Simple Career Awareness Activities and Resources for Kids
Ask first-graders, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and you’ll get a list limited only by their imaginations: princess, pirate, doctor, teacher, police detective. Over time, they’ll usually narrow the list, influenced largely by careers encountered through family, friends, school, and the media.
As parents, Learning Coaches, and teachers, we need to consciously expose our children to careers that may lie outside our own experience. How do we do that? Well, it’s easier than you might think!
Online Career Awareness Resources: Making Career Exploration Fun
For elementary and middle school students, interactive online games are a great way to have fun while exploring traditional and nontraditional careers.
- Drive of your life, an interactive game from the Indiana Youth Institute, lets students custom-design their own car by answering questions about their personal interests, getting a list of careers that match those interests, and then “taking a drive” through each of those careers. Along the way, they meet real people via video working in those careers—learning about daily work life and the skills and education required.
- Kidswork, from South Carolina’s public education station ETV, digs a little deeper into the inner workings for a range of careers. Choosing any business in ETV’s cartoon town, students can watch short video interviews with the people who work there; perform related job tasks; and learn some of the history behind various fields.
While maintaining its fun factor, Kidswork is great for connecting classroom skills to real-world jobs in small doses. In this game, your student can use math to fill prescriptions as a pharmacist; practice writing slogans as a public relations specialist; and match electrical circuits as a theatrical lighting designer.
- Kids.gov, the US government’s official web portal for kids, provides an A–Z listing and links to more than 50 different career videos as well as interviews, games, and general career information. But watch out! This site is so rich in resources that you and your student could spend hours exploring everything from careers in brain imaging to police dog training.
- CareerOneStop, a US Department of Labor site, wins the prize for sheer volume with more than 500 career videos grouped by skills, industry, interest clusters, and educational requirements. Click on the Finance section, for example, and you’ll find links to videos explaining jobs ranging from actuary to teller.
On the other hand, high school students will probably find the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ information-packed career-exploration pages more useful. Organized by career clusters students will recognize from other career planning exercises, these pages contain salary, employment outlook, working conditions, and education requirements for thousands of job types.
Hands-On Career Awareness Activities and Clubs: Inspiring Career Curiosity
While online games are fun, hands-on activities and clubs can give kids the chance to ask questions and explore their interests in more depth:
- Creating a family career tree gives your child the chance to interview family members, asking questions about their career choices and history.
- Taking family field trips to museums, police or fire stations, airports, television stations, and other businesses can give students a behind-the-scenes look at the people who keep our local businesses running.
- Participating in your company’s Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day allows your student to observe firsthand how you and your co-workers earn a living.
- Joining local branches of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA or YWCA, Junior Achievement, or career clubs at your school can connect children to career-focused field trips, guest speakers, and volunteer activities that build job skills.
With some conscious effort, we can point our students to a breadth of career possibilities outside our own experience.
Tell us how you’re encouraging your child’s career curiosity in the comments below.