Career planning and development for students is a bit like building with Legos. You have a vision in mind of the goal: a glorious Harry Potter castle, a shiny BatMobile, or something made entirely from scratch. One brick at a time, the structure takes shape—but planning is required, the right “bricks” are needed, guidance is important, and many revisions will occur before you get it “right.”
Career planning and development for students occurs at every high school, but some do it better than others. This process is crucial for students’ post-secondary success, and it needs a systematic and intentional approach. Here are six best practices for getting more from your post-secondary student planning process.
1. Make Career Planning Active and Engaging
Career planning cannot occur once a year during enrollment time. It needs to be weekly or at least monthly, and teachers and counselors need a convenient tool to do it. Frequent examination of students’ career plans can provide multiple on- and off-ramps for course planning. If a student is actively engaged in this process, they will see their career plan as a way to build their path to success, not just a task to complete occasionally.
2. Create Connections within Your Community
Parents, business members, and community professionals are crucial resources for students for their career planning and development. Their post-secondary plans will be more robust, detailed, and realistic if they engage with real-world experiences in their community. Getting first-hand experience enables work-based learning initiatives to flourish. Engagement opportunities can range from guest speakers and job-shadowing experiences to workplace tours and ongoing internships.
3. Empower the School Community to Support Career Planning
Students can build strong connections with different adults in the building, so everyone should be trained in career planning software. You never know which adult will be the one who will mentor a student to post-secondary success, so whether that person is the coach, the AVID teacher, the freshmen English teacher, or the senior government teacher, they should all have access and knowledge about post-secondary plans. Active engagement for students can take place during lessons delivered by school counselors, through advisory/homeroom times, during one-on-one counseling sessions, as independent homework assignments, or when embedded into subject area curricula.
4. Instead of “One More Thing,” Make Career Planning the Only Thing
The curriculum tools and premade lessons with Choices360 enable teachers to create relevant connections in their classrooms. When students ask, “When are we ever going to use this in the real world?”, teachers have the answer and can connect current learning to future career options. But this requires professional education for teachers and a paradigm shift that “career counseling” is everyone’s job, not just the school counselor’s.
5. Cover an Array of Careers with All Students
Introducing students to various careers aligned with their interests, values, skills, and strengths will help them find jobs that they are enthusiastic about. Even when teachers give students an opportunity to self-assess using a variety of validated, research-based assessments that are age-appropriate and engaging, they might not fully understand what all their career options are. Many careers exist outside of what students have experienced in their lives, whether from media or family members. By ensuring that students have access to a robust career database that includes emerging careers, schools can show students multiple paths to post-secondary success, some of which include four-year college and others that don’t.
6. Be Clear with Students about the Work That It Takes
When students review post-secondary plans with teachers or counselors, they can use their standardized testing data as a tool for this planning. National tests like ACT, pre-ACT, PSAT, and SAT provide guidance toward “college readiness.” While these tests are not the be-all and end-all, especially as more colleges are becoming test-optional, they do give students an idea of how much work it will take to succeed with the rigors of the college curriculum.
With the right bricks, the right plan, and the right support, career planning and development for students becomes not only meaningful but also successful as students achieve their post-secondary goals. Schools that empower teachers to engage students in career planning, that do this frequently and systematically, and that connect with business and industry provide a better experience for students both before and after graduation.
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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