Ingenious Ways to Use Career Information
by Debbie Osborn
Most theories agree that the main factors involved in making a good career choice include knowledge about self, knowledge about occupations and effective decision-making skills. There are a plethora of career assessments and activities available to help students learn about their interests and skills. Counselors are also likely to have various decision making activities to help students with that process. While there is ample career information available, pouring over virtual or actual pages of writing often does not hold students' attention for very long. Consider the following ideas as possible ways to enhance the use of career information:
- Complete a comparison table. Instead of saying "read through the information on your three occupations of interest and let me know what you think," have them complete a table, such as this one. The column headers could list their 3 occupational titles (or more). The row headings could be self-created to reflect the information they are hoping to learn, or you could use a standard form that has them find job description, required skills, required education, salary, etc. Here's an example:
- Create a scavenger hunt. Make a game out of the information. You could use the career comparison worksheet as a gameboard and either divide students into teams or have an individual competition. If students are using a computer, you might want to bookmark some websites you want them to use, such as the online Occupational Handbook , O*Net or the National Career Development Guidelines for students from America's Career Resource Network. This will reduce the number of "help me!" requests and frustrations that result from incorrect keying in of the URL addresses.
Another idea for the scavenger hunt is to have specific questions for the students to answer. For example, you might ask them to calculate cost of living expenses for living in a certain area, determine what the number one pet peeve of employers is on resumes, the salary or educational requirements of a particular occupation, the number one skill required for a specific occupation, a local college that offers a specific major, etc.
- Career Bingo. This is a variation of the scavenger hunt. You can either create several different bingo cards, or just make a blank table and have the students write in career words in the order they prefer. You can do a traditional 5x5 grid, or change it to fit the number of words or time you have. You should have more words than grid cells. To make the answers less obvious (and encourage searching for the information), you should have two words for each concept. For example, you might list two different salaries instead of just one. (If you have just one salary, then it doesn't require them searching when you ask the question, "How much is the average salary of a teacher?" because there is obviously only one option). Other possible concepts would be specific educational requirements, the name of a college or university that offers a hard to find major, trend information (could be for women, minorities, etc.), how many credits of high school science you should have if wanting to go to a university, etc. The concepts should stem from what the counselor believes are gaps in the students' knowledge about careers.
- Using Career Information as a Self-Assessment. If you know in advance one occupation of interest per student, you can use information from O*NET to create self-assessments specific to that occupation. For example:
- Puzzle Me This. For elementary students, you can create large puzzle piece pairs that go together. On one side, you might have the job title and perhaps some pictures (make sure they are representative of various races and genders). On the other side, you might include some brief descriptions of the occupations, using sites previously mentioned, or others such as the What Do You Like site from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Score extra points with teachers by including vocabulary and spelling words in the descriptions. You could Velcro the back of the puzzle pieces so they can be placed on a felt background with "I like this," "I'm not sure" or "I don't like this" columns.
- Other ideas for using career information creatively. If the goal is for students to do more than glance over the information, then you want to tap into their critical thinking skills and engage their higher-ordered thinking. This requires their taking the information that is static and transforming it into something new. Here are some ideas for students:
- create a poem using the career information
- design a poster that demonstrates key activities of the job
- play a mix and match game (give half the students a slip of paper that has an answer on it, such as specific salaries or educational requirements and the other half the occupation or major and have the group try to find their partner)
- crossword puzzles or word finds (you create or have the students create from sites such as http://puzzlemaker.school.discovery.com/ using information as the hints).
Career information doesn't need to be dry and uninspiring. Teaching about career resources can be more than simply saying, "Here's a link for this and a great site for that." It is hoped that the suggestions provided here would serve as springboards for your own inspiration of how to use career information in creative ways.
Debbie Osborn , Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida. Individuals wishing to share additional creative strategies for using career information are encouraged to write. Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.