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It’s never too early for students to start thinking about the future. From the young dreamer exploring his interest in big trucks or all things furry, to the college senior preparing for the exciting road ahead of her, planning for the future is always a smart move.

This e-newsletter will discuss ways educators can help guide their students—no matter what age—on a successful path to their future careers. Keep reading for some helpful suggestions.

A successful career path…regardless of age

The sky’s the limit when it comes to exploring and choosing an occupation or career. Here are some helpful, age-appropriate tips educators can use to get the conversation started:

  • Elementary school: Interest in choosing a career begins before many students even know what one is. And both awareness and fascination can be piqued through play, observation and exploration. A “Who am I?” lesson is a great way to get kids thinking about different jobs and their respective duties. Prepare a list that outlines the responsibilities of a specific profession—for instance, a chef or a police officer. After reading the duties aloud, have students guess which career you’re describing. Make it fun by providing different hats appropriate for each job. Have students display their answers by putting on the right hats.

Or, consider dividing students into small groups and instruct each group to list as many careers as possible. Encourage participation and brainstorming by rewarding the group that comes up with the highest number of careers, the most unique career and so on. Then discuss important details about each profession, such as varying roles, responsibilities and even some of the downsides. This is a great way to get kids thinking. Reward winning teams with school logo’d tattoos, pencils and stickers.

  • Middle school: Middle school is the time when personal interests, skills and even work values can be tapped to help generate ideas about future careers. There are a slew of online tools that offer students career quizzes, opportunities to explore and more. For example, EducationPlanner.org(SM) offers an online form to help determine which skills best pair with certain careers. Mapping Your Future’s CareerShip® allows students to explore interests, knowledge and skills as well as career tasks, wages and outlooks. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a career exploration page where students can match interests with potential occupations. Explore these sites in class or imprint URLs on bookmarks or screen-cleaning cloths for easy at-home reference.
  • High school and beyond: Career paths really begin to take shape at this age. As educators, you can help your students prepare by assisting them with goal-setting and career planning. This allows students to focus on what they want to do and how they will get there. Building a resume, developing a portfolio and obtaining letters of recommendation are all great ways to get started. Educators can assist by offering a variety of projects, opportunities and experiences that help students accomplish all three. For instance, is there a service project that can be incorporated into a lesson plan? Or a leadership opportunity you can encourage your students to participate in? These situations not only serve as ways to build a resume, but also offer students real-life experiences in roles that may fuel a fire or spark their interest.

Remember, it’s never too early to start talking about career planning. Give these tips a try to help students explore and prepare—then watch their dreams take flight.

“Career Exploration.” Elementary School Counseling. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Dec. 2014.

“About CareerShip.” CareerShip. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Dec. 2014.

“Develop a Career Plan.” Mapping Your Future. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Dec. 2014.

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