For Teachers

How to Help High School Students with Career Research

By The Room 241 Team January 31, 2013

High school students often tire of being asked, “What are your career plans?” Some students have no idea how to answer the question. Others may give a rote answer just to stop the questions. There are actually so many career choices available that high school students can pursue that they need direction in order to discover their own interests and skills. They may discover that opportunities are available they never even thought of before. Here are just a few suggestions that may help in career research for high school students.

Brainstorming

This may seem like a simple suggestion, but it is a good first step. Students should make a list of things they like and do not like to do and classes they like and do not like. For example, do they like history class but hate math class or vice versa? Do they like to work in groups or do they prefer to work alone? Do they like to work indoors or outdoors?

Assessment tests

There a variety of assessment tests that may be administered at high schools. If not, they can be found online. Some examples are:

  • Myer-Briggs Test: This analyzes personality characteristics and how a person interacts with people or if they prefer not to interact with people at all.
  • Strong Interest Inventory: This helps students who are having trouble identifying their interests and helps focus on what a student truly enjoys doing.
  • Self-Directed Search: This test focuses on identifying skills and interests.
  • Skill Scan Test: This focuses on seven specific skills and assists a student in determining which skills they have or want to develop.

Assessment tests are just stepping stones to identifying potential careers. Results should not be used to direct a person to or away from a specific career but should be used only as tools to help identify career choices.

Research potential careers

A few specific careers can be identified in order to pursue career research for high school students. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook which provides detailed information for every possible job including:

  • Job description
  • Specific employers or types of employers
  • Salary ranges
  • Expected job growth over the next few years
  • Educational requirements
  • Where the jobs are located

Informational interviews

Students may know or can be introduced to someone who works in a job the student is interested in pursuing as a career. Guiding the student to develop interview questions of the professional person can be helpful. Students can get real answers to their career questions from people who actually work every day in the career of interest. Students can be guided to ask questions such as:

  • How did the person train for the job?
  • What does the person like best about the job?
  • What does the person dislike about the job?
  • What has the person learned that they wish they had known before pursuing the career?
  • What advice does the professional have concerning what the student should and should not do in pursuit of the career?

Job shadowing

Some schools have job shadowing programs that give students the opportunity of actually working with a professional in the career of the student’s choice. The student arranges to spend several hours with the professional to “shadow” them and see exactly what they do on a daily basis.

If the school does not have a shadowing program established students can contact the local Chamber of Commerce for business directories and suggestions of professionals who may be contacted. Students can then set up individual job shadowing experiences.

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