Article contributed by: Cassie Thomas
Teachers and career counselors have a shared responsibility when it comes to pointing students in the right direction. This doesn’t just mean finding a student a job that pays; it means finding them a career that encompasses their passions.
It’s not entirely true when they say if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. But even if that was the case, it will still require hard work. As you may have read previously on Teacher Habits, even educators struggle with reaching their full potential in our rather noble profession despite being fully invested in teaching. Our job is to cut that challenge in half for our students by helping them find a viable career path, one that gives their lives and other people’s lives meaning while also being sustainable.
It’s unfair to expect students to know what they want to be doing, 10 years or even five years from now. They’re still in the process of learning about the world and that includes the different career options within their reach. The first step is to help them identify their core values and goals. It doesn’t have to be a complex process as The Balance recommended what is called a ‘work value inventory.’ From a list of values, have your students rank their significance such as independence, compensation, and helping society. The main thing is to encourage students to undergo a process of introspection and use the results as a springboard for exploring career options.
One of your roles as their teacher is to take them through different industries and the opportunities in each. For instance, students who are into helping others regardless of the long hours might be interested in working for the medical community. It’s important that you talk about the realities in different industries, like STEM fields for instance, and how they can break norms based on gender, race, age, and other factors. Invite speakers who are knowledgeable on the subject and allot time for a question and answer session. More importantly, invite speakers who break barriers to inspire those students who are worried that they’re entering fields that are not meant for them.
Even with those values and goals in mind, sometimes it still feels too abstract. Invite experts who are also open to mentorship or shadowing so that they can further develop their interest in specific fields. This will also open up networking opportunities so that if they’re seeking out internships, they can be connected to people who might be able to help. For college students, Forbes notes that it can eventually turn into permanent employment if the company likes the student and if they think that they’re a good fit. Aside from being a competitive advantage when it comes to employment, Niche adds that internships also give students a feel of the industry culture. That way, they can decide if it is the right path for them or at least something that ticks off a few items on their checklist. If the students are still in high school, it will make the choice of degree programs easier later on.
It’s also up to the teachers to walk students through their different options in university. Less-fortunate students think that college is out of the question and that they should get a job right away. However, they have the option of enrolling in online courses to continue their education while maintaining a day job. Maryville University highlighted accessibility, flexibility, and affordability as the main benefits of online degrees. This format might be more suitable for students with the aforementioned constraints. For others, their main worry is where to go and what degree to take up. Again, relevant speakers will be of tremendous help in making those important decisions. As a teacher, your main role is support. Careers are not built in a day and students will need your help in navigating their options for the future.