Career exploration plays a pivotal role for students. Not only does it expose them to career choices that they may have been unaware of, but it also enables them to make a plan that will help them progress toward career goals. Studies show that this creates higher engagement for students and leads to better outcomes, fewer dropouts, and higher graduation rates.
Research from ACT Research & Policy shows that career exploration for kids also results in:
- Expanded education and career opportunities
- Better education and career decisions
- Increased motivation to learn and achieve
- More positive outcomes in school and work settings
Despite recognizing the need and responsibility for helping students explore careers, many schools have significant challenges, especially with the extra challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some no longer hold career fairs, and others have had their budgets and time commitments cut. Remote learning has curtailed many activities due to staffing shortages and technical challenges.
How Can Schools Better Support Career Education?
Schools and school districts can support career education in various ways, from providing students with self-assessments so they can discover interests to providing the tools for career exploration.
Robust career exploration for students follows these six steps.
1. Create Awareness
More than anything else, schools need to prioritize awareness of equitable career options for students. These should include colleges, trades, military, and other, non-traditional career paths.
The approach to career exploration for kids is important. So much focus has traditionally been placed on four-year colleges that students who don’t see a pathway to college can disengage. Educators need to reinforce the value of all careers and provide multiple options for all students.
When it comes to the career exploration process, it’s crucial to recognize that many students don’t know what they want to pursue or feel unable to make a decision. For a significant portion of students, this career indecision creates increased anxiety, especially when they believe that career opportunities for them are limited.
2. Provide Research Opportunities
Many students can only name a shortlist of different career opportunities, but tens of thousands—maybe even hundreds of thousands—of jobs and careers are available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists nearly 150 career categories, with hundreds of different jobs in each one.
Students need to be exposed to a broad cross-section of jobs to explore careers. Once something sparks an interest, they must have access to tools in order to research opportunities.
Most people in the labor force may have more than a dozen jobs and make multiple career changes during their work life. Even for students who believe that they have a clear career goal, it’s still important to provide opportunities to research different types of jobs and careers.
3. Evaluate Careers
During the research phase, students begin to learn what is needed to pursue specific careers and the required qualifications, education, and training.
By connecting student learning with career paths, you incentivize students to stay engaged in classwork.
4. Have a Discussion
A key step in career exploration is discussion. Educators should encourage this in school and at home.
Choosing a career is about more than just picking a job. The available choices should spur students to think about what they want in life and consider things like work hours, pay ranges, work-life balance, amount of formal education required, and self-fulfillment, among other things.
Discussion helps with self-exploration to help clarify the importance of factors and alternatives.
5. Plan a Career Path
As students gravitate toward specific careers, the next step is to find the relevant curricula to support their path. Educators should help students build customized plans that align with their interests and career choices.
Career path planning benefits everyone. When students see how their classes are aligned with their career goals, they are likely to be more engaged, understand the purpose of the education that they are getting, and be more incentivized to learn.
6. Monitor Progress
Teachers and counselors also need to track progress, both for students and schools. You need to help students stay on track while also ensuring that your career exploration efforts are leading to the best outcomes.
XAP Helps at Each Stage of Career Exploration
XAP delivers comprehensive and proven online solutions for students to explore careers, discover, plan for, and apply to colleges and universities.
Self-assessment tools enable students to discover their interests and how those interests might translate into careers. Exploration tools provide detailed information about different career paths and job types so students can evaluate career choices fully.
Choices360 helps students see the connection between who they are today, who they want to become, and what it takes to get there. It provides the information that students need to make choices and creates a ready-to-go curriculum that aligns with those choices. Educators can fully customize the curriculum to match school offerings and meet local outcomes and reporting needs.
Choices360 helps capture course plans, experiences, careers, and goals in a real-time portfolio for each student. Powerful measurement tools provide detailed reports to ensure that students are on the right track. Educators can easily monitor and update progress, while parents can review and approve the plan. It also provides state-level sponsors, school districts, and individual schools with online solutions for career exploration for kids to discover, plan for, and apply to colleges and universities.
Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.
To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!