Career Education for High School Students
High and middle school students need help understanding what they will face when they graduate and they need the confidence to explore the world outside of the school walls. Your influence can play an important role in career exploration for high school students. By exploring their career choices in your class, you can have lasting effects on the decisions they make.
When I was a high school junior, my guidance counselor told me that I would never get into college because I was not a strong math student. Talk about a buzz kill, well I was determined to prove him wrong!
20 years later, I have 2 Master’s Degrees, an online curriculum business, and taught for 15 years in grades 7-12. I was lucky to have supportive parents but that comment that he made has stuck with me. As I tell my daughters, your life will take twists and turns. What you may be interested in now may change. In fact:
About 80% of students in college end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Let’s take a look at some of the career exploration lesson plans that may work well for you and your students.
Career exploration for high school activities:
Creative Ideas for Career Exploration
1- Our students love playing this career exploration for high school activity. It is a fact or fiction game that gets them thinking about different careers and the workforce. It is an effective way to give them short bites of information in a fun way. My students always look forward to the little challenge of these questions each day and can even help them identify their future career plans!
2- An interest inventory- Another way to get students thinking about future careers is to do an interest inventory. This CTE careers cluster student inventory is a great start to helping young adults begin to think about their strengths and interests and maybe even start thinking about their “dream job”. It also describes the 16 Career Clusters and explains various careers to which many kids have not been exposed in their lives. Starting in early high school or middle school is a great idea because some students may show an interest in your high school technical education program.
3- Bell Ringers- I am a huge fan of bell ringer journals for classroom management in high school. We use the Career Exploration Bell Ringer Journal at the beginning of each class to help our students think about soft skills and career exploration. Not only do they get your students thinking about career exploration, but they can create a great classroom routine that helps you and them.
Using Real World Experiences
4- Have community members come into the classroom and discuss their careers. This is another great way to help students understand the opportunities available to them after graduation. Bringing into the classroom an engineer, a health care professional, a police officer, a computer technician, a business owner, an electrician, and more can help to educate the kids about the workforce.
By bringing community members into the classroom, students gain exposure to a diverse range of careers, establish meaningful connections, and benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience that professionals in the community can offer. It enhances their career exploration, fosters inspiration and mentorship, and facilitates a more holistic and practical understanding of the world of work.
Ask the student’s parents if they would be interested in coming in to speak. Sometimes family members would be happy to share about their career pathways. They can also tell them about the important skills and education they needed to break into the career and the different ways they prepared. Another option is to have local businesses come to speak to students about how they run a business and the skills and hard work that was needed.
As teachers, we may have always known what we wanted to be, but that is not the case for many teens. They need help understanding their strengths and skills and direction toward future goals. What a fun position to be in to help them with these important life choices!
5- An Extracurricular Activity Project– As far as career exploration for high school, this often gets overlooked! Kids find strengths and new interests when they participate in extracurricular clubs and activities. They also make connections with other adults. Sometimes, students don’t know what is available to them in school or their community. Create a project in which students are assigned school and local extracurricular activities and have them present about them.
These activities can also help students beef up their college applications! You can even have students create a gallery walk to present the information and to get the students walking. If you want to learn more about gallery walks, check out our blog post on that and other instructional activities.
6- Life Skills Games- We all know that no matter what grade level, kids love a good board game. Have them play these life skills board games including this career exploration or free check writing game and a credit game to learn about personal finances, financial literacy, and vocabulary related to credit and spending.
These can be played in a small group and once you set it up, the students can play a couple of rounds. We all know that games have the power to capture students’ attention and create a sense of enjoyment and excitement. When learning feels like play, students are more motivated and eager to participate, leading to increased enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
7- Career Day- Have your students create a career day for the school. They can research different careers and create posters or Google slides as well as informational handouts at stations and have other students come and walk around their presentations. Have them research job interview questions for that career, higher education requirements, average salary, and more.
This not only educates them but it educates other students that come to the career day in career awareness and potential jobs in their future. If you can swing it, elementary students would even love a little trip to see what the high schoolers have created and learn about the types of jobs and the world of work.
