21 Strategies for K-12 Career Development

by Debbie Osborn

One arena in which career development activities are crucial is the school system. School counselors have the opportunity to provide career counseling to students at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Recent research (Osborn & Baggerly, 2004) on 1,280 Florida school counselors' perceptions about career counseling and career testing revealed that most prefer the trait/factor approaches, such as Holland's RIASEC theory, Person-Environment Correspondence, or Cognitive Information Processing. The actual time school counselors spent doing career counseling and career testing was minimal at the elementary, middle and high school levels- however, school counselors at all levels reported wanting to spend significantly more time on both of those activities.

Listed below are 21 strategies for school counselors working with elementary, middle and high school students. Some only would require minor adjustments to make the strategy more or less sophisticated and appropriate for other levels.

For elementary students:

  • Using appropriate magazines, have students make a collage out of words and pictures that represent self/careers of interest.
  • Guess who/what games. As a way to enhance occupational knowledge, give clues about specific occupations and have teams guess which occupation is being described. (Information about occupations can be found at The U.S. Dept. of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook ).
  • Alphabet jobs - either in round robin fashion, or in teams, identify as many occupations as possible that start with each letter of the alphabet.
  • Career speakers - Consider parents and grandparents, and ask them to bring hands-on tools of their work.
  • Career field trips
  • Encourage career fantasy through dress up/roleplaying
    Offer to help teachers create an in-class a 'career station' (possibly one that rotates through classrooms throughout the semester).
  • Share with teachers how what they are already having kids do in the classroom relates to important work skills such as punctuality, thoroughness, neatness, teamwork, etc. Break students into small groups and have each group create posters that demonstrate this.

For middle school students:

  • Use inventories such as the Self-Directed Search: CE, Career Targets (from COIN), or similar inventories to help students identify and organize their interests and see related career fields.
  • Expose students to information such as America's Career InfoNet or the online Occupational Outlook Handbook .
  • Inside/outside bag. Pass out paper bags and appropriate magazines. Have students express their outside/social self by making a collage with words and pictures on the outside of the bag of what people see, and putting items inside the bag that others may not see but that are "real".
  • Collaborate with English teachers to have students write a research paper on a career of interest. Provide the teacher with a list of media center books related to careers as well as appropriate weblinks. Work with the librarian and district site manager to include these weblinks on the guidance webpage or bookmark the sites to minimize the time required to type in url's.
  • Create word finds or crossword puzzles on career-related vocabulary. (DiscoverySchool.com has a relatively easy-to-create puzzlemaker).
  • Now is a prime time when students start to disconnect from school. Help them re-connect by scheduling field trips to community colleges and universities, holding career fairs, and career field trips. Also, brief workshops or meetings on how their current coursework links to their career goals is also recommended.
  • Have a "volunteer" month, providing list of possible places to volunteer, and lists of workers that are typically found in those sites.

For high school students:

  • Create jeopardy or family feud games based on career information, post-secondary training options, job search strategies, resume writing/interviewing skills, etc.
  • Have students work in pairs to complete a virtual scavenger hunt for career information using the Online Occupational Handbook.
  • Using local newspaper classifieds, have students identify a job, find a house/boat/car, and then complete a budget analysis (local power companies can provide information on average power/water bills).
  • Provide teachers with handouts that link their courses (English, Biology, History, etc.) with specific job titles. You can also include online resources and media center resources, Professional Organizations, local employers, etc. For an example of a "match major sheet," see the ones created by the FSU Career Center
  • Provide appropriate weblinks to career resources such as Career Key, and Choices or SIGI on the school counseling website and media center computers.
  • Include career information to parents via the school newsletter. Information might include tips on resume writing, interviewing and job searching, questions such as 'Did you know?', information about scholarships, upcoming career testing, career and college days, and ideas for helping their student make an informed career choice.

Other Online Resources for School Counselors:

  • Online Occupational Outlook Handbook . --Up-to-date information on hundreds of occupations.
  • O*NET Resource Center -- Designed to take the place of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, this site also has links to career exploration tools, crosswalks of values and skills to occupations and other career exploration tools.
  • Oklahoma Department of Career Tech newsletter .-- Filled with useful links as well as great ideas, including career games, bulletin board ideas and others. Also, information specific to elementary level
  • Career and College Planning Resources -- A great site that includes hundreds of links to career quizzes, skill assessments, career webquests, exploring specific careers, college information and preparation, career development and planning, etc.

A great resource for career development activities can be found in Experiential Activities For Teaching Career Counseling Classes & Facilitating Career Groups (available online at NCDA's Career Resource Store ). Some sample career counseling lesson plans can be found at NCDA's Internet Sites for Career Planning and K-12 Interest Areas . Finally, some sample lesson plans can be found at University of South Florida and at the Florida Workforce Education website.

Osborn, D. S., & Baggerly, J. N. (2004). School counselors' perceptions of career counseling and career testing: Preferences, priorities and predictors. Journal of Career Development, 31,45-59.

Debbie Osborn is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida. A similar listing of resources was first published in the Florida Counseling Association's newsletter, Guidelines. (The author received permission to expand and reprint it here). Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to her at Osborn@tempest.coedu.usf.edu.  Individuals wishing to share additional successful strategies are also encouraged to write.

Printer-Friendly Version