“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Image credit: salisbury.edu

This is a question everyone has been asked at one point in their lives. When I ask my students this question, most stare at me with a blank expression or mumble “Uh, I don’t know.” When pushed, some will say doctor, lawyer, fire fighter, or teacher. These are careers they are familiar with; they encounter these careers in their own lives. They have teachers growing up and see their doctors for checkups, but do they really know what is involved in pursuing these careers? Do they know what type of degree they need or how many years of college are required? Do they know what an average day in this profession is like?

I find it ironic that there is a national push to get students “college and career ready,” yet very little time is dedicated to talking to kids about why they should consider attending college (and for many, incurring mountains of debt). If more students were given the opportunity to explore career paths in middle school and high school, they might be more motivated to work hard in school to get into a good college. Others might decide to look for an internship or apprenticeship to learn a trade while still in high school.

My point is…if students were exposed to the multitude of different career paths as they progressed through school, they are more likely to be “college and career ready.”

Next Vista, an educational non-profit, has a collection of videos for students. There are 3 categories of videos on the site: 1. Light Bulbs, 2. Global View, and 3. Seeing Service. The Light Bulb category includes a “large collection of careers videos to help middle and high school students better understand and connect to their future possibilities.” After previewing these videos, I designed a multi-media project where students explore different career paths and think about their futures.

Project: Career Exploration

Step 1: First students have to be exposed to the wide range of careers available to them. How would they feel about making a living as an organic farmer, tupperware executive director, chef or nasa engineer? To do this you can have your students watch the videos on the Next Vista site and discuss them in class.

I designed discussion topics on my Collaborize Classroom site so students could watch a different career video each week and discuss whether this career interests them or not.

For more career spotlight discussion topics, you can access them all HERE.

The online discussions give students an opportunity to discuss what they like and/or dislike about different career paths. Students can ask questions and share personal stories about people they know who work in a related field.

Step 2: Once students have viewed a variety of career videos, ask them to research a career that interests them. These can be careers that they learned about from the videos and/or careers they have been exposed to elsewhere. During their research, they should generate a list of questions they have about this career. These questions will be used in their interviews.

Step 3: Interview a person in this profession. Students should use the questions they generated during their research to interview a person in their chosen career. Teachers can incorporate a lesson on “how to write a business letter” so students send emails that are respectful and professional when they ask if they can conduct an interview.

Image credit: ipadio.com

Students can use iPadio to record interviews using their smart phones (see app). The iPadio app lets them record up to 60 minutes of audio, which can be translated to text or shared on a website.

Step 4: Observe for a day. Students should shadow a person in his/her chosen profession. This gives them a chance to truly experience a typical day, take pictures (if possible), ask questions and learn more about the day-to-day realities of this job.

Step 5: Once students have completed research, conducted a formal interview and shadowed a person in this field, this project culminates in a multimedia presentation where they share their findings with their peers.

Students can create their own videos about this profession, which in turn can be submitted to Next Vista where other students can learn from their work. For more information about guidelines for submitting videos to Next Vista, click here.


Alternatively, student can create informational websites on their career path using Wix.com— a free website builder. Wix flash templates are customizable and free. Students can combine their research, interviews, pictures and videos on one site for other students to explore.


Teachers who want to add a career writing component can teach students resume and cover letter writing. I like to have students build a variety of writing samples in their Google docs for future reference and use. It’s a fun “real world” exercise for them to learn how to organize a resume and write a cover letter/business letter for an application.

This project teaches students to ask questions, research, communicate effectively with both their peers and adults, collaborate, write digitally and develop technology skills while exploring career paths that will hopefully inspire them to become “college and career ready!”

7 Responses

  1. Great stuff!!!! Thanks for sharing. I might just try this idea out in the 4th quarter for our research project.

  2. So true! Students hardly find their studies in school and college in line with the real corporate life which is waiting for them.. Would be great if they can be exposed to the career avenues at an early stage

  3. It’s high time, we should expose students to the corporate realities
    as early as possible.

    College life seems like a different dreamland altogether
    and once out of college, the hard life is many a times difficult to accept.

  4. I think this is great!

    We have our seniors do a semester long career exploration project that includes 8 hours of shadowing someone in their career, creating a career portfolio (with research, cover letter, resume, letters of rec, etc.), and professional interviews with community volunteers where they discuss their project and future goals. While some seniors resist exploring what’s next after high school (they aren’t ready to confront this impending reality haha) most of them really enjoy the project and all the real world learning that helps them prepare for the next stage of their life.

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