High school career exploration


High school career exploration

High school career exploration

SoalSMA - High school career exploration - "What do you want to do when you grow up?" It is an old question when most adults can talk to children and show interest in certain games. This question turns into, "What are you going to accomplish?" When you enter high school.

In my experience as a high school counselor, I've found that despite my best intentions, these questions are especially difficult for students who are unsettled in their career aspirations. Students can feel stressed, anxious, and inadequate compared to their peers—especially if they realize that their peers have figured it all out.

I don't think it's reasonable to expect children to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives - many adults don't! However, it is reasonable and responsible to provide tools and measures to encourage and guide students in this space, self-reflection, research and exploration of possibilities.

Following these guided career exploration steps will broaden students' understanding of the world of work, teach them how to conduct professional research, and better understand the specifics of jobs in a variety of professional fields. (Note: These steps are consistent with Illinois' occupational and post-secondary protection requirements, but should be useful for high school students anywhere.

1. Self-reflection

Students who have not yet decided on their career interests should take the Career Group Inventory or Career Interest Questionnaire to identify one or two career fields. Career pool inventories are available on many high school, college career services, and state education websites.

Many occupations in the Occupational Group have similar skills, abilities, and values. For example, maybe a student loves music. To explore possible career options outside of music performance, students may explore fine arts, audio/visual technology, and communications majors. Doing so may encourage them to consider careers in audio engineering, hospitality, music production, graphic design, or communications.

In addition, students should discuss the following questions with trusted adults such as teachers, parents, school counselors, coaches, or religious leaders to better understand their abilities, interests, and strengths.

  • What difference do you want to make in the world?
  • What activities do you miss because you enjoy them so much?
  • Do you prefer working with your hands, materials, information, people, or ideas?

2. Career search

Once students feel a few career paths they might be interested in, they should use reliable sources, such as those listed below, to learn more about each job.

Specifically, students should look for the following information about each career they are interested in:


Necessary preparation, education and permission

Common daily activities, values and skills are required

Employment statistics, such as projected job prospects, to determine whether there will be jobs in the field in the future

Students can discuss their findings with their parents and/or school counselors to determine whether the careers they are considering are personally appropriate. They should also talk to their families about each job possibility, keeping in mind the expected entry-level salary and student loan debt associated with each.

3. Planning and navigation

Then, students should find ways to explore their professional interests further by gaining work experience and meeting people who already possess these skills.

Students can do this by:

  • Conduct informational interviews (virtual or in person)
  • Work shadow to see what your workday (or morning/afternoon) looks like
  • Visit the facility to understand the working conditions
  • participate in activities related to their professional interests (eg summer camps, clubs, workshops, etc.);

At the same time, students should take appropriate steps to plan for their future careers (consulting with a school counselor as needed). These steps include:

Choosing high schools related to your future career, and planning according to major college admissions in your career field.

Completion of an internship or internship (some high schools offer this as a class)

Apply to part-time jobs and perform community service in a professional group to gain experience and a better understanding of the field

We know that adults spend most of their waking hours at work, which has a significant impact on work and general life satisfaction. With this in mind, it is important to consider the importance of choosing a career that brings you satisfaction and happiness. As the student's interests and experiences grow and change, the job search steps described may be repeated.

Career planning for high school students

“I always had a clear idea of ??what I wanted to do,” says Megan Lovely, a high school senior who hopes to one day become a director.  She is taking steps toward her career goals by joining her school drama teacher, acting, and applying to colleges.

If you're still in high school, Lovely might not be as confident as she is.  But, like Lovely, you can think about—and plan for—your future before graduation.

"Start exploring what you want to do when you're a freshman," says Mark Danaher, career counselor at Newington High School in Newington, Connecticut.  "The high school years went by so fast."

Most people need some preparation before they are ready for the workforce, and planning should begin long before it's time to start working.  This includes taking technical courses in high school or attending a college or university to earn a certificate or degree after graduation.  Knowing what kind of career preparation you need starts with thinking about what kind of career you want.

This article will help high school students plan for a career.  The first part talks about exploring your interests.  The second section emphasizes the importance of internships, jobs, and other opportunities to gain experience.  The third section describes some educational or training options, both in high school and beyond.  The fourth section offers many ideas for pursuing your dream job.  And the last section lists sources for more information.

Explore your interests

High school is a good time to start thinking about careers.  "All your life you're asked what you want to do when you grow up," says Steve Schneider, a school counselor at Sheboygan South High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  "In high school, you start working to make it happen."

Many high school students do not yet know what they want to do.  And school counselors say that's great.  In fact, students can often change their minds, perhaps even after entering the workforce.  And some of the skills of tomorrow may not be available today.

