Think elementary school is too early to start thinking about a career? Think again! While elementary school students may not make the connection between the activities they choose to do and career readiness, children at this age are learning about the world around them and how people fit into that world through their different job roles.
Elementary school students have a natural curiosity about people they encounter in their everyday lives. The baker who hands them a cupcake, the doctor who makes them feel better when they are sick, and the teacher who guides them through their lessons are professionals that are familiar to elementary school students. Introducing career exploration at this age is as simple as pointing those people out and explaining the important role that they and others play in our society. You can talk to students about how people use their unique talents and strengths to do a job by asking them questions like “What does that person do in their job?” “Would you like to do that one day?” “Why is this job important?”
In middle school, students can do career exploration activities such as researching different careers and taking career inventories as they learn more about themselves and their individual strengths. Self-exploration is critical to the career exploration process, since understanding what interests and excites us can lead to identifying careers in which we can use those skills.
In high school, students should be more intentional about college preparation and career readiness. They can explore careers that interest them by taking relevant courses when available and participating in extracurricular activities that are related to their career interest area.
I also encourage students to take electives in subjects that they always wanted to learn about, but never had the opportunity. These electives are great career exploration opportunities, giving students a chance to learn about different subjects, which could lead to a future-fulfilling career. Job shadowing, interviewing different professionals, and watching informational videos about different careers, are other ways to discover career paths in high school.
Another great way to learn about different careers is to volunteer. Students who love animals could volunteer at an animal shelter. If they are interested in working in healthcare, hospitals and nursing homes often look for teen volunteers to fulfill a variety of duties. Volunteering for different organizations could help spark an interest in a future career path.