Career Development Tips for Online Students

5 min to read
A student in an orange and black striped shirt celebrating in her success in online school and career development at Connections Academy.

Students are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But how many of those students actually know about the numerous career options out there? With how varied and vast the job market is, it’s a good idea to encourage students to explore their career options and begin developing career skills as early as middle school. But where do they start?   

In honor of National Career Development month, we’ve put together this guide that will show students how to explore their career aspirations, how to start their career development, and how they can gain valuable work experience. 

Explore Career Aspirations

Ideally, we choose a career that appeals to us, that we’re good at (i.e., makes good use of our skills and talents), and that provides a sound income.   

So, in order to start a career development plan and create career development goals, a student should reflect on their interests, skills, and strengths by asking themselves the following questions: 

  • What do I like doing? 
  • What interests me? 
  • What are my favorite subjects in school
  • What is something that I enjoy learning about? 
  • What am I good at? 
  • What are my top 10 personality traits? 
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?   

High school students can try the Holland Code Career Test or take a career assessment at YourFreeCareerTest. Middle school students can take these as well, but they may require adult assistance. The Ultimate Career and College Major quiz is useful for both middle school and high school students. 

An online school student in a white shirt and yellow hat developing career skills.

Develop Basic Career Skills

Students should work on the following skills to provide a good foundation for their career development plans: 

  • verbal and written communication 
  • presentation skills 
  • collaboration 
  • interpersonal skills 
  • management of workloads and responsibilities
  • time-management and meeting deadlines 
  • organization 
  • problem-solving 
  • critical thinking 
  • adaptability 

Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Students can use extracurricular activities and hobbies as opportunities to develop skills and explore aspects of different careers. For example, volunteering at an animal shelter can help students identify an interest in working with animals, participating in a chess club can uncover an interest in logical games and puzzles, and joining an athletic team can help them decide if they enjoy working with others or if they prefer activities where success is mainly dependent upon their performance alone.  

A student exploring her career development goals through a medical internship.

Explore Different Careers

One of the best ways to explore careers is to hear from people who currently work in those career fields. This can be accomplished in several ways: 

Explore Job Websites

Have your student find a job website and type a skill or topic that they enjoy, such as “writing,” “finance,” or “biology.” Explore the search results and look for words that frequently appear in job advertisements. These keywords will help your student understand what skills and education are necessary for jobs in that field. You can then use this information to help them decide what extracurricular activities they should explore, what electives they may want to take, and what educational path they may want to pursue.   

This will also help them to decide if college is necessary for their career development goals or if they should focus their career development plan on a skills-based career. 

Watch Videos on Different Careers

Watching videos on different careers can help educate your student on the typical environments of certain jobs and understand the expectations and responsibilities by listening to real professionals within those fields.  

Shadow Current Professionals

Job shadowing involves following a professional in their field and observing the work that they do. Shadowing is often short-term, so it is a great way to get exposure to a particular career field. It can also help students develop their network and may help students obtain mentors who may be instrumental in developing a career.   

To find someone to shadow, think about the people in your life. Do you have any family members or friends in the career that your student is interested in? Do you use any providers in the field of interest, such as your child’s pediatrician if they are interested in becoming a doctor, or a favorite restaurant you go to if they are interested in being a chef, etc.?   

Before shadowing someone, make sure to research the career, the business, and the person if possible. Be kind, courteous, and flexible with schedules, and be understanding if the professional does not have time available. Ask them if they know of anyone else who may be willing to let your child shadow them.   

Find an Internship or Part-Time Job

Once your student has decided on a career they are excited about and that fits their career aspirations, start looking for an internship or a part-time job that matches their career goals. This will help them gain valuable experience and knowledge about the job, build their resume, develop their skillset, and network with industry professionals.   

To obtain an internship or part-time job, list local businesses in your student’s desired field. Have a resume, cover letter, letter of recommendation, and elevator pitch ready. Research each business to see if it has a student internship program or part-time job available and call or email the business. If you or your student do not already have a specific business in mind, you can use job and internship finders online, attend a job fair, or contact a school counselor for additional resources and assistance

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