Navigating the path to adulthood can be challenging for teens and stressful for parents. As parents, we all want our children to find fulfilling careers and live happy, successful lives. But how can we best guide them on this journey?
To glean some wisdom, we spoke with Michael Simpson, an entrepreneur dedicated to workforce development. Simpson is the CEO and co-founder of PAIRIN, an organization that builds tools to help people unlock their career potential. PAIRIN partnered with Envision by WorldStrides to create MyActionPath - an interactive guide to help students discover careers tailored to their interests and strengths.
Read on to learn what encouraged Simpson to dedicate his career to empowering youth with the skills and mindsets necessary to proactively shape their futures.
WS: What gave you the inspiration to co-found PAIRIN?
MS: I grew up in a dysfunctional home that didn't afford me the opportunity to follow a traditional path, such as going to college, or allow me to develop skills through traditional ways. The only reason I became successful was because employers saw my potential and developed skills in me that propelled my career. Those people helped me figure out what I was capable of and gave me opportunities based on the skills they saw in me. They also helped me develop other business skills.
I started PAIRIN because I don't want other people to spend their first 30 years figuring it out like I had to. I saw the potential for software to empower both individuals trying to sort out their opportunities and the professionals who help them. I believe there are millions of people we can help.
WS: What made you choose workforce development as the specific purpose of PAIRIN?
MS: To me, quality workforce development goes beyond traditional education as a sole indicator of potential. My passion for workforce development stems from the belief that students today have a multitude of pathways to success. It involves identifying the specific skills essential for various roles and then collaboratively working with educational institutions, programs like WorldStrides, and individuals to nurture and enhance these skills in learners. The more tools that we can provide to help that process for employers, programs, and individuals, the better our talent pipeline will be and the more opportunities we can provide to people.
WS: Envision by WorldStrides has partnered with PAIRIN since 2018. We use The PAIRIN Survey to help middle and high school students understand what motivates and drives them. In your words, why are tools like The PAIRIN Survey so important?
MS: When I first discovered the science behind The PAIRIN Survey, it gave me such amazing insight into myself and the people I was coaching to become successful executives in business. I realized that if we could help individuals understand what motivates them, what their underlying needs are, and how their skills map to specific occupations, we could change people’s lives.
The key to understanding what you should do is figuring out what motivates you and what drives you. Nobody wants to be stuck in a job that sucks the life out of you. But if you haven't tried a lot of different types of work, you don't really know what works for you. I prefer a model that doesn’t require a lot of failure to figure out what you enjoy. If we can use science to help you figure out those motivational drivers and what gets you excited, as well as discovering what steals that joy from you, it'll help you identify what you should be doing.
WS: Together Envision by WorldStrides and PAIRIN created MyActionPath – a kind of virtual GPS that guides students on a path towards their future using curated resources like the US government’s O*NET database. When you think about MyActionPath, why do you think students, parents, and educators should give it a try?
MS: I think MyActionPath is a great solution to help students and their parents think hard about what kind of future they want to create. With today’s high cost of college, paying for a bunch of education before you understand what's possible, what's available, and what your skills and interests best align to, can be really expensive. Figuring out as much as possible before you commit years of your life and possibly tens of thousands of dollars - or more - is really important. MyActionPath is a great tool to help people do just that.
WS: Knowing what you know now, what would you like to tell 15-year-old Michael Simpson?
MS: At 15 years old, my life appeared to have no future. I had a very dysfunctional family, we were going through bankruptcies, my mother was getting divorced for the second time, and I had no idea what my future held. I was very insecure and angry as a result of the abuse that my siblings and I had experienced. I took that anger out on others. If I could tell my 15-year-old self anything, it’s that forgiveness heals you. And everything in your life - no matter how difficult - is usually temporary, and there will be some benefit to even the most terrible things that have happened to you. I would also tell myself not to be so impatient. Life speeds up as you get older. It is good to work hard, but also to enjoy your life. Have the humility to learn from other people who are older than you or have experienced more than you, but also learn how to celebrate small things you may have to learn how to do. Other people might not celebrate you, so it's a good skill to develop.
Thank you, Michael!
MyActionPath is a (free!) online platform that guides students with self-assessment, career exploration, education planning, and life skill development using personalization logic to recommend content and tools. You and your teen can access MyActionPath to determine skills, set goals, and create an actionable list of steps.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.