Carlene was in my grade 12 English class in 2010. She was a strong student with good marks and intended to go into nursing. She had a plan.

I was happy for her. Most students don’t know what they want to do after high school. I thought she might make a great nurse as she was amiable, kind, and loved working with people.

Before she left school, we talked in my classroom. She was excited about starting on a nursing path.

I expressed, “If nursing doesn’t work out, you may want to look at some type of writing career.”

“Writing? Why?”

“You are a very skilled writer with a powerful voice,” I told her.

We found one another again in 2021 when she was a guest on my Adventures in Careerland podcast. She did not become a nurse, not connecting to the profession as she thought she would.

She had been working as a copywriter for the past 5 years and is currently taking courses in Urban Planning at Concordia University in Montreal.

She said, “I never forgot what you told me about my writing, and I decided to pursue it. I love what I’m doing.”

My ‘tap on the shoulder’ altered her life path.

What is the tap on the shoulder? The TOTS happens when someone sees something unique, special, or possible in another person and directs them to an activity or offers an insight that could make a difference in their lives.

I talked to a former CJS student, Jaime Wong, last week on my Adventures in Careerland podcast who confessed that she was a math whiz in high school who went on to earn a university actuarial degree only because the school librarian quietly asked her if she had ever considered becoming an actuary. Jaime had no idea what an actuary was until she got an important tap on the shoulder.

I recently listened to Chase, a grade 11 student who shared his LEAN Career Design Canvas with me, a creative tool I created to help students explore their best selves and discover where career paths could lead. I noticed patterns and motifs running through the canvases and ‘tapped him on the shoulder’ about further exploration in an auto mechanics program. He signed up for the Louis Riel Arts and Technology Centre Automotive Technology program.

The TOTS ignites confidence and positive vibes in students, adding a degree of clarification, validation, or possibility. it sets them off on a path where there may have been none, or confirmed a possibility that was hazy, or got them thinking about a career cluster that best reflected their skills set.

Many students are left on their own as their figure out what the future may hold, and it shouldn’t be this way.

Every education stakeholder, especially a teacher engages students every day, has the ability to deliver an important tap on the shoulder. An innocuous comment from a librarian or a direct insight from a career practitioner Just might be the most important career guidance anyone can receive.

Has anyone ever changed your life with a quiet tap on the shoulder?