Exploration of the world of work
A key aspect of the exploration stage of career development is researching a wide variety of career areas. This is your children's opportunity to learn about important characteristics of work and workers. Exploring the world of work will help your children gain a better appreciation of the world they live in while they expand their understanding of how they might fit in it.
Your children may have clearly identified some careers of interest, or they may be completely uncertain. They may be interested in occupations that are very similar or within the same broad field, such as Animal Scientist, Veterinarian, and Animal Trainer. On the other hand, they may want to explore careers in a wide variety of fields, such as Firefighter, Mental Health Counselor, and Electrician. They might know what they want to study but not know what that might lead to in terms of employment. Regardless of where they start, exploring some specific occupations and career areas will be a valuable step.
To explore the world of work, your children should collect as much information as possible on the occupations or career areas. They should find the answers to such questions as:
- What are the common work tasks performed in this occupation? (Do these tasks match my interests, skill preferences, and values?)
- What kind of preparation does this occupation or career path require? (Is this an educational path I might want to follow? Where can I get the education and training required?)
- What is the potential for finding a job in this occupation? (Can I find a job in this career near where I want to live?)
- Are there typical paths for advancement in this career?
- Are there other occupations that are closely related to this career? (Do any of these other occupations interest me?)
- What are the normal work hours? Does this occupation require travel?
- What benefits are generally found in this line of work? (Why do I care about benefits anyway?)
- What are the typical wages for this occupation? (Can these wages support the kind of lifestyle I want?)
Although numerous sources of information are available, some of these resources may be outdated, biased, or anecdotal. Most students in Oregon have access to the Career Information System (CIS). By using CIS, your children will begin their exploration using a quality, comprehensive resource about work and education in Oregon and the nation. As they do their research, encourage them to save their information electronically or in a portfolio and to write summarize their findings and their feelings about the various occupations they have considered.
How can my child get a personal look at a career field?
During the exploration process, talking directly to people about what they do is also very helpful. Some schools require their students to do at least one informational interview or job shadow during middle school or early high school. You don't have to wait for your children's school to require this type of research. If your children have career fields they are particularly interested in, help them set up informational interviews. See if you or an acquaintance knows someone working in the fields, and help your children set up a time to talk. (If you live in a very rural area, you might be able to accomplish this through an e-mail correspondence or a phone interview, but in person at the worksite is always best.)
Here are the steps to a successful interview:
- Schedule the interview
When contacting a resource person, your children should identify themselves, explain that they are gathering career information, and explain how they got the person's name. They should ask for 15 to 20 minutes to talk about the person's work and career field.
- Prepare for the interview
Before your children go for the interview, they should read about the occupation of the person they will be interviewing. They should also learn about the organization they will visit. On the day of the visit, remind them to:
- Dress appropriately.
- Arrive on time.
- Come prepared with interview questions. (See the list of sample questions below for ideas.)
- Have some paper and a pen to take notes.
- Conduct the interview
Your children should remember to thank the person for meeting with them at the beginning of the interview. Then they can begin asking their prepared questions. The person may not need a lot of prompting to share his or her work with your children. In that case, they shouldn't feel disappointed if they do not get all of their questions answered. Before they leave, they should let the person know they appreciate the opportunity to gather information about the career field.
- Send a thank you note
Your children should follow up with a card or letter. Let the resource person know that the interview was helpful, and thank the person for the time.
Sample Interview Questions
The following questions will help your children get the most from an interview:
- What is your job like?
- On a typical day what do you do?
- What kinds of problems must you handle?
- What kinds of decisions do you make?
- What is your most significant accomplishment this past year?
- What do you like most about your job?
- What do you find challenging?
- What do you not like about your job?
- Is your job different from how you first thought it would be? Were there any surprises?
- What things (for example, work,
activities, classes or hobbies) did you do before you entered this occupation?
- Which have been most helpful?
- What other jobs can you get with the same background?
- What attracted you to this type of work?
- What changes are occurring in your occupation?
- Has technology changed your work in any way?
- How could I advance in your field?
- What is the best way to enter this occupation?
- What are the advancement opportunities?
- What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?
- Are there special areas or needs that a newcomer could fill?
- If you were starting again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
- Are you making the amount of money you thought you would?
- What is a typical pay range for someone entering this occupation?
- Why do people leave this occupation?
- What other local companies hire people in this occupation?
- What social obligations go along with a job in your occupation?
- Are there organizations you must join?
- Are there other activities you are expected to do outside work hours?
- What books or sources of information would you recommend?
- What other advice do you have for a person considering this career?