It is not necessary to settle on just one job in high school.  But researching the types of careers you might like can help set you up for success.  "My feeling is that high school students don't have to know the exact career they want, but they need to know how to explore careers and take the time to research and learn about their skills and interests," she says.

Learn about yourself

Understanding what you enjoy and are good at is the first step to exploring a career, school counselors say.  "If you don't know what you want to do, ask, 'What do you want to learn about?'" says Schneider.  That is the question.  "If you really like science, what do you enjoy about it—the lab work, the research?"

Use the answers to those questions to identify careers that might have similar jobs.  High school junior Kate Sours, for example, likes spending time with kids as a babysitter and likes helping people.  So when she started considering potential careers, she focused on these two interests.

It's important to think about what you're passionate about, school counselors say, because work will eventually become a big part of your life.  "The whole point of thinking about work is that when you go into the workforce, you wake up in the morning and you're excited to go to work," says Julie Hartline, a school counselor at Cobb County Public Schools in Smyrna, Georgia.  .

Identify possible careers

Once you've thought about the subjects and activities you're most passionate about, the next step is to find careers that utilize those interests.  If you love sports, you might consider a career as a gym instructor, recreational therapist, or coach, for example.  If you like math, a career as a cost estimator, accountant, or budget analyst may be a good fit.

But those aren't the only options for those interested in sports or math.  There are hundreds of careers, and most involve more than one skill area.  School counselors, teachers, and parents can suggest career paths that match your interests and abilities.  For example, school counselors have tools they can use to match interests and skills to careers.  Free online resources like My Next Move can also help with your career search.

Another approach to identifying potential career needs is to consider local employers and the types of jobs they offer.  For example, around the high school where Schneider works, there are many jobs in manufacturing and health care, so he often talks to students about career options in those fields—from trades that require a 6-week course after high school to those that require a bachelor's or advanced degree.

Exploring careers that lead to nursing, including working with children and helping people.  She is now considering working in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit or a pediatric unit.

Sours notes the importance of expanding rather than narrowing opportunities when studying careers.  "Keep an open mind," she says.  But when you start exploring it, you're like, 'This is cool.  I might want to do that.'

Do your research

Once you've identified potential jobs, you'll want to learn more about them.  as resources Career Outlook and the Career Outlook Handbook It can help you get started.  Other resources include career day programs, mentoring, and opportunities through your school to learn more about the world of work.

Talking directly to employees can help you get information about what they do.  If you don't know workers in jobs that interest you, ask people like parents, friends, or teachers to connect you.  Some schools have business associates or coordinators who help connect students with employers—and school counselors can help, too.  Although opportunities are not available now, these networking efforts may pay off later.

Once you find workers willing to help, contact them by phone, email, or online forums.  Meet in person for informational interviews to learn more about what they do.  Or ask them if you can shadow them on the job to see what their day-to-day work is like.

To find out if you really like a job, school counselors say first-hand experience is important.  Sours, for example, shadows her aunt, who works as a physical therapist at a hospital.  Sours liked the hospital environment so much that she attended a week-long nursing camp, where she was able to see the many tasks that nurses do.  "I had a lot of fun, and I learned a lot," he said of both experiences.

Get experience

Imagine how valuable the experience would be if job shadowing gave you a taste of what the job is like.  Students can gain career-related experiences in high school through internships, jobs, and other activities.

Participating in different experiences is another step in helping you learn what you like and don't like.  These experiences may teach important job skills, such as the importance of being on time.  (See box: Do your best.)

But, school counselors say, students should remember that school takes precedence over other things.  "It's a good idea to gain experience as a student, but not at the expense of academic success," Hartline said.  Danaher agreed.  "School should be your full-time job," he said.


Completing an internship is a great way to gain experience.  Internships are temporary, supervised jobs designed to provide students or recent graduates with hands-on job training.  Sometimes internships or other experiential learning areas are built into academic programs, and students receive academic credit for completing them. 

At Lovely's school, for example, students have the option of completing an internship for credit during their junior or senior year.  Her high school theater director crush in her junior year.  "She gave us opportunities to do everything from contacting local newspapers for advertisements to writing program notes to directing a middle school production," says Lovely.  The experience gave Lovely a feel for the director's job — and helped solidify her career goals.

At other schools, students seek internships on their own.  Academic credit may not be awarded, but hands-on experience can still be valuable.  Check with your school counselor to see if there are opportunities at your school.


Summer or part-time work is another way to gain experience.  Paying jobs allow you to earn money, which can help you learn how to budget and save for future goals or expenses.

For some students, summer is a good time to explore employment.  The table shows that young people worked in various industries in July 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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