Career exploration

Career exploration involves learning about the work world and investigating many career options. It begins with the understanding (from the career awareness stage) that the world of work has many paths to consider. It continues with research into career paths and occupations and "trying out" some of interest. There are two primary ways to explore careers; one is to investigate and the other is to experience. Your children should engage in both. At this stage, children are learning more about careers, their requirements, and the life-styles they represent. They are also beginning to relate their own educational choices and achievements to the opportunities they will have in the future.

The process of exploration typically begins in middle, but it can often continue into the high school, college, and even adulthood depending upon the career path and satisfaction one finds. The process invites change as your children gather more information. Exploring careers does not mean making a decision about a career. It does mean making decisions about career direction, educational goals, and other activities and experiences that open up possibilities. Exploration helps your children base these decisions on concrete, realistic information.

Why exploration?

Your middle school student is changing dramatically. Over the next few years, your child will be exerting more independence but will still be sensitive and needing your approval. Peers will exert a new level of influence. Although it may not always seem so, your child is ready to begin thinking about the future.

Some advantages of career exploration in middle school include:

What should my middle school child be able to do?

Here are 10 important career skills that your adolescents can develop during their middle school years:

  1. Identify and demonstrate their abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
  2. Identify sources of outside pressure and demonstrate the ability to handle it.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to resolve conflicts and negotiate acceptable solutions.
  4. Recognize that they are growing and changing and that growth and change will affect their careers throughout their lives.
  5. Recognize that they will have many life roles and that these will be connected to their lifestyle.
  6. Recognize that their educational performance is important for reaching their goals and, if necessary, use strategies to improve it.
  7. Identify short-term and long-term goals, including those related to their education, career options, and lifestyle.
  8. Make decisions in a systematic way, including identifying options and potential consequences.
  9. Recognize the need to compromise in making some decisions.
  10. Use career information resources to evaluate their goals and help with their plans.

These skills cover some of the most important indicators included in the National Career Development Guidelines for the exploration developmental stage. The guidelines describe what children and adults should understand and be able to do at various stages of their career development. They include specific goals and learning indicators grouped by the three principle domains:

This framework may help you think about the types of activities you do or can do to help with career exploration through the middle school years. (It is also reflected in the content of this website.)

See a list of all indicators for middle school students