Career Exploration for High School Students: Definitive Guide

Author: Emma Williams
Author: Emma Williams

Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Table of Contents
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Career Exploration for High School Students is becoming increasingly popular amongst the students and teachers around the globe.

Even though career opportunities are getting more and more diverse, many students still find it difficult to set career goals and find a proper job, suitable for their natural skills and future objectives.

Everybody wants to choose a fulfilling career path to succeed and become financially independent. But formal education doesn’t always help students to explore their interests, generate creative ideas, and choose reasonable jobs.

Children often graduate without having decided what they want to do for the rest of their lives. However career exploration programs help students to overcome feelings of confusion and uncertainty and encourage them to set realistic goals regarding their future careers. And as studies show, this method actually works!

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of career exploration programs, review ​​the most common activities for career exploration and take a look at the best career exploration tools and websites. In the end, you’ll find out how to choose a meaningful career path according to your skills and goals.

What Is Career Exploration? Meaning

Career exploration can be defined as the process of researching and discovering modern job options, evaluating work opportunities, and gaining insight into potential career paths.

According to Zikic and Klehe (2006), career exploration means “the gathering of information relevant to the progress of one’s career”. Traditionally, the concept of career exploration was considered as one of the stages in the process of professional development (Super, 1957).

What Is Career Exploration – Definition

However, with the evolution of career exploration opportunities, today we have a more complex approach according to which career exploration is not only a single stage of choosing a profession but an integral part of adapting to a rapidly changing work environment.

Indeed, today people of all generations have a lot of opportunities for career exploration which has become a prerequisite for achieving success in the professional field.

By using career exploration tools, people can identify their career preferences, find out which skills are vital for certain jobs, and make effective decisions about their future.

Why Is Career Exploration Important for Students?

Career exploration is one of the most efficient ways for students to identify their aspirations, choose suitable career paths and achieve success. Many students feel uncertain about their lives after finishing school.

The reason is that school courses are rarely focused on the individual and their personal aims and goals. In many countries, public schools aren’t focused on preparing schoolchildren for their future professional lives.

As a result, students often lack awareness about real career opportunities and don’t understand which skills are needed for their dream jobs. They don’t know how to find a job, how to adapt to the workplace, which job contains a satisfying salary range or rewarding activities to grow professionally.

That’s why career exploration is important. Worldwide practice proves that it’s not only beneficial but sometimes even a vital process for students to prepare for real life. Career exploration experiences help students to take a look at the work industry and get more familiar with their interests.

Understanding the working environment allows them to find a fulfilling job which leads to higher work performance, improved engagement, and commitment.

Why Is Career Exploration Important for Students

Besides higher chances to achieve success in the professional path, studies suggest that having certain career goals raises students’ self-esteem, satisfaction, and overall psychological well-being (Chiu, 1990; Baumeister et al., 2003).

All these positive effects are connected to improved social-emotional learning skills, more efficient problem-solving, and consequently, better work performance.

Students experience the most critical years after finishing school. And since the current education system doesn’t allow them to have a clear idea about career paths and prepare for the future, starting to work on career exploration for students immediately after finishing school has become optimal.

In that way, they will prevent possible failures and develop actual job ideas to support their future.

What are Career Exploration Activities for Students?

After understanding the importance of career exploration for all generations, and reviewing its tools and resources, it’s important to note that career exploration is much more than being aware of its basic principles.

In fact, the process of career exploration consists of various activities that tend to be very interesting for either elementary, middle school or university students.

Career exploration activities allow them to take part in a wide range of extracurricular occupations. This hands-on approach helps them to explore their career opportunities and learn about multiple career options.

What are Career Exploration Activities for Students

Career exploration activities are a proven way to help students get clear insights about their professional future and identify their unique skills and interests.

Below we’ll review these fun activities one by one for elementary, middle school, and university students according to their needs and interests.

Even though these activities are far from traditional education requirements, career experts recommend students to work on those activities daily, either in the classroom, at home, or in their community.

Career Exploration Activities for Elementary Students

Elementary school students are usually focused on developing basic skills such as reading or writing. They are about 6-13-year-old children who have a long path ahead before choosing a career.

Many people believe that thinking about a career is too early for elementary school students. Indeed, students of primary school have a very narrow view of employment. They usually set short-term goals which don’t include future plans.

Career Exploration Activities for Elementary Students

Here are some optional career exploration activities for elementary school students:

Career Days – choose specific days for talking about future career paths. Ask students to reflect on their skills and passions, what they enjoy and what they dream to do in the future. Create posters about various jobs and let students ask questions.

