I’m a middle school and high school career coach. I lead classes at six schools and one career technical center, where I work with students to complete and interpret career assessments, conduct career exploration, develop education plans, and more. Here’s my approach to adapting to the varying needs of students at these grade levels and within diverse settings.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask our students this question all the time, but sometimes it’s not easy to answer.
Today’s youth have greater dreams and aspirations than ever before, but what are we doing to help them set the necessary goals to achieve those dreams? This is an issue that has concerned me for years and is what motivated me to become a career coach.
Here’s how I often describe my job: “I help students figure out what they want to do and how they’re going to get there.” It’s a simple concept, but there is so much work that goes into it. Sometimes students don’t realize all it will take to achieve their career goals, and a lot of times these steps are a game changer.
I serve four high schools, two middle schools, and a career technical center. Since I’m not a typical classroom teacher, time constraints can make career activities challenging; however, I believe I have found some ways to overcome those challenges. When introducing topics to students in a short amount of time, there are ways to leave them wanting more.
Career Exploration: How do I even start?
For middle school students.
Kuder Navigator® is the first step in diving into career exploration. The thing I always have students do first in Navigator is the career assessments that measure interests, skills confidence, and work values. The students may not like answering a bunch of questions at first, but once they start seeing the results their attitude changes.
After students take the career assessments, I have them explore their results in several different ways.
During this type of exploration, I take time to ask students questions to prompt an interactive discussion. I ask things like, “What does the sunshine icon mean beside a career? What about the leaf icon?” Then we discuss what Bright Outlook and National Green Economy icons mean. When discussing Bright Outlook occupations, I like to ask them what types of jobs do not exist anymore. (ie. Lamp Lighters: the person who would light the street lamps, Pinsetters: the people that would reset the bowling pins at the bowling alley, etc.) I usually have to help students get started, but then they catch on. After discussing each tab in this part of the system, students usually want to explore other occupations that matched their results!
The ACPS Assessments handout is available for download below. Note that it’s tailored to the Alabama Career Planning System, powered by Kuder® — so if you’re outside of Alabama, use it as an inspiration for a handout of your own design. You can also download the general Kuder Assessments handout below.
For 11th-grade students.
This newly available College Match feature (powered by College Raptor) is extremely beneficial, especially to seniors. I created a Google Sheet assignment to go along with the College Match section. Students fill in the sheet with the information they find. I ask them to look for information such as:
I have students pick three majors and list them at the top, and then they pick their top three colleges. We walk through their first college choice together. I choose a random college, and students follow along with the college of their choice. While doing this, I ask why these are important factors to consider when choosing a college. I then let the students do the other two on their own.
The College Match activity is available to download below.
For 12th-grade students.
My favorite lesson comes after we’ve explored students’ Kuder assessment results, completed Ed Plans, and finished their College Match worksheets. I call it “Life After High School,” and I do this lesson primarily with juniors and seniors.
During the presentation I ask students to keep in mind their top three career choices and then apply each of the topics covered during the presentation to those career options. This allows students to have more realistic expectations of what their salary, bills, student loans, years in school, etc. will look like.
In this lesson we go over lots of different topics centered around adulthood. We discuss how they are responsible for their own futures – no one else. We also discuss topics like employment applications, job interviews, common workplace misperceptions and how to overcome them , drug tests, employability skills, basic life skills, budgeting, and more. We have a lot of fun with this lesson, and it really makes them think about whether the path there are heading down is the right one for them!
The Life After High School PowerPoint presentation is available to download below. Adapt it to suit your students’ needs.
Melissa Godsey is a career coach with Lawrence County Schools in Alabama. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and professional management, a master’s degree in adult continuing education, and is currently completing a master’s degree in in secondary-level education.