When it comes to career planning, we have good news—bad news situation. That’s why I want to introduce you to a valuable career planning resource.
First, the good news: American students and their families are ambitious. Everyone and their kitten wants to go to college and attain high-skill, high-pay work.
The bad news? According to The Ambitious Generation: America’s Teenagers, Motivated but Directionless, more than half of high school students in the 1990’s didn’t actually know how to get their dream job.
Don’t despair—we’re quickly back in good news territory. Although we have some intractable problems with career planning in the United States, a lack of knowledge is not one of them.
Introducing the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)
You can find it online at www.bls.gov/ooh/. Published by the US government, it’s an excellent career planning resource. You can use the information to align your student’s ambition with her education.
In the upper right corner of the OOH screen, enter the title of the job that has caught your child’s fancy. Or ask her to do so. You’ll be linked to a page that shows a summary of relevant information for that occupation. You’ll see tabs about income, future demand, and the recommended educational pathway.
Let’s say your daughter loves animals. So she thinks she wants to become an animal doctor. On the snapshot info for veterinarian, she’ll learn that a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree requires four years of formal education after a Bachelor’s. That means she needs to take the right courses in high school, which will prepare her to go to an appropriate college. Once in college, she must get good grades, especially in her science courses. Then she needs to gain admission to a college of veterinary medicine.
In other words, a student needs to plan backward.
From the job she eventually wants, she must plan backward to the courses she needs to take now. Her school counselor can tell her what courses and colleges will meet her goals.
But what if your child is not thrilled about the prospect of studying for eight more years after high school, just so she can work with animals?
Return to the OOH page for veterinarian. Find the tab called Similar Occupations. There she will learn that she could instead become a zoologist, which requires a four-year BS degree. Or she could consider becoming a veterinary technologist (also known as an animal nurse), a job that requires a two-year associate’s degree. Or she could aim for veterinary assistant, if she wants to get to work right after high school.
Perhaps, after learning more about what a veterinarian actually does on the job, she may decide that what she really wants is not a career working with animals but her very own puppy.
Actually, that’s progress!
Well, except for leaving open the question of how she’ll earn her living. Again, the OOH career planning resource can prove useful. Now your child might visit the Career Exploration page, designed for K-12 students. The information is set up to help her discover a variety of appealing occupations.
Here’s the last bit of good news:
It’s not so important that your student keeps her first career goal. What is important is that she knows exactly how to prepare for her choice, no matter how many times it changes. That way she can make realistic plans that will help her stay motivated, use her time and money wisely, and eventually attain her dream job.