Field Trips – plan extracurricular activities for students, take them out of the classroom environment in places such as zoos, museums, galleries, theatre, etc. Try to choose interesting workplace areas and ask hosts to share information about their jobs and their duties.

Sharing Opinions – ask people of different professions to attend your classes and share stories about their responsibilities at the workplace. This activity will allow children to interact with adults, ask questions and get exact answers about their interests.

Career Exploration Activities for Middle School Students

According to American Student Assistance’s research, having career aspirations increases the likelihood of middle school students achieving their goals.

The reason is that career exploration helps them gain knowledge about their interests, skills, and available pathways.

Teenagers are already aware of the concepts such as career, salary, job, duties, or workplace and therefore because it’s the period where they develop new hobbies and explore new opportunities.

Career Exploration Activities for Middle School Students

Here are optional career activities for middle school students:

Interest questionnaires – middle school students already have the proper skills to take preference questionnaires and explore their interests. Teachers can assist them in taking online surveys about their skills and career goals to see which profession is more suitable for them. This can be the first time when they take such kinds of surveys.

Mentorships – reading books about career opportunities isn’t enough for secondary school students to become aware of their interests. Mentors can provide real-life examples, share their experiences, and answer students’ questions. Spending time with reputable and trusted adults will help them become more ambitious about their future careers.

Giving speeches – invite experienced people who will give your students valuable insights into their career. Let them give a speech about the details of their jobs, how they started, what inspired them and how they became successful. For example, a spokesperson could be a CEO of a local business who would share his or her experience with students.

Presentations – create a hypothetical situation and let students make presentations about their dream jobs. Ask them to gather information about a particular career, related job opportunities, salaries, work conditions, and other details. Students will talk about specific careers out loud and help each other to get clear ideas about their preferences.

Career Exploration Activities for University Students

Many university students still don’t have clear insights into their future careers. Therefore, career exploration activities can be useful to them to identify their preferences and set exact career goals.

Career Exploration Activities for University Students

Here are some of the most efficient career exploration activities for university students:

Internship programs – internship programs for university students are accompanied by plenty of benefits. Specifically, students can gain valuable work experience, find out whether they like this career path or not, and how suitable it is for their skills. Also, they will develop proper skills, become more confident, and prepare for an actual job.

Explore career list – introduce career summary pages with a list of possible job opportunities. Each profession is related to specific career paths and relevant jobs. Help the students imagine themselves doing particular duties and ask them how they feel about it.

Online resources – encourage university students to use online resources. The internet is full of useful resources including career exploration tools, websites, or surveys. The online education community provides interesting ways to help students identify their future profession.

Personality surveys – university students are the exact targets of the personality and career surveys. These instruments are designed to help people identify their personality characteristics and explore their strengths and weaknesses. That way students will have more clear ideas about their workplace skills.

What Are Some Career Exploration Tools?

Nowadays students can easily use an online aptitude tool in order to narrow their career options and determine what jobs are available in their field of interest and whether they are suitable for their current skill.

These tools range from free quizzes and game career exploration activities to self-assessment tools and more serious career planning processes and activities that will help you find the best career option:

HIGH5 is a free strengths test that has helped +2 000 000 people to discover what they are naturally good at.

Work Preference Inventory (WPI) – an online career tool for assessing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, including self-determination, task involvement, curiosity, enjoyment, competence, and interest. According to the test, all these values are necessary for skillset exploration and successful career planning.

Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) – one of the most common personality tests for identifying your personality traits and characteristics. Helps people identify their critical life skills and choose jobs that are compatible with their personality types.

SWOT Analysis – helps people identify 4 dimensions of their personality: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The test is designed for exploring your employment skills and analyzing external factors related to your career choice.

Career Exploration for High School Students – List of Websites for Development Opportunity?

A wide range of career exploration trivia game options isn’t everything for high school students looking for career exploration opportunities.

In fact, there are various high-impact, well-organized career sites for high school students designed to help them explore their skills and develop realistic goals about their professional path.

The websites below will help you gain awareness about career opportunities, organize your schedule, find examples of CVs, templates for motivational letters to apply for jobs, and more.

My Future – an informative website for students and parents about military careers and post-high school planning.

Career Girls Career Quiz – a website focused on women’s empowerment, contains a trivia career quiz for girls based on their personality characteristics.

Career Exploration and Success – virtual resources for creating CVs, templates for cover letters, and tips about career exploration.

Students will Understand the Differences Between a Job and a Career

Even though the new generation has plenty of resources to explore various career paths and choose a job according to their preferences, skills, and personality, many students still feel very unsure about their professional future.

