Through career exploration, parents can help their high school students make informed decisions about their future. Read more to find out how.
“What are you doing after you graduate?”
If you have a student who is in their junior or senior year of high school, chances are they’ve heard this question more than once. For many of these students, the question can cause a bit of anxiety, as they may still be unsure about their future plans. Back in the day, the common responses used to be either “go to college” or “get a job”, but there are so many more options for young people today. It’s no wonder they’re feeling the pressure – with so many possibilities, how can they know exactly which path to take after they graduate?
One way parents can help their students is to include career exploration as part of their curriculum. Not only can it help students see the many different opportunities that are available, but it can also help them figure out which of their strengths, skills, and interests they want to pursue. Then, they will graduate from high school with a boost of confidence in their choices.
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“Follow Your Dreams” is Not Practical Advice
How many cards, posters, and notebooks for kids have you seen with the phrase “Follow Your Dreams” or “Reach for the Stars”? Most parents want their children to grow up confident and self-assured, so these seem like important, affirming messages to pass along. Many well-intentioned moms and dads tell their children, “You can be anything you want if you put your mind to it.” While these are all positive, feel-good sentiments, they aren’t realistic. Children can’t be whatever they want; they must have the ability to fulfill the roles they choose. A child who wants to be a professional basketball player but has no natural athletic aptitude most likely won’t make the NBA, despite a rigorous training schedule. His skills will certainly improve, but chances are, he won’t reach his goal. A teen who struggles with math probably won’t grow up to become an aerospace engineer, no matter how much he longs to be one.
I recall hearing Mike Rowe talk about his desire to follow his passion of becoming a tradesman like his grandfather. However, he struggled with his lack of natural talent for it. His grandfather wisely told him to use the tools that God had given him in his own toolbox. God has created our kids with unique gifts and talents— and it’s important to help them discover a career path that allows them to use those gifts.
It was once common for people to remain with the same employer or career path throughout their lives. However, most people today change careers several times throughout their lifetime. Given the fast-paced changes in the job market, it’s not surprising that many young people struggle to choose a career path after completing high school. It is important to encourage them to view it as a journey, rather than as a final choice.
What About College?
Not so long ago, a popular thought was that if someone wanted to get a good job, they had to go to college. It didn’t matter that many people with college degrees don’t even work in the field of their degree. But today, students don’t want to come away from college without a clear direction and thousands of dollars of college debt, and parents don’t want that for their children, either.
As technology continues to advance and college tuition soars, attending college has become just one path to a fulfilling career. Here’s where career exploration becomes so important. Career exploration can provide students with an understanding not only of the various career options available, but also it can help them choose the best path to fit their goals. Even if you have a student who is definitely college bound, career exploration is a valuable addition to their high school curriculum. With a better idea of where they are headed, students are less likely to change their major in college, saving them time and money.
What Are Some Alternatives?
There are many alternative career paths today that don’t require a college degree. Perhaps your student is interested in pursuing a career in the trades, such as welding, plumbing, or electrical work. Community colleges and vocational schools often offer training and certification courses in these areas. Careers in technology can take a variety of paths, from formal classes to boot camps to online courses. The military is another way students can train in a particular field, and many high schools offer the JROTC Program. In 2018, a Federal bill opened up the opportunity for homeschooled students in the nation by requiring local JROTC programs to admit homeschooled students. This program provides students with leadership roles regardless of whether they choose to enlist. Other options include apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
Alternative Career Resources:
- Unbound – Project-Based Higher Education
- Praxis – An intense personal and professional development program for young adults
- ASVAB Career Exploration Program – The military career exploration program
What Does Career Exploration Look Like?
By providing students with an early introduction to career exploration, homeschooling parents can help their high school students make informed decisions about their future. What exactly does this entail? Here are some helpful tips for parents to guide their children in exploring career options during their high school years.
As students begin thinking about which direction to pursue after high school, they can consider these questions:
- What are the student’s gifts and talents?
- What do they enjoy doing or learning about?
- What are their financial goals? Are they planning to support just themselves, a family, or provide additional income to a household?
- Can their “dream career” meet these goals?
- Are there similar careers that could meet these goals?
