When you think of college and career readiness, you think of ensuring that students are prepared to be successful in the postsecondary pursuit of their choosing – and those students are probably high school juniors or seniors. However, middle school is not too early to begin this conversation, and career inventories are one vehicle for doing so.
Where to start with middle school students
Middle school is an important time for self-discovery and exploration, developing confidence, and understanding why education is pertinent to one’s future. To young adolescents, four to six years in the future is an eternity. Yet we are asking them to think about what steps they need to take to be successful that far down the road – in postsecondary education and some form of career. How do we do that? Access providers can start with the simple question, “What Do You Like to Do?” Next, create age-appropriate, theme-oriented lesson plans to guide students through career exploration.
Discuss simple questions with students, such as:
What is career exploration? Why is it important to begin exploring careers now?
What career fields already interest the students?
Do any students know someone who works in the field that interests them?
Do students have any questions about a career field that they hope to answer during the lesson?
What is a career inventory?
Career inventories are a great way for not only high school students but also middle school students to figure out where their interests lie. Sure, a student’s interests could change over time (that is to be expected), but this is a great place to start. Students might even discover options they had not considered before.
A career inventory is “a career tool for self-assessment that aids in career planning to assess the likes of particular objects, activities, and personalities, using the theory that individuals with the same career tend to have the same interests,” according to the Business Dictionary. Access providers, counselors and others working in our field have begun to move into this workspace in a creative way. While researching this topic, I have seen so many inventive ways of tackling this topic on Pinterest – career Jeopardy!, career bingo, and career cafés, just to name a few. Some states require that students explore their postsecondary interests and make personalized plans to determine how to achieve them. Few mention very specific workforce preparation skills such as resume writing, interviewing skills, or internships. Career inventories are another resource to help our field in this pivot toward career readiness.
Here are some career inventories and career exploration tools that you can use right now to help middle school students explore their options:
Naviance for Middle School
Naviance for Middle School is a college and career readiness solution that helps students discover during these pivotal years their strengths and interests, and see how they can help them reach their goals. It also enables individual learning plans aligned to students’ goals.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Exploration
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor measures labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy for the federal government, and disseminates that information to support public and private decision-making.
Career Bridge Washington
Career Bridge lets users take a quiz to see how their talents align with a career; view job trends to discover if a career is growing and how much it pays; and search nearly 6,000 education programs to find locations and costs, whether students got jobs, what industries they went to work in, and how much they were paid.
The career and college-planning website EducationPlanner provides practical and easy-to-understand advice to help prepare students for future decisions. Middle school students can discover their interests and motivations through interactive activities that get them thinking about careers. High school students, meanwhile, can learn about careers and colleges using simple search tools, interactive exercises, and straightforward instructions.