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Why Should My Child Explore Careers?
< Career Exploration

Why Should My Child Explore Careers?

You can help your child begin exploring careers and planning for the future.

Why Should My Child Explore Careers?
The number one reason students drop out of college is a lack of career focus. Even if they do stay in college, students who lack focus end up spending more time and money to earn a degree. With advance planning, your child can enter college well-informed and focused on a career goal.

If your child is to make good career decisions, he or she must explore and investigate many careers. Through career exploration activities, your child can become aware of the many career opportunities available to him or her. Your child will also find out what he or she needs to do to reach career goals. Career exploration should begin in middle school.

Career exploration can lead to:

  • Exposure to a wide variety of careers, including areas your child may not have considered previously;
  • A better understanding of the work environment for careers in which your child is interested; and
  • An understanding of the type of training and education needed for particular careers, and their associated costs.

Exploring careers does not mean your child must make career decisions. Career development is a life-long process and your child's plans will change along the way. If your child engages in career development activities, however, the decisions he or she eventually makes will be based on realistic information.

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What Should Career Exploration Look Like?
There are two ways to explore careers, by investigating them and by experiencing them. Your child should do both.

Investigating Careers. Your child may be interested in careers that are similar, such as Animal Scientist, Veterinarian and Dolphin Trainer; or he or she may want to explore careers in a variety of fields, such as Firefighter, Mental Health Counselor and Electrician. Your child should collect as much information as possible on the careers in which he or she is interested.

In particular, your child should find out:

  • What kind of education does this career require?
  • Where can I get the education and training required?
  • What is the future outlook for this career?
  • What is the path for advancement in this career?
  • What other careers are closely related to this career?
  • What are the everyday tasks performed in this career?
  • Do the tasks match my interests and values?
  • What are the normal work hours?
  • What health and retirement benefits are generally found in this line of work?
  • What are the typical wages for this career?
  • Does this career require travel?
  • Can I find a job in this career near my home?

Experiencing Careers. There are many ways for your child to "try on" careers during the middle and high school years:

  • Have your child volunteer for organizations in his or her career interest area.
  • Let your child take part-time or summer jobs that relate to his or her career interests.
  • Arrange for your child to "shadow" someone who works in his or her field of interest.
  • Help your child find an internship or work-based learning experience related to his or her career interests. Your child may be able to get high school credit for this type of work experience.
  • Find out if your child's high school offers vocational classes in a field in which he or she is interested.

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Help Your Child Create a Career Portfolio
A Career Portfolio is a collection of your child's academic and work experiences, career interest assessments and personal achievements. It is a record of important academic and career information your child may need in the future.

Use a file, envelope, journal, scrapbook or other storage device to create a career portfolio. Your child can use the portfolio to:

  • Record and save dates, places and duties performed in volunteer work, paid jobs, internships or work-based learning (for later use on a job application or resume).
  • Record classes taken in middle and high school, and grades received in those classes.
  • Store information about education and training options and locations.
  • Record results from interest and personality assessments.
  • Store records of awards, achievements or honors.
  • Record information about extracurricular activities.

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Where Can My Child Find Quality Career Information?
There are many resources for career exploration.

  • Start with the career center or library in your child's school. The school or local library may have a computerized career information delivery system (CIDS) to provide career information to your child.
  • Contact your local ACRN office.  You can get contact details on the State Info page, or you can telephone the ACRN national office at: 1-800-314-1537.

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For More Information:
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • America's Career InfoNet
  • O*Net
  • WOIS Portfolio, WOIS/The Career Information System
  • Starting the Conversation: A Career Exploration Guide for Parents and Children (Career Development Resources, Texas Workforce Commission)
  • Career Decision-Making (Georgia Career Information System)
  • What Sometimes Happens When We Don't Plan! (Your Child's Career, A Website for Parents)
  • Minnesota Careers (Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development)

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