Supporting Students’ Choices of a Career or Academic Program

Ladders are often used as metaphors when speaking about careers: “climbing the corporate ladder,” “the ladder of success,” “taking things one rung at a time,” etc. It is also a way that students can understand the future of work as they become engaged in their career exploration and planning.

Asking about career planning in the broadest terms is the place to start. Too often, we begin with, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is basically asking, “Which exact ladder and which exact rung do you plan to get to in life?” It ends up being a complex question.

A much better approach for parents, teachers, and counselors is to ask students about their interests, skills, and desires for their future. While it might seem intuitive to stress the importance of careers with students, in reality, supporting students’ choices of a career or academic programs should focus on aligning their goals and interests with options that suit them best. There are two main strategies for a district when it comes to their support for students: find the right “ladder,” and learn more about the rungs on the ladder. Online tools such as Choices360 can support counselors and students in their post-secondary planning process.

Picking the Correct Ladder

The world of work is wide and deep. By starting students at a broad level, it can help them connect their interests better, such as looking at “health care” instead of “radiologist.” Using Choices360, students can search for careers within a cluster. These career clusters enable students to begin their search with curiosity about the field instead of just picking a career that they think is cool (YouTuber) or one that makes a large amount of money (doctor).

We can picture several different ladders standing against a wall. Students can explore each one and maybe even “climb the first few rungs” through a job shadow or work-based learning experience. If they don’t like the fit, they can move on to the next ladder. The takeaway for counselors and teachers is simple: students struggle to fully understand all that is encompassed when it comes to different jobs, so by starting at a cluster level, they can see the overall picture of the field.

Learning about the “Rungs” of the Career

As students reach adolescence, they start to see their future, careers in particular, in a different way. Their values and interests begin to shape the future that they would like to have: where they would like to live, their work schedule, and their specific goals and dreams about family and wages.

This is when students can begin to look at the different “rungs” of the ladder in the career cluster. Lower-level entry positions will require minimal training with minimal pay, but what does the next rung look like? And the next? Through this process, students can find matches to their interests and strengths, along with their life goals. They can see the connection between education and wages and make better decisions as they plan for their post-secondary life.

But students need the right tools to be able to search a career cluster “rung by rung.” Trained teachers and counselors can support students’ choices of career or academic programs. Choices360 provides a searchable and filterable database of any “ladder” that the student might want to climb. That said, even though a ladder is a great metaphor for moving forward in a career, we know that career tracks are not that linear. Students can also compare ladder to ladder and rung to rung easily with Choices360.

Not All Ladders Are Equal

As school leaders, we know that the career landscape is in flux. It can be a strategic priority for a school or community to meet the workforce demand of a specific field. By highlighting different ladders and rungs for students, schools can help coach students into the needed fields for the future. This gives students a bright, stable future and helps support business and industry.

One thing is certain, though: no one counselor knows every aspect of every career. Technology can help. A software program that enables students to explore career options and align those with their academic future can be a counselor’s best friend. Every counselor, from an awesome veteran to a bright-eyed newcomer, can benefit from a tool like Choices360. Schools supporting students’ choices of careers or academic programs place students first and through systematic alignment, provide strong paths to great careers.

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!

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