The career situation is serious. Today’s adults can change careers as many as 5 –7 times, usually in the early stages of their careers. And, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27 percent of college graduates end up working in a field related to their major.
With over half of students graduating from public or non-profit universities and three-quarters of private university graduates carrying student loan debt, it’s time to stop and ask, “how did things get so backward?”
Why are so many of our students driving in the fast lane on the highway of life in the wrong direction? Why are academics pushed so hard, while planning and direction are treated as an “enhancement” that is sprinkled on at the end?
The case is even more dire in at-risk areas, where students are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to seek post-secondary education or college degrees.
The best way to ignite student’s interest is by career exploration, starting in elementary school. When students are interested in a subject, they are more likely to:
⦁ go to class
⦁ pay attention
⦁ become engaged
⦁ take more courses
⦁ process information effectively
⦁ perform well
Elementary students love to imagine. They playact and daydream, wonder and ask questions. They have all the time in the world to visualize themselves in their imaginary professions.
Students who have a career path don’t lament, “when will I ever use this in real life?” They can see the path ahead of them and know where their courses fit in. They prioritize courses that help them achieve their goals. They have direction and a higher sense of self-esteem.
Middle school students can further deepen this exploration, making it more specific.
Schools often wait until students are in high school to introduce careers, but there are several reasons why this is simply too late.
⦁ High schoolers are under enormous pressure to perform. They have afterschool jobs, extracurricular activities, sports, and hours of homework to complete every night—not to mention increased needs for social time and sleep. They’re in survival mode, and it’s hard to squeeze anything else in, let alone be receptive to exploration.
⦁ Waiting until high school is also unfair to students. They may have unrealistic ideas about their how their abilities match prospective careers. Some might believe, for example, that they can become engineers, when they are barely passing remedial math classes.
⦁ High school guidance counselors often do not have the time to prioritize career exploration. In fact, many high school counselors rank their priorities in the following order: