want to live. And these aspects of life offer purpose themselves.

It’s important for young people to consider their personal and civic lives. 

A student’s Discovery results gives detailed information about the day in the life of more than 600 occupations. They can learn about the core tasks, educational investment, and expected job openings and salaries for each occupation. This information, in combination with some reflective thoughts on who and what is most important to them outside of their careers can help them make informed, reasonable decisions about their future.

Added questions to help students connect with what brings them joy:

  • Are there any hobbies that you want to have more time for (fishing, reading, writing, sailing, scrapbooking, painting, restoring cars, etc.)? 
  • Do you want to travel and see the world? 
  • How do you want to give back to your community/the world? 
  • Does the career you’ve considered take any of your previous answers into account?

3. What major problem or issue do you want solved in the world?

Of all the purpose-driven questions out there, this may be one of the most important questions we can ask students as they approach graduation. It’s a question that can drive what they do academically, personally, and professionally throughout life. 

“What problem or issue do you want to solve” gets at the heart of a student’s desire to appreciate their work and the way they’ll leave the world.

This is exactly what YouScience is on a mission to do: empower intentional, individual success. We’re helping students answer the question of why they’re learning what they’re learning. We’re encouraging them to have a vision for their lives, and to pursue it with grit, excitement, and difference. 

A student who has their eyes set on a goal or problem they want to solve, more importantly one aligned with who they naturally are, is more likely to persist and pave their way to success. 

Added questions to help students connect with what they want to leave behind:

  • What is something that you’ve struggled with, and you want no one else to experience?
  • What problems do you enjoy solving? 
  • What problems do you naturally have solutions for? 
  • What do you do really well? 
  • What problem would benefit from what you do well?

For some, these questions may seem too deep or philosophical for a younger generation. They may wonder if students will find them interesting or worth reflecting on. But students today are already considering them on some level. And encouraging them to think deeper is an important part of planning career and education pathways.  

A purposeful approach to pathways

The way we look at work is changing, and YouScience aims to help educators help students pursue their unique purpose and pathway. Asking questions and reviewing students’ Discovery results and certifications can help young people determine the best possible educational pathways and career opportunities for themselves.

We’re bridging the skills gap while helping young people answer one of the toughest questions all of us wrestle with, “What should I do with my life?”

As you talk with students, emphasize that pursuing one’s purpose(s) doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey. One worth taking, and that you and YouScience can help with.

Connect students to their best-fit pathways, careers, and post-secondary opportunities. 

To learn more about YouScience and how this unique platform is changing students’ lives, connect with one of our regional directors.