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Career planning in early teens -- need suggestions for discussion on adapting plans to life, and the importance of having a "Plan B" (C, D, E...)

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I'm doing a career exploration class with a small group of students -- most of whom seem pretty set, in their early teens, about what they want to do.  While it's great in some ways, we also want to encourage them to develop "plan B" and some flexibility -- both in adapting to change and unexpected events, and also in opening up to new careers they haven't yet explored.


I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions to open up a discussion about this.  I'm thinking along the lines of asking questions like "what would happen if?" "What would you do if..."

Can anyone suggest a fun way to do this?


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Hearing the stories of several people in various dream jobs who each started out on an entirely different path can be enlightening.


A common refrain my dd hears is:


If you want to be an XYZ scientist, don't start out trying to be an XYZ scientist. ;)


Hearing a mix of careers paths from "I've known I wanted to do this since I was a toddler" to "I always thought I wanted to be an X, until life showed me I REALLY wanted to be a Y" can be effective. Even if at the moment the students still insist they will never change their minds, at least the seeds have been planted.

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I am not sure I would open with this, but I think an important point to discuss with the students is the difference between a vocation and an avocation. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avocation


There are many things that I enjoy and find satisfying, but I would not necessarily want to 'do them for a living'. I like to knit, cook, clean, organize, read, research educational options, plan vacations, etc. but none of these have anything to do with my chosen career/paid work.


And further, I think it is helpful to explain that a college major does not necessarily equal a vocation or career. It can, but it does not have to.


Just some thoughts. I'm sure you'll get many others and I'll be following as I'm having these conversations with my own kids right now.

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There are so many youth who do not have a clue of what they want to do, and you have a group who seem to know their strengths and interests. I'd build on this in a very positive and supportive way. Have them look into their career aspirations and see the multitude of opportunities that are available. Don't close doors, or put fear into their hearts, but try to show them how to open more and more doors.

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Copy-pasting my reply from your cross-post on the High School Board here, in case it is of help to anyone else who only is reading on the General Ed. Board. :)



When I've led career exploration with teens, they really like taking tests -- interest inventories, personality tests, and work values surveys. Looking at the results of their tests can help them see that there's usually more than one occupation or career area that they would find rewarding and interesting because it matches their interests, personality, and work values.


You might check out some of those tests, linked in this past thread "Seeking career exploration books and websites".



You might also have them do some "homework" on the career they "know" they want and answer these questions. They can find answers to most of these questions in these sources:

Occupational Outlook Handbook (occupation groups; job descriptions,  and related jobs)

CA Career Zone ("clusters" of related job fields, job descriptions, and videos)

NY Career Zone (job descriptions, videos)


1. What does a typical day look like for someone in this job?

2. What do workers in this job really DO most of the time?

3. From your research, what would be the things that would be exciting, interesting, and/or challenging to YOU about this occupation?

4. From your research, what would be the aspects of this job that you would NOT like, or would be difficult or frustrating for YOU?

5. What kind of education/training would you need to get to be able to apply for this job?


Then, have them answer these questions:


6. What are some jobs that in the SAME field, or need a similar type of education or training as your number 1 job choice that you can explore?

(look at the Career Zone websites and click on the "cluster" or general occupation heading and look at other jobs in that same general cluster or career area)

(or, look at the OOH website, and click on one of the "Occupation Groups" headings to find other jobs in the same general career area)


7.  What are some some jobs in DIFFERENT fields than your number 1 choice that use some of the same skills?

(click on the link at the OOH for "Similar Occupations")


8. Imagine: Your number 1 job choice is zapped out of existence by aliens. What OTHER occupations or careers would you be able to substitute to also be rewarding or interesting for you?



Ideas for assignments to help students "think beyond":


- Have each student look at the local Community College or Vocational-Tech School website and look up the Associate degrees and Certificates that the school offers. Have each student pick the 2-3 of these offerings that look the most interesting to them, and have them explore those occupations.


- Have each student go to the Occupational Outlook Handbook and use the occupational finder function in the middle of the home page -- especially have them input different levels of education for the Entry-Level Education", or the "On The Job Training" settings to see what kinds of lists of occupations come up for them if they were somehow prevented from getting a 4-year Bachelor's degree.


BEST of luck in putting together your career planning class! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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Some years ago a local group had me come and talk because my career went (and still goes) all over the place. Most of my work now is in an area I didn't study at all in college.

Having a guest speaker like that can make it more real.

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