Exploring Career Opportunities Through Self-Discovery

Lesa Sexton has joined the Workforce team at BGCA, focused on finding ways for Clubs to give youth opportunities to explore their next steps. And she’ll keep bringing those to the ClubX Blog because she’s one of our top tier favorites!

Remember when you were younger and people asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. The most commonly given responses are for professions like doctor, teacher, vet, and professional athlete. But a few unique responses always sneak in. My favorites from this adorable video? Superhero, mermaid doctor, Pokemon trainer, princess fairy zookeeper, and pilot racer dad.

But after reading this article from an organizational psychologist in the New York Times, I no longer think that’s the right question to ask.

The world is changing at a mind-boggling pace, and it’s estimated that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. If that’s the case, then shouldn’t we be encouraging youth to think more broadly about the future? Instead of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which limits answers to careers youth know about and currently exist, why not ask the following:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What is something you would like to change?
  • What difference do you want to make in the world?
  • What problems do you want to solve?
  • What impact do you want to have?
Interested Tonight Show GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Find & Share on GIPHY

As Sheila Boysen discusses in her TED Talk “Change the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we want to encourage youth to envision a career that’s uniquely personal, not one that they have to try to fit themselves into. And that means helping them to explore their passions, strengths, and values and considering ways they could leverage those to have the impact they desire.

National Careers Week (NCW) is March 7-12, so why not use it as an opportunity to engage youth in some self-discovery and expose them to the variety of careers that exist? Here are 4 suggestions for activities you could do to celebrate NCW:

  • Invite youth to explore some of the career videos on MyFuture. Brainstorm a list of other careers they’d be interested in learning about and co-develop a list of questions they might want to ask people with those careers. Then host a career panel featuring individuals with those jobs! 
  • Watch “20 Jobs You Never Knew Existed” and have fun researching other interesting jobs like landscape architect, voice engineer, and sports marketer. Invite youth to consider what skills and education are needed for each job, how someone might gain experience in that line of work, and what personalities align with each career.
  • Facilitate Session 2 of the Teens Take the Lead Service Learning Guide in which youth explore their passions and discover how these contribute to defining who they are as individuals. You could even plan an opportunity for youth to showcase their passions in a talent show or exhibition!
  • Invite youth to match their passions with potential careers in the Career Clusters Framework. Facilitate a discussion about their findings. What careers are they interested in or curious to know more about? How might they explore each potential career field?
Living Lady Gaga GIF by Apple Music - Find & Share on GIPHY

How do you plan to celebrate National Career Week? What are your favorite Teen programs? Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org.

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