3 Genuine Career Readiness Conversation Starters for High School Students

When my high school students walked across the stage to get their diplomas, I always wanted them to have an idea of what was coming next in terms of their career readiness and their career aspirations. 

As their time in high school is coming to an end so are the career readiness resources at their disposal. It’s crunch time to teach them what they need to know about future careers or what they need to consider before they move into the “real world.”

Here are 3 conversation starters around career readiness that you can use to talk to the high school students with whom you are working.

1- What are you good at, and what do you like to do?

These are two separate questions that (pair well together and) could provide a lot of insight as you start to notice overlap in a students’ answers. As you talk with students about career readiness, help them see the blind spots that they can’t see themselves. Show them how their talents, their hobbies, and their interests could lend to a career! You have a position of influence as a school counselor to help your students with their path to self-discovery through careers.

2- What jobs can you rule out?

… or can you knock out any types or categories of careers? For example: working solo vs. with a team, working inside vs. outside, working with numbers vs. people.

Even if a student doesn’t know exactly what they want to do, there is still celebration to be had for eliminating things off of a list. It should be considered a win to recognize the characteristics, traits, values, or tasks that don’t align with our gifts or goals.

As a student begins to discover what they do NOT like, they may gain more clarity on what the truly enjoy.

3- Have you taken any career assessments?

What did they find helpful about any career readiness assessments that they’ve taken? What did they learn about themselves? Was there anything that didn’t sit well with them or that they didn’t agree with?

Download this free Career Research Cheat Sheet to explore specific career websites and career assessments. Use this worksheet to allow students to reflect on their outcomes.

Share your story, and invite others to do the same.

It is always helpful for high school students to hear stories of different career pathways. Did you always know what you wanted to do? Did you change your major in college five times?

Make some space at school for teachers, administrators, and staff to share their career pathway stories. Record a video, have staff write and share career advice to students, or have teachers start the conversation in the classroom.

Students need to hear real life examples of different career pathways! It’s more likely that their interest is piqued or their confidence is built because of someone who already has the relational credibility to speak into what they’re thinking and doing.

What is a high school counselor’s responsibility around career readiness for their students?

Ultimately, a student should not feel “less than” or unprepared for graduating high school without knowing what the future has in store for them around careers. It is totally acceptable to graduate high school and head into in “undecided” major, part-time job, or gap year (program). However, we want to prepare them as best as possible around their career READINESS.

Do your students have the knowledge to create their resume and confidently interview for a job? Do they have the soft skills to get a job and keep that job?

Consider incorporating career readiness activities into your high school counseling program this year. You could arrange for stations in a classroom, focus on larger scale classroom lessons, or do small group counseling around career readiness.

Has your school ever hosted a career fair? (If so, what made it fun? What can you do to level it up and make it more engaging next time?) What about a part-time job fair? Do you need to try the whole thing virtually?

Many of your students won’t know what they want to do or they will change what they want to do! (Didn’t this happen to all of us at one point or another?!) Use these conversation starters, activities, and ideas to go deeper with career exploration and career readiness.

Use this free Career Research Cheat Sheet to help your high school students brainstorm, research, and organize their career interests! When you download this planning resource, you’ll also join my Counselor Clique email list for more helpful tips for working with high school students!

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