Career Exploration

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“What do I want to be when I grow up? I don't know.”

“I say I'm going to college, but for what?”

“Everyone says there are great technical jobs out there,
but where, and how do you get them?”




Most young people do not know what job opportunities are out there for them. Without a career goal, how can we expect students to jump the hurdles in school, taking the core classes we know are needed to be employable in tomorrow's work world? For most, getting a job or entering a college program is left up to chance—whom students have met, or what fields they have some information about from TV or a conversation or a family member's experience.

Asking teens what they want to be is not helpful when they have no idea—and very few of them do! Before they can make such decisions, they need to know (1) who they are and (2) what their options are. Right now, there is no systematic way for them to discover either.
We recommend that schools, churches, and community groups come together to form career clubs. Provide youth with opportunities to explore their talents, interests, hobbies, and favorite subjects, and the work fields related to them. In clubs or at home, let them use on-line personality instruments and career databases in this investigation.

Rally and coordinate community members to give students workplace and college tours, to make career presentations, and to offer job shadowing experiences.

Since teens often react better with strangers who do not have expectations for them, career fairs and workshops can be a good way to reach many at once. Best of all, in our experience, is a six-to eight-week career mentoring experience with an adult trained to shepherd them through personal discovery and specific career exploration. In Ann Arbor, we have recruited Kiwanis Club members to act as career mentors. These Web pages demonstrate how you might join create a similar program in your community.


Teens need to explore both themselves, to discover what they enjoy and what they are good at, and then the world of work, to see what fields and specific jobs they might enjoy and do well in.

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Last updated 26 Oct 02