8- Field Trip- It may take more work and effort on your part, but planning a field to a job site can be something they will never forget! It can also educate them on potential careers and what it means to be an employee or to own your own business. Young people love getting out of the school building and exploring the outside world with their friends. You can make this into a fun activity that influences their career decisions.
Moreover, field trips to careers can be highly inspiring and motivational for students. Seeing professionals in action, witnessing their dedication and expertise, and hearing their success stories can ignite a sense of passion, purpose, and ambition in students, encouraging them to pursue their own goals and dreams.
9- Volunteering and Community Service: Have students research local volunteering and community service opportunities. Encourage students to engage in volunteer work and community service related to their interests. This not only helps them develop important skills but also exposes them to potential career fields they may not have considered before.
Additionally, you can consider having an older student or recent graduate come in and talk about the volunteering experience that they have and how it helped them. Introducing students to peer role models can be a big motivator for students and oftentimes more so that teachers and other adults. It could also open their eyes to different options available to them for community service in your area. Peers can be a great resource for talking about college entrance or trade jobs that are available in a particular field.
10- Role-Play Interviews- Students can interview one another to practice interview skills and learn about interview questions. You can give them the questions ahead of time to prepare their answers or you can have them research questions and create a mock interview. I would look over their questions if they created them just to be sure they are appropriate and make sense. Here is a list of questions that you can use or give to students as an idea.
Subsequently, engaging in role-play interviews helps students build confidence in their ability to handle interview situations. Through practice and constructive feedback, students can overcome nervousness, improve their self-presentation skills, and develop a sense of poise and professionalism.
- Assign students different roles, such as job applicants and interviewers.
- Provide them with job descriptions and interview questions.
- Instruct students to conduct mock interviews, simulating real-life job interview scenarios.
- Encourage constructive feedback and reflection on the interview process
Career Planning and Readiness Teaching Ideas
Career readiness is a crucial aspect of preparing high school students for their future endeavors. It goes beyond academic knowledge and focuses on equipping students with the skills, attitudes, and competencies necessary for success in the workforce. By fostering career readiness, students develop a deep understanding of the professional world and gain practical skills that enable them to navigate the complexities of the job market.
This includes skills such as effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, adaptability, and digital literacy. Additionally, career readiness encompasses the development of soft skills like professionalism, time management, and leadership, which are highly valued by employers.
Consequently, by preparing students to be career-ready, we empower them to confidently pursue their desired career paths, transition smoothly from education to the workforce, and thrive in a rapidly evolving and competitive global economy.
Here are a few career readiness activities that your students might like:
1- Professionalism Digital Escape Room– this activity has students moving through clues to break codes about workplace professionalism. The questions range in topics from workplace ethics, and work apparel to email etiquette and will keep your students engaged for about 40 minutes.
Additionally, there are videos included as well as articles to read in order to find the answers. They immerse students in a captivating storyline or theme, encouraging them to actively participate in the learning process rather than passively consuming information.
These digital escape rooms are designed to align with specific educational topics or subjects. They provide an interactive and engaging way for students to review and apply their knowledge. Whether it’s a history-themed room, a math-focused room, or a science-based room, students can deepen their understanding of the subject matter while having fun.
2- Resume Building Activity– Have you tried Canva? They have awesome resume and curriculum vitae templates that students can use to plug in their information and special skills.
Canva also lets them save their work right on the platform so they can come back to it later. Here is a video showing you how to set this up for students. Also, Canva’s collaborative features enable students to work together on their resumes. They can invite peers or educators to review and provide feedback on their designs, fostering a collaborative and iterative process that enhances the quality of their resumes.
Using Canva to build resumes provides students with valuable digital skills that are increasingly relevant in today’s job market. They learn about design principles, visual communication, and using digital tools effectively, which can be applied to other professional tasks beyond resume building.
TV Shows to Help Teach Career Readiness
3- Have them watch “The Office” for a Fun Activity– Do something funny by having students watch a TV show such as the office and find workplace etiquette examples of what to do and what not to do. Also, The Office is pretty hilariously a stereo-typical office setting which is not truly real life but it can be a fun way to find social norms and taboos that exist about working a white-collar job.
