How to coach students who don’t seem to have much passion for anything

If you think a student has no passion for success, it may just be because the things they’re interested in are different or impractical from a career development perspective. Not all passions make a whole lot of sense, so it can be easy to dismiss them as career options. So how can you harness their interests to spark other passions?

Encouraging students to dabble in things they’re even remotely interested in is a good way to help them discover what they want to do. Crucially, however, it helps them figure out what they don’t want to do, which is equally important.

Trial and error is one of life’s best teachers (just ask Richard Branson). Sometimes just having the opportunity to really engage with an area of interest is enough to develop a real passion for it. On the other hand, it might scratch that itch and help the learner realise it’s not for them.

Remember that students are young enough to experiment and try different things with a lower opportunity cost. It’s important not to make them feel like their entire lives hang on every decision.

Also, by teaching students to learn from their mistakes, they develop important life skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Think tangentially as a career coach

Sometimes a passion doesn’t seem to manifest itself because it’s housed in something else. Just because a student isn’t interested in studying doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in anything. Pay attention to their behaviour and try to figure out what sparks their interest. If they aren’t participating in class, a simple conversation about what they’d rather be doing can be very revealing.

That student who’s always doodling in their book instead of paying attention? Maybe they’d be interested in illustration, graphic design, or technical drawing. The one who’s always humming or listening to music might be interested in playing an instrument, sound engineering, singing, or teaching music. The one who’s always skipping class to shoot hoops is clearly interested in basketball – could they perhaps become a player, a coach or a physiotherapist?

To match even a passing interest with a potential career, involves recognising that interest and then determining how to apply it. Encourage your students to imagine themselves doing elements of these different careers and see if it clicks with them.

Once you figure out what direction you want your students’ interests to go, we’ll get to the issue of aptitude.

Find out what students are good at

There’s a difference between what you’re interested in and what you’re really good at. Sometimes people don’t show passion for something because they haven’t found anything they have a talent for.

While passion can’t really be measured, aptitude can. An aptitude or ability assessment can be a good starting point to explore potential passions or, alternatively, to connect an existing interest with a talent in a way that develops that interest.

Part of a teacher’s or student advisor’s role is to nurture fledgling interests, help students find the ones they’re good at, and then teach them the discipline they need to get better at them. When you master something, it can become a passion because it feels much more rewarding.

Acknowledge non-linear careers

Increasingly, people are pursuing careers in various ways, moving laterally or diagonally through occupations, reskilling and upskilling, discovering new possibilities, and taking advantage of unexpected opportunities.

While you shouldn’t necessarily encourage your students to flip-flop about choosing a career path, enabling them to look at their future careers through this lens can help broaden their perspective on the options available.

Focus on internal motivation

Conventional education is geared towards measuring external achievement. Students are rewarded for good grades by praise, awards, a better choice of possible universities or colleges, and even money in the form of gifts from their parents or scholarships. This teaches them that it’s their grades that matter, not necessarily their interests.

It can be difficult, but finding out what a student would do regardless of this reward system can help you find out what they’re interested in – what their intrinsic motivation is. Teach them to pursue things that don’t necessarily bring an external reward. This will give them a different perspective on their passions.

Teach them to use digital tools

Job- and company-specific skills have an ever-shorter half-life these days. But learning and using technology and digital tools to get things done is invaluable.

Having grown up with mobile phones, tablets and computers, many younger learners have an innate understanding of technology. The great thing is that technology can help them achieve amazing things as individuals, using tools that were once only available to professionals. Think of image editing, music or video production, website building, podcasting and blogging – all of which can be done from the comfort of your home.

Encouraging your students to experiment with the tools available to them (free versions of most are available) can help kick-start an interest, especially when they realise how easily they can pursue it to greater heights.

Get students out of the classroom

Field trips shouldn’t be boring. They should stimulate students’ abilities, push them beyond their comfort zones and encourage exploration. Take your students to inspiring monuments or majestic natural spaces. Arouse in them a sense of awe and wonder about the world.

In short, try to change their outlook, as this is one of the surest ways to awaken dormant interests or shift an existing interest into a higher, more passionate gear.

Find a career for students that fits

Aptitude tests can be incredibly helpful when it comes to assessing your student’s skills and abilities, and they can provide great insight into areas they may be interested in. Career Fit offers personalised reports obtained from cross-referencing occupational interest inventory results with three aptitude tests, listing 16 potential career options from a database of more than 1,200 options. If you’re interested in exploring the options with your students, contact us  for more information.