Pursuing Dreams: Career Exploration for High School Students
- Monday, July 16, 2007
"At first Andrew didn’t want to take your Career Exploration class, but it turned out to be one of his favorites," the enthusiastic mother told me. I had just completed a semester-long class for eighth-twelfth graders at our homeschool co-op. The 17 teenagers relished studying themselves!
My two semesters of experience teaching Career Exploration were rewarding for both my students and me. I purposely shared with the students my own experiences of searching for a career that uses both my talents and skills, but also fits my priorities. I tried to impress on them the joy they will experience when they find God’s plan for their future. You, too, can guide your high school student to discover his real self —what the Lord made him to be. Here are some ideas, resources, and curricula that you can use to develop a career exploration plan for your student.
Career Exploration Is a Process, Not a Point
Process is the goal in teaching a Career Exploration class. Express to your students that they may not know specifically what they want to be, but they will gain the tools that will allow them to search and plan better.
My hope was that each student would finish my class with three possible careers they could pursue or at least a general idea of a path to follow. My own life has had several career explorations. During high school, I decided on a college major. In choosing engineering, I considered my skills and abilities, but since I wasn’t a Christian, I didn’t consider godly priorities, such as family. After I became a Christian and mother, my priorities changed and I had another period of career investigation. I found accounting to be to my liking and very flexible. I retrained, became a CPA, and now work part-time as a self-employed accountant. As a result, my career choice is an excellent fit of career and family for me. So, my personal experiences, mistakes and all, were helpful in teaching my class the process of career exploration.
The 4-Step Career Exploration Process
In order to explore possibilities for the careers they may be interested in, students work through these four steps:
1. Investigate: Discover your personality, abilities, skills, and priorities.
2. Match possible careers to your personality.
3. Research potential careers to see if there is a fit.
4. Prepare a plan to pursue your career choice.
By way of example, my 14-year-old daughter, Emily, learned from the class that she was organized, encouraging, and detailed-oriented. Personality tests matched her traits to several careers. She researched about six careers in detail. She rejected some upon learning more about them and ultimately settled on pharmacy, teaching, and accounting. Her plan is to take biology and chemistry classes in the next two years. If Emily likes those subjects, she may pursue pharmacy. If not, she may become an accountant. She also volunteers her time teaching a children’s Sunday school class to see if she would enjoy being a teacher.
The most helpful tool for teaching the career exploration process is a curriculum called Youth Exploration Survey (YES!). It is published by Crown Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization that teaches money management skills and offers career guidance materials. I used the YES! books as the core text in my class. They cover each step of the process. YES! includes several personality and interest surveys. After taking these surveys and choosing matching careers, the student researches possible occupations. They look for a good fit using a helpful "roadmap" with many decision checkpoints along the way. The last checkpoint is matching a career with a student’s priorities. This keeps the students focused on God’s will for them. The curriculum was very biblically based. It encouraged the students to discover the unique way that God has made them. YES! may be used by an individual or in a group setting.
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