The show showcases various leadership styles through characters like Michael Scott, Jim Halpert, and Dwight Schrute. Students can analyze and evaluate different leadership approaches, learning about the impact of leadership on team dynamics and employee morale.
“The Office” offers insights into organizational behavior and the impact it has on employee motivation and productivity. Students can observe how factors like organizational structure, culture, and management decisions influence the overall functioning of the workplace all while laughing.
3- Workplace Ethics Discussion: A workplace ethics discussion is a valuable activity for students as it helps them develop a strong understanding of ethical principles and prepares them for the expectations and challenges they may encounter in the professional world.
- Engage students in a discussion about workplace ethics and professionalism.
- Present scenarios and case studies that highlight ethical dilemmas and ask students to discuss the best course of action.
- Foster critical thinking and ethical decision-making skills.
4- Job Shadowing: Job shadowing allows students to step into the shoes of professionals and observe their day-to-day activities. Additionally, it provides a realistic and authentic view of the work environment, tasks, and challenges involved in a specific job or industry.
- Arrange for students to spend a day with professionals in their desired fields.
- Allow students to observe and learn about the day-to-day responsibilities and skills required in those professions.
- Encourage students to ask questions and engage in conversations with professionals to gain insights into their career paths and learn natural skills for the workplace.
5- Technical Education Program Shadowing– many school districts offer CTE courses and students don’t realize that they exist. Have students tour a building or shadow as career tech. education students and record their observations about professionalism and how it may be different in courses such as real-world classes. In addition, they will probably pay close attention to what their peers are doing in a trade school and learn from the experience.
Homeschool Career Exploration Ideas
1- Business Owner Exploration: Encourage students to explore entrepreneurship by developing their own business ideas or projects. They can create business plans, conduct market research, and learn about the practical aspects of running a business. This allows them to explore their interests and gain valuable entrepreneurial skills.
2- Volunteer Work: Help students find volunteer opportunities related to their career interests. They can contribute their skills and time to organizations or projects that align with their desired fields. Also, this allows them to gain hands-on experience, develop transferable skills, and make connections within their chosen industries.
3- Virtual Field Trips and Webinars: Take advantage of online resources by organizing virtual field trips to businesses, universities, or industry conferences. Many organizations offer webinars or virtual tours that provide insights into specific careers or industries. Engage students in discussions and reflections about what they learned.
4- Job Shadowing or Virtual Mentoring: Arrange for students to shadow professionals or participate in virtual mentorship programs. They can spend a day with a family member, friend, or local community member who works in a career field of interest. Alternatively, virtual mentorship programs can connect students with professionals through video calls or online platforms.
In conclusion, teaching high school students about career exploration is of utmost importance. By providing them with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary to make informed decisions about their future, we empower them to shape their lives with purpose and fulfillment. Career exploration equips students with a deeper understanding of themselves, their passions, and their unique strengths. It opens their eyes to a wide range of possibilities, allowing them to make educated choices about their educational pathways and future careers.
Why Teach Career Exploration?
Moreover, career exploration instills in students a sense of empowerment, resilience, and adaptability, essential traits needed in today’s rapidly changing job market. By investing in their career exploration journey, we give high school students the tools they need to pursue their passions, navigate career pathways, and build a meaningful and successful future.
Let us embrace the opportunity to guide and inspire them as they embark on their journey toward fulfilling careers and lives.
By embracing career exploration for high school students in our educational system, we empower high school students to become proactive architects of their own futures, equipping them with the tools they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Let us foster a culture of curiosity, exploration, and self-discovery, and guide our students towards meaningful and rewarding careers that align with their passions and aspirations.”
Even a homeschool curriculum should naturally include career exploration lessons. Homeschool students in some ways may have more opportunities to explore outside careers as they are not confined to the brick-and-mortar classroom.
This blog post by the Organized Homeschooler includes some great homeschool career exploration activities.