Host a Career Day
Ever heard a student whine, “How will I ever use this in the real world?” Let’s show them, by creating a “Career Day,” in which we help students understand the curriculum as it relates to specific, real-life job opportunities and a rewarding future.
Many schools host school-wide career fairs, which are major events and require careful planning. We salute those efforts, and this article includes tips and resources for taking on the challenge. However, even a small-scale, single-classroom career event can change the course of a student’s life, and renew their enthusiasm for education.
Never Too Early
Don’t wait until high school! Children of all ages should be given the opportunity to start thinking about their future. A career day at any age will broaden your students’ perspectives and further motivate them to pursue productive careers.
Ideally your event will offer the authenticity of professionals from the local community. Parents are an obvious resource, but businesses and community leaders are often glad to participate, as well. There may even be community resources to link you with presenters, such as the Connection Resource Bank in Rockville, Maryland.
The best presenters have deep job experience and passion for their work. Their objectives are to provide kids with a relatable link to the real world, hands-on expertise, and concrete examples of how academics relate to future educational and occupational opportunities.
Don’t hesitate to give presenters specific instructions. Ask them to explain how and why they chose their profession, what schooling or training was required, and what academic skills they use in their job. Give them ideas for making their presentation memorable and hands-on. Here are some ideas from Chron.com, as well as a few of our own:
- Law enforcement – arrive with lights flashing and sirens blaring
- Banking – bring a change counter or a stack of $100 bills
- Medicine – bring skeletons or surgical tools
- Radio – air a segment of the event live over the air
- Art/Design – make sketches of the kids or teachers
- Engineering – write computer code on the board; bring mechanical drawings of a project in the works, or a prototype of the product/building you’re designing
Chron also suggested getting a pilot (or airborne news crew) to land a helicopter in the school playground. Might be a challenge, but it would be awesome if you could pull it off!
Tip: Invite twice as many presenters as you need. Many professionals find it difficult to take time off from work.
If presenters are simply unavailable, scale down your event, but don’t abandon it! Find out which careers your students are most interested in, research them, and then prepare your own presentations. Use videos and movies (YouTube can be a great resource!), as well as any hands-on tools available.
General Planning Tips
These guidelines can help you plan a successful career event, for any grade level:
- When scheduling, avoid holidays, test dates and high-stress times.
- Gain participation from as many other teachers/administrators as possible (in addition to multiple presenters).
- Know your audience and target accordingly. Start with a survey to better understand students’ current interests. Help your presenters create presentations that are age-appropriate.
- Cover as many fields as possible. Many of your students don’t truly know what career path they want. Introduce them to new ideas, and think outside the box. Kids are always fascinated by unique jobs.
- Include jobs that may not require four-year degrees. Kids may feel encouraged to know that technical schools and training programs can also lead to rewarding careers.
- For careers requiring college degrees, include information about relevant course work and college majors.
- Stress the basic academic skills that are helpful in almost any career. For example, good grammar goes a long way in business, and is critical in advanced fields like law. Math and science skills are necessary for most of today’s fastest-growing fields, such as high-tech.
- Keep each presentation short – 15 minutes is good. Add in time for Q&A.
- Express a personal interest in the material. Your enthusiasm will be catching.
Want more specifics? Here’s a terrific step-by-step resource for planning your own successful Career Day.
Share your ideas in our comment section. If you have video of a career event at your school, or any supporting materials, we’d love to see those, too! You can submit multimedia of all kinds here.