November is National Career Development Month! Celebrate all month long with these classroom-ready ideas to help your students uncover new interests, develop career awareness, explore job options, and connect with real-life professionals.
Why is career awareness so important?
What is career awareness? It’s understanding the multiple avenues for long-term employment and a mindfulness of the necessary steps to begin a pursuit of that career path or occupation. When students develop career awareness, they can combine their attitudes, knowledge, and experiences to make active decisions about their future.
From bankers to forensic scientists, students must have career awareness to understand the education, skills, and experience required for their ideal job so they can take appropriate steps today (e.g., apply for college, enroll in advanced courses, or secure an internship) to make those dreams obtainable.
How can I prepare students for career development?
Career development is an ongoing process of developing skills and knowledge to pursue goals. Lifelong professional development makes work enjoyable and provides the motivation to learn new skills, reach milestones, or tackle projects.
Remind your class that career development happens now and once they enter a career. A ninth-grader interested in graphic design can actively develop skills by enrolling in school art classes and attending an after-school program to improve her craft. Meanwhile, a full-time graphic designer interested in managing teams can also grow professionally by enrolling in a leadership seminar and organizing a team project to prepare for a new career step.
How can I teach students about career options?
The options might feel endless when it comes to career planning, but you can begin the classroom career exploration process in a variety of ways.
Start with students’ natural interests. Encourage career exploration by having students identify their interests, personalities, and passions. Remind students that things they enjoy (for example, helping others) can be applied in various career contexts (like medicine, sales, or public service). Career exploration for high school students can also involve advanced online aptitude and career tests. Be sure to highlight all options, including vocations, trade professions, military service, community college, and careers requiring advanced university degrees.
Invite classroom guest speakers. Take an inventory of local experts in your family, social circle, or community and invite them to share a short classroom career presentation. Speakers can talk about their daily job responsibilities, education and skills associated with their career, and the steps on their career path. Hearing stories helps students visualize their own future success, plus it provides a unique class experience. You can also host a virtual career day to learn about careers from expert guest speakers nationwide.
Organize job shadow opportunities. Career exploration for high school students can also extend beyond the classroom. Seek out local professionals in your community who would be willing to have a high school student “shadow” their daily life at work for a few hours. Observing a real-life profession can often help students quickly identify if it is a career they are interested in pursuing further or not.
Assign a career exploration project. This is a great option to encourage high school career research. Start with resources from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including their Career Resource Guide and Career Outlook database. In-depth exploration will allow students to explore the job outlook and associated skills for one career of interest and get a taste of the forecasted career demand in the future.
Display careers around your classroom. Hang career posters that highlight various professional options grouped by overarching interests (like reading, math, and writing).
Incorporate children’s literature. For younger learners, career-based picture books are a great way to introduce them to a wide variety of careers while building literacy skills.
How can I incorporate STEM into career awareness discussions?
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations are projected to grow by nearly 11% over the next ten years. STEM education is vital, and National Career Development Month is the perfect time to showcase STEM options in the workplace. Whether in the high school laboratory or the elementary classroom, STEM for kids is possible with a little preparation.
Elevate science and math with virtual simulations. Save on classroom prep time and bring concepts to life with 500+ virtual Gizmos labs and case studies. Gizmos are aligned with state math and science standards, NGSS, and multiple curriculums and textbooks to help promote effective and engaging STEM learning.
Let students role-play as STEM professionals. Rather than simply learning about a profession, students can dive into STEM careers and solve real-world problems with Gizmos STEM Cases. Acting as geneticists, marine biologists, veterinarians, farmers, pediatricians, engineers, and more, students can practice standards-driven content while discovering new careers of interest.
Infuse literacy with science. STEM education is possible for all ages and even better when combined with subjects you’re already teaching. Literacy-infused lessons from Science4Us allow K-2 students to build vocabulary and learn about their world through thousands of online and offline activities covering Inquiry, Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth & Space Science.
Share STEM perspectives. Expose students to a wide range of STEM careers and STEM jobs with virtual STEM guest speakers. Real-life testimonials can motivate students and prompt further STEM career exploration. Students can learn about the career paths of engineers, scientists, doctors, zoologists, and more…all from the comfort of your classroom! Invite your class to explore the Periodic Table of STEM Occupations for additional career inspiration.
Reassure students that career development is a journey
Don’t forget—daydreaming about jobs can often feel exciting and endless for younger learners, but high schoolers, especially juniors and seniors, might experience some stress when discussing career options. Reassure students that it’s okay to “not know” what they want to do with exact confidence, and provide opportunities for low-stakes career exploration to build excitement and natural interest.
Consider sharing personal stories about your own career path to remind students that arriving at a job or position is often a journey filled with other roles, lots of learning, and unexpected turns that lead to new opportunities.
Looking for other solutions this National Career Month? ExploreLearning can help.
Math and science simulations that excite curiosity and inquiry