In fact, according to Microsoft’s data, Gen Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) has very uncertain expectations about the workplace.

Specifically, 1 out of 3 participants didn’t know what type of career they needed and 54.5% expected to do a job that doesn’t exist yet. However, considering the development of technologies and the availability of various informative resources about career exploration, choosing a suitable career and seeking a job with an adequate salary range is much easier today.

Therefore, in order to overcome confusion and anxiety, students need to become more tech-friendly and use the full potential of online resources. The first step for this is to understand the differences between a job and a career.

A job can be defined as a short-term position of employment, something people do to earn money and improve their finances. But a career is a path of a certain period of someone’s life that determines your future job experiences and offers an opportunity to progress.

Understanding the importance of exploring your career path instead of choosing a job according to your short-term goals is vital for professional career growth.

Curriculum (CV) for High School Career Explorers

CV or Curriculum Vitae isn’t only a sum of your previous job experiences. It’s a summary of a person’s entire career and qualifications, including education, internships, skills, certifications, and more.

It’s a document that demonstrates your ability to organize your whole experience on a single sheet of paper and introduce yourself professionally.

Therefore, starting to work on Curriculum Vitae is very important in the early years of your career. Even though high schools don’t offer an opportunity to learn how to create a perfect CV or add strengths to a resume, using online career exploration resources is enough to create a Curriculum that will stand out and help you get your dream job.

The most important thing is to enrich your CV with new jobs and achievements from time to time and include all your strengths to prove that you understand the principles of career exploration and are completely dedicated to growing professionally.

Career Exploration For Students FAQ

What is exploring careers in high school?

Exploring careers in high school involves experiencing different work environments and learning about the different job opportunities available to you.

For instance, career exploration could involve going to job fairs, taking online assessments about jobs, reading about careers that interest you, shadowing, or working as an intern.

How do you figure out what you want to do for a career in high school?

It is difficult to commit to a career in high school. However, one way to find out which careers suit you best is to attend job fairs. Talk to employers and employees about why they work in their industry, what type of person excels in their job, and so on.

If a job interests you, try shadowing someone to see if that career is a good fit for you. Becoming an intern for a company that interests you is an even better way to learn about a career.

Why is it important to explore careers in high school?

High school is likely the first time you can explore careers. If you take this opportunity, you will be more informed than your peers.

You will feel more confident about choosing a major, and choosing a college, and feel more stable about your future. Additionally, you will be more experienced than your peers if you choose to shadow someone or become an intern.

What do you do in a career exploration class?

Some high schools offer opportunities for career exploration. In these classes, you will be introduced to a variety of different careers.

Your teacher may discuss what draws a person to each career, which skills are needed, the education needed in the career, and other important elements that you should know about the job.

Overall Conclusion of Career Exploration for High School Students

To sum up, career exploration is a vital process for choosing the right professional path, getting a valuable job, and achieving success. Preparing students for their future lives is an important step for developing a more self-aware, productive, and responsible society.

Plenty of studies about career exploration proved that being informed about their skills, talents, and preferences should be a priority for people of all generations. Consequently, career exploration tools and websites are widely used by students around the world.

With the development of technologies, career exploration tools and activities are becoming more diverse, and accordingly, teachers and professionals continue encouraging students to develop clear aspirations about their professional lives and get involved in the process of career exploration.

Case Studies, Academic, and Research-Based Sources

  • Gati, I., & Asher, I. (2001). The PIC model for career decision making: Prescreening, in-depth exploration, and choice. In F. T. L. Leong & A. Barak (Eds.), Contemporary models in vocational psychology: A volume in honor of Samuel H. Osipow. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  • Savickas, M. L. (2002). Career construction: A developmental theory of vocational behavior. In D. Brown & Associates (Eds.), Career choice and development (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.
  • Krumboltz, J. D., Mitchell, A. M., & Jones, G. B. (1976). A social learning theory of career selection. The Counseling Psychologist, 6(1), 71-81.
  • Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45(1), 79-122.
  • Hartung, P. J., Porfeli, E. J., & Vondracek, F. W. (2008). Career adaptability in childhood. The Career Development Quarterly, 57(1), 63-74.
  • Porfeli, E. J., & Lee, B. (2012). Career development during childhood and adolescence. New Directions for Youth Development, 2012(134), 11-22.
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Emma is a certified strengths and career coach with more than 25 years of international experience in helping individuals and organizations achieve success by nailing and maximizing their unique value propositions. She is an entrepreneur, proud mother and a C-level executive at HIGH5TEST, where she leads its coaching and research programs.

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