When students first come in to the career center, they are cute little Freshmen…with no idea of what to expect out of high school. Imagine the looks on those faces as I tell them I want to help them plan for life AFTER high school, when they have barely started 9th grade. They are all instantly transformed… by a “deer in the headlights” stare. They are completely overwhelmed, so I hand out cookies to soften the shock.
In a best case scenario, conversations around your family dinner table have included plans about life as an adult since kids were three years old. Everyone has heard the classic question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. It is particularly cute to say “Elephant trainer” when they are four. It stops being cute by age 14. That is when the parents start getting the “deer in the headlights” look.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” was a great question back in it’s day. It is no longer a good question. Most young folks graduating today will switch career fields at least three times in their lives…and some articles say as many as 10-14!! The point is, the job they are aiming for after high school isn’t likely to be their job for 40 years. The question to ask now is “What would you like to do first?”. As they grow, and their needs change, we want them to embrace the reality that they may be learning new skills and entering new career fields several times through the years.
When working with students, I start with Career Interest. What do they want to do? After getting some ideas of possible directions to go, we start exploring where they could get training to do the job that interests them. Who teaches what they will need to get that job? Do they have the grades to attend that school? We spend a lot of time asking students to compare both careers and schools, and to look critically at both. To quote Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade: “You must choose, but choose wisely”.
College can be four years, or longer…but it can also be much shorter. “Trade School” used to be the term we used for learning a trade. Trade schools still exist, but in my community, most of the trades are also taught at the Community College as well….often for less money than many trade schools charge. There are ‘on the job’ kinds of training: Apprenticeships, Internships and jobs offering training as you go, literally on-the-job. Some of these programs offer certificates, some degrees, some just give you a pay raise when you master the needed skills. The point is, very viable jobs are available with several different learning environments, and very different amounts of time necessary to finish them. Some students have no desire to sit in more classrooms after they graduate. I want them to know they don’t have to, but can still find a career they can enjoy with an education that fits their goals.
It is quite possible to study for years, and accrue thousands of dollars in debt, and yet not ever find a single job that fits your degree. Is it the fault of the bank? The school? Or the student who thought her path to happiness lay in the study of Medieval French Poetry? Well…not a lot of good poetry jobs out there. I teach kids to ask important questions: Is it a job with openings? Is it a job with a wage that would allow you to pay for rent and own a television? What is the outlook for that career in your state? These are things to research as students decide on a career path.
Lastly, I guide students through the maze of deadlines for FAFSA, scholarships and understanding their Financial Aid Letters. If I have done my job well, they will make a choice that both gets them into the workforce AND fits the budget they have to work with. So, what exactly IS my job? Cheerleading. Students are the only ones who can make this process happen. I point kids in the right direction, but THEY are the ones filling out applications, writing the essays and traveling the misty maze from High School to Career.
It is my hope to share with you, via this blog, the tricks and tips that I have picked up along the way. I plan to lay out the process, explain the confusing parts and share resources to make it less overwhelming. Be sure to click on “Follow” or come find me on Facebook.