Thinking about desirable future professions and the ability to choose a suitable one is central to young people. Often, they are not aware how these choices impact their economic future and consequently their ability to lead a more dependent or rather independent life. The technique “Exploring Careers“ offers a good introduction to the topic “Career Aspirations — Finding Your Future Profession“. This technique is most suitable for students aged 13 and older; a phase, during which the wish and necessity to think about this topic becomes more prevalent. It has been tested in a gender homogeneous setting with a group of girls, where it led to a lot of interesting questions and discussions.
The technique is suitable for a group with a minimum of four participants.
It can last, depending on the number of careers one wants to discuss, between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours. The facilitator must pay attention that there will be sufficient time to talk about the framework for each career and address important topics such as work-life balance and the compatibility of professional and private life!
This is a get-to-know-each-other technique and an entry technique at the same time. All participants take a seat, either in a circle or in their regular classroom seating order (behind desks). The workshop leaders distribute one card and one writing tool to each person. The moderator asks the participants to note the following four terms on the card:
Once all participants have noted their terms, each person is invited to present their/her/his card. The moderating person writes each career aspiration on the blackboard, a flipchart paper, or a large poster on the wall. The participants are asked whether they know a way or path to each aspired career. This should be formulated openly so that all participants have a chance to answer: “Do you know how you become a lawyer, veterinarian, or kindergarten teacher?“
If the group cannot give a sufficient answer, the trainers must fill this gap and show a clear path for each career, if there exists one. Especially in group settings where career aspirations and current status are far apart — such as young people aspiring to become doctors while being in secondary school which does not lead to the needed matura — it is important to show the career path nonetheless and support youth in their dreams by pointing out the feasibility of any career aspiration. One example from our group: a girl who had to repeat one class and was older than her class peers asked whether it would be embarrassing for a graduate to be one year older. Such a question, clearly, should be answered with “no“.
Guiding questions might be:
Participants are frequently unsettled by the fact whether their career aspirations are achievable, and this holds true for achievable career paths as well as more unrealistic ones. It is important to convey low-threshold strategies and support young people in a realistic implementation of their aspirations. One proven strategy for young people is to meet members of the occupational group they want to become a part of; e.g. if a girl aspires to become a pharmacist, the teacher can invite one to the classroom, or students can conduct an interview with one. This allows students to start a conversation and lessens their inhibitions they might have about a certain career.
“One possibility is to let participants research their desired career paths via a mobile device. This is a good variation either for groups who do not ask a lot of questions or might be shy to ask them and allows participants to get their own picture.”