Once students have identified their preferred careers, they can then take steps to find out more about their chosen profession. These include:
- Researching- Investigate the training and educational requirements of particular careers.
- Conducting interviews – Select professionals in their chosen field and interview either over the phone or via email. It’s likely someone they know also knows a person working in their chosen career or a similar one. Most people are happy to share what they know with a young person who shows interest.
- Volunteering – Check to see what volunteer opportunities are available at companies that do similar work. A volunteer position will most likely involve very basic tasks, but the student can learn a lot by seeing how the business functions from day to day.
- Job shadowing – If a volunteer position isn’t available, job shadowing may be. Some companies allow students to spend a few hours during a workday with a professional just to see what the job entails.
- Becoming an apprentice – An apprenticeship is a form of on-the-job training. The student learns a skilled trade or profession by working under the guidance of an expert or experienced worker.
- Participating in extracurricular classes or workshops – Look for classes that focus on skills related to the student’s career interests.
Career Exploration Courses
- Foundations in Career Discovery by Ramsey Solutions
- Foundations in Entrepreneurship for Self-Study by Ramsey Solutions
Other Career Exploration Resources
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
- U.S. Dept. of Labor National Center for O*NET Development
- Career Direct- Living by Design (formerly part of Crown Financial Ministries founded by Larry Burkett)
But That’s Not All…
Career exploration also includes learning and honing job seeking skills. These include how to create an online resume and cover letter, how to interview effectively, and how to network professionally. If parents feel at a loss on how to teach these skills, they don’t need to worry. There are many resources available to help. Besides online resources, many communities offer free employment help. A great place to start is by checking with the local library.
Soft skills are another important piece of the career puzzle. Soft skills refer to the personal attributes, behaviors, and social skills that help people interact professionally. They are called soft skills because they are more subjective, but they are still important to develop. Examples include skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, time management, and interpersonal skills.
Soft Skill Training Resources
- Get Hired Digital Course by Ramsey Solutions — covers interviewing, networking, and resume building.
- GCFGlobal.org — Offers free lessons to help with job search, workplace skills, and other training.
- LinkedIn and Indeed— These job search networks have a plethora of articles, videos, and training courses available.
Career exploration is an important part of a high school student’s curriculum. Not only can it help students understand what it takes to succeed in their desired professions, but it also gives them a realistic view of what it takes to reach their goals, including the necessary education and training. They may even find a new dream that better matches their abilities. Whichever direction they choose to take, they will leave high school more confident and better equipped to take that next step after graduation.
To help kids with Career Exploration, we developed a section for Career Planning in our High School Student Homeschool Planner. This simple resource can help guide teens through the career exploration process and prepare them to make future decisions.
Our High School Student Homeschool Planner is specifically designed for high schoolers as an all-in-one planner. It helps your student with time management, independent learning, tracking assignments and credit requirements, as well as planning for the future. This nice, compact planner has literally everything needed in one spot to meet a wide variety of needs and circumstances—everything from a yearly calendar to attendance records, all the way to the educational snapshot (my version of lesson plans). If your kids are involved in things like piano, sports, theater, or volunteer activities, you will want to record those hours diligently. (We even have Student Homeschool Planners available for all grade levels!)
Of course, you’ll also want to document all of the courses and work-study on your student’s transcript. Our free homeschool high school transcript template makes this super simple!
More Homeschool Resources for High Schoolers
- This Ultimate List of High School Electives For Homeschoolers will give you guidance in choosing the best electives for your teens!
- Looking for high school homeschool curriculum? Here is Everything You Need to Know About High School Homeschool Curriculum.
- Looking for great books? Here is a list of 14 Must-Read Christian Books for Teens!
- Don’t forget to check out all of the Homeschool Resources by Not Consumed!
With 20 years of homeschooling her four children, Samantha Bell has experienced many of the highs and lows — but mostly highs — of the homeschooling journey. Besides teaching her own children, she has taught art, creative writing, and history at homeschooling co-ops. She is also a children’s author and illustrator, writing primarily non-fiction books for students in first grade through high school. When she’s not at the computer, you might find her working on a painting, taking a walk through the woods, traveling to a family event, or just sitting with a cat on her lap.