An Educator’s Guide to Student Career Exploration

Kai Frazier
November 8, 2022

Many of us remember our own introduction to student career exploration. Likely held in our classroom, career days were the opportunity to invite professional family members to share their careers, their responsibilities, and what they encounter in their day-to-day experience. 

On these career days at school, we could expect to meet a variety of folks with fascinating careers—all while our classmates beamed with pride at their uncle, the firefighter or their mom, the attorney. 

Career days gave a lasting impression on young students. Suddenly, the chemist who described in great detail how her vaccines were saving lives convinced every student in the classroom that they can be chemists, too.

It’s a day where students first take a peek into the possibilities that their futures can hold. 

At Kai XR, we are a group of educators, dreamers, and technologists working together to build a future of education to inspire the next generation of innovators. Our mission is to bridge the gap between technology and access, while empowering students to explore their world and build the future they want to see. 

Why is Student Career Exploration Important in Early Education?

Early career exploration for young students is not about picking a career and setting forth on that path. Rather, especially for elementary school-aged students, formative career exploration is more about engaging with themselves than with a laser-focused career goal. 

Advantages of Student Career Exploration for Younger Students

  • Early career exploration allows students to engage in self-discovery. 
  • Early career exploration allows students to learn more about the world around them and how it works. 
  • Early career exploration encourages students to develop interest in the careers of their family members, neighbors, and adult professionals that they encounter (i.e. educators, firefighters, nurses, doctors) 
  • Early career exploration gives a young student some of their formative dreams, goals, and aspirations. 

While children don’t enter the more complex thinking about careers until adolescence, according to studies by Stanford Children’s Health, younger students begin abstract thinking about their potential future careers as young as age six. 

Career development theorist Eili Ginzberg describes three critical stages of career thinking during a child’s career as fantasy, tentative, and realistic thinking: 

Three Stages of the Career Choice Process 

  1. Fantasy: Beginning as early as pre-K or kindergarten, this is often a young child’s first aspirational dream based on the occupations or characters they know and love. An example can be a young child aspiring to be a pirate or a mermaid. 
  2. Tentative: This stage is where students explore career choices that align with their interests, skills, and values. This stage begins around fifth grade. 
  3. Realistic: At the end of adolescence, typically in high school, students enter the realistic phase of career choice. This is where students begin to focus on their skills and interests, and where they start to focus on the career choices they are readying themselves to make. 

If “realistic” career thinking isn’t actually happening until high school, then why is it important to keep career awareness alive all throughout a child’s education? There are a variety of reasons that early career exploration is important to young learners. 

Early Career Exploration Encourages Career Awareness

Career exploration increases career awareness in young students, which encourages students to research, evaluate and learn about current and emerging work opportunities as they process through school. 

According to Applied Educational Systems, there are four critical stages of career exploration that allow a student to meaningfully explore possible careers. 

Four Stages of Career Exploration 

  1. Research: This describes the introduction to a type of career. Students select job titles that sound appealing, and they research them through books, guest lectures, and VR field trips. 
  2. Evaluation: This describes the empowerment phase, where students analyze their research and findings so far. Here, they can choose to get a deeper understanding of their career option to decide if it still interests them. 
  3. Discussion: This describes an important stage, especially in the classroom. Students can share and discuss what they’ve learned, how they feel about these careers, and any related career they also might be interested in pursuing. 
  4. Decision: This describes the step where a student decides what career they would like to pursue further. 

These stages of career exploration can happen over and over in a single student’s life. While a student might “decide” to be a chemical engineer at age 12, they can easily re-enter their own career exploration months later to decide on another career. 

Career Exploration for Students Expands Opportunities for All Students 

As the digital divide in education narrows, and more students are exposed to STEAM subjects, students who may otherwise have been blocked from new and emerging career pathways can access them early. 

Career exploration prepares all students with a diverse understanding of all skills and knowledge needed to live and work in the jobs of today and tomorrow. Because the job market is continuously changing and evolving, learners need to be flexible, courier, and creative thinking. 

