A Career Planning Exercise for High School Students
We recently discussed how to explore career options based on your interests. It is important to find where these overlap to target career choices that are a best fit for you. For example, when I was in high school, I wanted to play professional basketball for the WNBA. This was quite a lofty aspiration, and I knew that if I worked hard enough, I could do it. However, I had to take a step back and realize that my abilities didn’t quite match my love of the game. So, through self-exploration, I eventually found where my abilities and interests intersected to find my dream career as a school counselor helping students achieve their goals. Today, I’d like to share a simple exercise that can help you refine your career search by identifying where your interests, abilities, and career dreams overlap.
To get started, grab a blank piece of paper and draw three columns labeled Interests, Skills, and Career Fields. Then, simply fill in the answers to the questions below.
What interests, conditions, or rewards do you think will be most important to you in a career?
Using the list below as a starting point, list your top five under the column labeled Interests.
- Geographic location
- Working inside/outside
- Working with people/alone
- Helping people/animals
- Each day is the same/different
- Live to work?
- Work to live?
- Ability to be creative
- Which academic subjects interest you most? Add your top two favorite high school subjects to the list under Interests on the worksheet. (Don’t restrict your answers to subjects you excel in. We’ll consider that in a later step.)
- What are your five greatest personal or social strengths? If you’re unsure about your strengths and abilities, ask your friends, parents, or teachers what they think. You can even show them the list below and ask them to pick those traits that best describe you. Your school counselor may also have aptitude tests that can help pinpoint your strengths.
- Work ethic
- Positive attitude
- Time management
- Computer skills
- Working alone
- Building relationships
- Learning new things
- Problem-solving skills
- What are your two greatest academic strengths? Under the Skills column, list the two subjects in which you best perform academically—English, social studies, sciences, mathematics, computer science, etc. For the sciences and mathematics, be specific about the subject area or level—biology, chemistry, algebra, calculus, and so on.
- Which general career areas or Career Clusters® most interest you? Choose at least two from the list below and enter them under the Careers column on your worksheet. (You’ll find a more detailed explanation of careers within these clusters on this website.)
- Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
- Architecture and Construction
- Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications
- Business, Management, and Administration
- Education and Training
- Government and Public Administration
- Health Science
- Hospitality and Tourism
- Human Services
- Information Technology
- Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
- Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics
List these strengths under the Skills column on your worksheet.
Now that you’ve completed the career planning worksheet, it’s time for some reflection and research. Take a look at your worksheet and consider where your personal interests, skills, and career aspirations overlap or diverge. (If you’re not sure of the skills and interests associated with a specific career, visit mynextmove.org, where you can find the skills, education, and personal traits required for hundreds of career options.)
Does the exercise suggest you’re on the right track—or are there exciting new career options you should be exploring? Tell us what you’ve discovered about your career possibilities below, or let us know if we can help you with any specific career planning questions.
The Career Clusters® Framework and brand is a registered trademark of the National Career Technical Education Foundation—and is managed by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc).