In 1981, I spent "career day" with a magazine editor at a publishing company in Des Moines. Sitting in on an editorial planning meeting, going to a photo shoot, and just walking the halls of this creative office with its bright artwork and modern sculptures made a big impression on me as a high school junior.
After that, I knew for sure that I wanted to be a journalist.
Job shadowing and internships can help students figure out what they want to do with their lives—or, perhaps, what they don't want to do. In the classroom, they may know what they are good at academically but not necessarily how that translates into a job or if a career in that field is good a match for them.
The emphasis on college- and career-readiness is pushing schools to build stronger partnerships with businesses to offer work experience for students. But, too often, students are hyper-focused on grades and don't make the time to explore the job market firsthand. In my story, Internships Help Students Prepare for the Workplace, students talk about what they learned on the job and experts offer advice on how to help students make the most out of the experience.
Seeing what they are learning applied to the workplace can be motivating for high school students, helping them connect their efforts now with their future. When a student has a career focus early in college, research shows they are more likely to finish. And with the cost of college soaring, there is added incentive for students to sort through career options before they get to campus so they can avoid switching majors and adding time to degree.
Some counselors may say there isn't enough time or money to coordinate work-site experiences. Or, perhaps opportunities are limited in a rural area. Technology is bringing the job-shadowing experience to the classroom.
For schools that want to introduce students to career options but have limited resources, there is VirtualJobShadow.com. For $600 a year, students can view 15-minute videos of 130 different careers, says Kim Celentano, president of Strivven Media, creators of the website. There is an accompanying curriculum that can be used in by counselors to help students explore the various jobs. "We go out of our way to make it as real as possible with real people, at real jobs...from NASA to Fortune 500 companies and we focus on one person," she says.