By introducing career exploration alongside lesson plans, educators are pushing students to explore how their own passions and interests can be applied to emerging jobs. With career awareness, young students interested in STEAM can begin to engineer future solutions to future problems. 

A great way to introduce early career exploration, especially in STEM and STEAM, is through technology tools and digital learning. Tech tools in the classroom have been proven to increase a student’s motivation to read and stay more engaged in lessons. With the addition of VR learning, students can immerse themselves in their learning. 

Virtual field trips and lessons allow students to immerse themselves in the lesson. Learners can explore concepts and potential career paths step by step with Kai XR’s virtual field trips and courses. 

How to Begin Exploring Potential Careers With Your Students

There are multiple ways to start student career exploration in young students, and increase career awareness as they progress through their education, high school, and beyond. 

At Kai XR, we’ve compiled how you can help students discover potential careers. Here are some ways schools and educators can expand beyond four walls to allow learners to identify, research, analyze, and discuss career pathways suited for their growing skills and passions:

  1. Encourage students to explore their best skills
  2. Help challenge students to face their weaknesses and fears
  3. Invite students to explore interests and hobbies
  4. Explore how even “non-academic” talents can apply to a future career
  5. Empower students to find mentors in their community
  6. Invite students to work together as a team to discover hidden talents
  7. Prepare students for future careers by following emerging paths
  8. Challenge students to keep an open mind about changing their career paths
  9. Allow students to imagine themselves as anything

Encourage Students to Explore Their Best Skills 

Once a student gets to the research stage of their career, it opens a world of options, skills, and competencies to learn. For a motivated student, there will be a long list of to-dos, follow-up questions, and exciting after-school activities to work towards their big career goal. 

Career exploration encourages students to find a passion and to take the steps to transform it into reality. Aided by digital lesson plans, students can dive deeper into subjects related to their career with VR. They can visit related places, build plans in digital makerspaces, and imagine themselves excelling in their future career as they build their skill sets. 

Help to Challenge Students to Face Their Weaknesses or Fears

Early career exploration also allows children to explore their weaknesses or fears, and to work towards assuaging fears that present as roadblocks to their success. 

For example, imagine a student who is passionate about the ocean and has expressed an interest in a career in Ocean Conservation.

However, this student is afraid of swimming and water. While as an educator you may have the resources to conduct swimming classes in your third grade classroom, you can take this student to explore the ocean floor, on Kai XR’s under the sea virtual field trip.

Virtual reality and augmented reality learning are great ways for students to explore and face some of their fears and hesitations that might come alongside their own career dream. 

Invite Students to Explore Interests and Hobbies 

With a classroom of twenty children, it can feel difficult for an educator to adequately explore every student’s career dream. That’s precisely why it’s so important to start exploring early, and to find creative ways to include career awareness in lesson plans.

What if each student had the chance to visit “their future workplace” regardless of where the classroom stands?

With VR, an educator can send all aspiring politicians on a virtual field trip to The White House to be in the place where so much history has occurred, 

Explore How Even “Non-Academic” Talents Can Apply to a Future Career 

Of course, the classroom is for academics, but academics are more than books, pencil, and paper. 

By inviting students to explore a potential career option (or options!) for their future, educators are also allowing learners to examine other strengths, skills, and competencies required. 

Elementary school is also the perfect time to introduce and develop social emotional skills that will be key to building a successful future. 

Social emotional skills include: 

  • Emotional regulation and self-regulation
  • Social awareness
  • Managing confrontation
  • Admitting mistakes 
  • Honesty
  • Decision-making

There are many creative ways to explore the social and emotional skills needed to excel in their future workplace. 

A few ways to further engage students in social and emotional learning: 

Empower Students to Find Mentors in Their Community

Student career exploration also allows young people to take an interest in the careers of those around them, including their parents, extended family, and acquaintances.

Educators can further encourage students to explore careers of those they live near and admire by urging them to ask questions.

Here’s a career exploration example. Imagine a student who wants to become a physician, just like one of their parents. They can ask a series of questions to explore their own parent’s path to their current career. 

