“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Many ask children at an early age this question, but why not expose elementary school children to career exploration?
Career exploration is the process of learning about different careers, the skills and education required, and the potential job market for each field. It involves researching, observing, and experiencing different careers to gain a better understanding of what is needed to be successful. This should align with a person’s interests, skills and values.
If this is so crucial, why isn’t this skill more prevalent in elementary school? Although it may seem early to some, it is never too early to start the process.
Career exploration at this level matters for several reasons
1. Early Exposure
When children are introduced to different career options at a young age, it gives them a broader understanding of the possibilities for their future. They may not have a clear idea of what they want to be when they grow up, but may have a general idea of what they are interested in. Show them different types of careers. Consider having your extended family, neighbors, and even your child’s friends’ parents explain their career choice to your child.
2. Career Awareness
Young children are naturally curious and open minded, which makes this the best time to introduce them to a variety of careers to help them understand what each one requires. This can help them make informed decisions about their future.
3. Reduce Dropouts
Elementary career exploration can reduce the risk of students dropping out of school later on in high school by providing a goal and purpose for their education. They will look forward to furthering the studies and skills as they advance higher in their learning.
4. Lifelong Learner
Early childhood exploration can help children develop a lifelong learning mindset, which encourages them to continue to seek new knowledge and experiences in their future careers and beyond.
5. Develop Skills
This helps develop a better understanding of the real world of working and the skills and education required for different careers. Children often have a limited idea of what adults do for a living. This gives them real world connections beyond the classroom. Early career exploration lets children identify their strengths and interests, which can guide them in their future career path.
Career exploration in elementary school can help address access and equity issues by exposing children to careers and industries they may not encounter in their family or community. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have the same access to information and resources to different careers as children from more wealthy backgrounds.
7. Increase Motivation and Improve Self-Esteem
Learning about a child’s potential career early can inspire them to set goals early and work towards their future aspirations, giving them a sense of purpose. They will be excited and ready for their future. In turn, this improves their overall self esteem, self worth and engagement across many areas in their lives.