Technology and the media have opened students to a world of career opportunities. Never before has a generation had exposure to so many choices. The options can be wonderful – and overwhelming, according to one school counselor.
“Our kids now are growing up with a lot of understanding of how to use technology – everything’s at their fingertips,” says Erin Boike, school counselor for the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center in West Fargo, ND. “They just have so many [career] options out there, sometimes I think they maybe start to feel a little overwhelmed.”
Boike helps students explore their interest areas, using RUReadyND.com. In eighth grade, students use the Cluster Finder, which helps them narrow down their career choices based on their interests and personal qualities. “So, when they come to us, we go through those results with them again… and give them time to explore those interest areas a little bit,” she says. “And then we start to plan out their high school classes, their four-year plan, according to that interest area.”
While an abundance of career options is accessible to today’s students, the media does its best to bombard us with a few choice careers. It’s probably no surprise that a striking number of students want to be singers, sports stars or crime scene investigators.
“I have a lot of kids who are like, ‘I’m going to be a soccer player,’ or ‘I know that I want to be a hockey player,'” says Boike. “And I say, ‘That’s awesome and fantastic, and I’m really glad that you have those goals. But… then we talk about what it means to still have a major and get the education and what that could lead to if playing hockey or singing or whatever goal you have isn’t working out for you. I think it’s important that they also have something that they can fall back on, too.”
Boike also sees young CSI fans who want to be criminal investigators. “So we kind of dig into, well, what does that person really do?” says Boike. “Is it really like how they’re portraying on the TV shows?”
Other students want to go into acting. “I used to be a high school theater director and speech teacher,” says Boike. “So I talk to them a lot of times, ‘You know, that’s a great goal to have, and it is a hard career to really break into.’ And so we’ll talk about other plans, or what plans you can make that will go along with that.”
Boike has one student who is very determined to be an actor and is looking into prestigious acting schools. “That’s her goal,” says Boike. “She really wants to do it. She’s trying everything she can do now to kind of set her up for that. It’s exciting to see how enthusiastic and determined and driven she is to get to that point. It’s refreshing to be a part of that and help her with that.”
Sports stars and actors aside, the most common career choices that Boike sees among her Grade 9 students are professions within the medical field. She attributes the interest to the fact that there are so many areas within medicine. “A lot of people want to work with children or babies, or can go into something specific like optometry or dentistry,” she says. “A lot of students think maybe they want to go into nursing.” Again, she says students are probably influenced by TV shows, particularly in their vision of what the job would be like.
Boike helps students understand what it’s going to take to pursue a career in the medical field, and what the path means for them. “I don’t think sometimes at this point in ninth grade they’re able to see all those details or recognize all those details and steps in the process,” she says. “So, just giving them a better understanding of what that means, I think, is important.”