Youthentity column: Kids & careers — how to spark interest in jobs and opportunities
We all want the best for our kids. We want them to do well in school, find things they are passionate about, maintain healthy relationships and establish financial independence. We also want them to find careers that will provide stability and a sense of satisfaction.
Childrens’ exposure to careers is relatively limited in scope. They are aware of the jobs held by their parents and relatives; as well, they are exposed to doctors, teachers, firefighters, public safety and dentists. At Youthentity, we believe that widening kids’ understanding of available opportunities will help them continually narrow their focus as they get older, with the hope that eventually that interest manifests into a part-time job in their field of interest or enrollment into a career exploration program such as our Career Academy program in high school.
One of the hardest things to do as an adult is not to project our beliefs of what is a “successful” career onto kids; instead, allowing them to explore different paths that match their individual interests and strengths.
Youthentity’s Junior Career Academy program (formerly known as My Career, My Life) gets kids thinking about careers early by introducing them to the paths that are possible. Facilitated in elementary and middle schools, area professionals representing various fields — cosmetology, biology, architecture, culinary arts, journalism, construction and many more — show kids what it’s like to be in their industry, talking about their path into the field, including certifications and degrees needed, and then executing a hands-on learning assignment for a “day in the life” perspective so students can understand what the job entails.
Before students participate in a Junior Career Academy program, they take a test to determine their interests and career “personalities.” The results show kids the different clusters they most closely align with depending on their answers. For example, students usually find three of the following “Career Oysters” make up their career code or personality:
“Realists” like to do things such as caring for people and animals, flying planes, running restaurants and constructing buildings.
People in “Artistic” careers like to create things and develop new ideas, and often work in areas involving design, communication, performing, creating art and helping people, too.
Those who fall into the “Investigative” category typically like to explore, understand and solve problems. They enjoy studying and caring for humans and animals, research and teaching.
People in “Conventional” career areas like to work with numbers, records or machines in an orderly way and they value success in business. They are good at following plans.
People in “Enterprising” career areas like to lead and persuade people, and to sell things and ideas. They also value success in politics, leadership or business.
People in “Social” career areas like to do things to help people such as teaching, nursing or counseling. They value helping people and solving social problems.
(You can take the test at http://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip to find out what cluster you or your student falls into.)
Kids are unlikely to know what they want to be when they grow up. Even as adults, many of us struggle to pinpoint the careers that spark interest and utilize our individual strengths. Certainly, having a clear career path from a young age is not a requirement for success, but we can help students now by showing them the possibilities through in-school career experiences.
Kirsten McDaniel is executive director of Youthentity.
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