Consider for a moment what you said you wanted to be when you grew up. Think of what you wanted to be when you were seven vs seventeen. Ideas evolve and on one hand they may become more realistic, at other times they actually become further away from your actual interests and more of a cookie cutter shape you start to believe you need to fill. Now, consider the job titles of those around you- friends, family members, etc… Think of those who you would say have good jobs. Do they happen to be titles that a child- nevermind teen would ever think of or come across from a career quiz? Probably not.
While there are simply too many possible careers out there to make a list, it is possible to shift the way we think about career exploration- particularly the way we teach it. Instead of listing the general careers such as lawyer, nurse, accountant, etc… and asking students which category best fits them (ie sitting at a desk all day, working in a team, etc…) we should evolve the question to instead ask what jobs suit the students (opposed which students suit which jobs as traditional career exploration tends to do).
How do we actually do this? Well, on one hand it is easy and on the other it really is not… begin by teaching students that there is a world of opportunity and in this case A+B does not necessarily equal C. Just because a student likes numbers does not mean they should work in finance or that a student who is good at cooking should be a chef. Looking at likes/dislikes and strengths/weaknesses are great, but be sure not to limit these things to academia. From there, try to open up the idea that skills and interests can be combined and the careers linked to the obvious interest is not the only career related to that interest. For example, the student who loves horses only career path in the equine field is not merely being a horse trainer or riding instructor. A student who loves horses is not limited by this interest and will have other interests and abilities. Perhaps this student is also a chemistry whiz and thinks the idea of working in a pharmaceuticals lab sounds fun. It may be something of a niche goal, but animal medicine (including equine) is a billion dollar industry, maybe this student’s career goal could be equine pharmaceuticals.
Ultimately, students should be choosing a career path that excites them. If it requires a college degree then it should involve classes that they enjoy, not muddle through to get the degree. If they don’t enjoy learning it, then they probably won’t enjoy working in the field either. Over 80% of college students change their major at least once. It is easy to say that of course they will change their minds, and to some extent they will, but they change it because either they realize what they thought was of interest turns out not to be so appealing, or they realized there is more out there. Either way, it is a sign that at most only 20% of high school students have an idea of what they want to be and I would be willing to bet the number is still much lower (after all, many are simply loyal, can’t afford to lose the credits they’ve accumulated or still don’t realize that there are more careers out there than the general ones everyone mentions during career exploration). Also keep in mind, that the job titles you thought of when asked about your friends and family probably weren’t all on the “accountant, lawyer, nurse, psychologist, etc…” list and I imagine many of these friends/family members (perhaps yourself included), would agree that it would have been helpful in high school to have had some creative career exploration.
Still thinking its a big load to take on? ProsperBull has you [and your students] covered- the ProsperBull program includes a module on creative career exploration. Lessons are designed to be easy to teach and relatable and engaging for students, we call that a win-win and we like win wins.
Feel free to be in touch with any feedback, questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org