Questions to Ask An Admired Professional: 

  • Did you always know you wanted to become a doctor?
  • What did you want to be before you wanted to be a doctor?
  • What is your first memory that made you think you definitely want to become a doctor?
  • What three 21st century skills do you think every doctor must possess?
  • If you weren’t a doctor, what would be your dream career? 

Asking questions will also show a student that career awareness and career exploration doesn’t need to be a single line to one career. It shows a student that there are a world of options to explore.

Explore, Analyze, and Solve Skills Gaps

Along with developing their skills, facing their fears, and speaking with admired professionals, career exploration allows a student to self-reflect. 

As some students maneuver their career research, they might find that the career they loved isn’t actually what they thought it was, after all. In these cases, students can find a career in the same industry that better suits their skills and interests. In other cases, students might see an opportunity to learn real skills to make the career more feasible.

Students can use digital learning and Career and Technical Education (CTE) to prepare themselves for success in the workforce. Career and Technical Education skills are the competencies required for success in a particular field or occupation, including soft skills like communication and problem-solving.

Invite Students to Work Together as a Team to Discover Hidden Talents 

Just like social and emotional skills are necessary for the workforce, so is teamwork. Even the most dedicated entrepreneur will need to know how to collaborate to achieve a goal or outcome. 

Educators looking to prioritize student career exploration are preparing them for the future of work, where new jobs are created every year. 

Utilizing makerspaces in the classroom and allowing students to work cooperatively on projects are great ways to explore how teams work together to tinker, innovate, and create.

There are a variety of makerspace ideas for any classroom that empower students to work on skills related to a growing number of careers. Makerspaces can be customized to include concepts in engineering, publishing, and even fashion design.  

Prepare Students for Future Careers by Following Emerging Paths

Career exploration for students gives a head start on future careers by laying the foundational skills, increasing a working knowledge base, and allowing a student to bring innovative and creative ideas to their future career. 

For example, the young students with a basic knowledge of the metaverse in 2023 will be the experts come 2040, when they have grown up and learned about every iteration, every change, and every thought leader to operate within the metaverse.

Once it comes time for these students to find their own metaverse career, they are well-versed and more than well-prepared. 

Career development for students is especially important in emerging and innovative fields. 

Challenge Students to Keep an Open Mind About Changing Their Career Paths 

No career path is singular. People change jobs and industries throughout their careers. 

Rather than pushing students to one career due to reliability, availability, or earning potential, career awareness asks students to open themselves up to a world of options, where many of the most lucrative future careers haven’t even been named yet!

For example, students interested in VR and the metaverse are likely to see a world of job opportunities come available in the next twenty years. Due to the metaverse’s dependence on technology, a world of metaverse careers in 3D graphics, animation, programming, and storytelling are guaranteed. 

Allow Students to Imagine Themselves as Anything 

Using a combination of research, critical thinking, and some help from VR, a student can dream themselves into any future career. Using VR, they spend the day swimming in the ocean or exploring outer space like their idols. 

The best part of early career exploration for students is that it allows them to research, analyze, think critically, ask deep questions, and consider their future career, all without ever having to abandon the first step of career exploration, the fantasy phase.

Invite your students to imagine themselves as a world-class architect, a renowned painter, or a world-changing biochemist. With enthusiasm, self-exploration, and access to a world of virtual reality-powered learning, there is no job description too daunting for the students of today. 

Get Started With Kai XR Today!

If you're an educator, starting your students’ career exploration has never been easier or more accessible. 

Getting started with Kai XR is easy.  All you need is an account. Once you have an account, you can create a class and add students. From here, your students can explore a world far beyond their classroom to explore places, spaces, and times they may have never seen. 

There's no need to download or install anything - Kai XR will work with any compatible VR headset

We offer a free trial, so you can explore all the features and benefits of our platform before committing to a subscription. 

So why wait? Click here to get started and see how Kai XR can transform your classroom!

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In memory of my sunshine, Ky(ra) G. Frazier. Love you to the moon and back.