Career literacy empowers students to be active agents in their future planning

By: Hoda Kilani

Have we as adults accepted that students can be active agents in their career planning?

I wrote a paper recently in CJCD (Canadian Journal of Career Development) that aims to reinforce the value of this thinking and to support caring adults who are willing to give students a chance to become active agents in their career planning. Career theorists emphasize that around the ages of 14 to 15, students start the Stage of  Exploration (Super, 1980) or the stage of Conscious Circumscription (Gottfredson, 2002). However, starting the Stage of Exploration without adult support can lead students to discount their dreams due to beliefs that they may lack the intellect or ability to pursue them. Conscious Circumscription means that students will start to limit their future possible career to roles that are within their social entity rather than engaging in making their dream a reality. It is therefore important that we start career discussions as early as possible and engage students before they let go of their dreams.

In my paper, I introduce the idea of a project that I want to call Career Literacy Project. While I did not coin the term career literacy, I would like to see this term trending in my push to brand career knowledge as a requisite in the K-12 education system. Career literacy can have many definitions depending on your perspective. For me, it is all about instilling a knowledge of career strategies and resources along with a commitment to a lifetime of career management.

A career literacy exercise

Instilling knowledge involves exposing students to learning tasks that follow the principles of career literacy. This includes creating career visions, generating career goals and, most importantly, initiating the building of education-career portfolios featuring resumes, cover letters and any accomplishments or awards. Having access to these portfolio materials will facilitate academic/career decisions.

Here is a sample exercise that educators and career professionals can use with students to start building students’ career literacy and self-knowledge.

Discover your BEAVI© is a simple self-assessment chart that I created and detailed in my article. Its purpose is to facilitate the designing of students’ BEAVI:

  • Beliefs
  • Experiences
  • Abilities
  • Values
  • Interests

Discover your BEAVI© is a tool that facilitates the self-reflection necessary for initiating career discussions . Caring adults can use this tool to help students discover what motivates them to act and work in their day to day activities.

Here’s how it works:

Students are expected to fill out the chart on their own using instructions provided on a worksheet (see below). They proceed to unravel the value of these five factors through powerful questioning that raises awareness, stimulates reflection and provides in-depth insight into students’ values. A Discover your BEAVI© result underscores each student’s unique values and helps them begin the journey of self-knowledge. Other tasks are included in the published paper and can be used to build on self-assessment results to initiate career conversations and launch awareness of the value of career planning.

Caring adults can suggest that students monitor their daily activities for a few days before filling out the chart. Instructions and questions provided are meant as guidelines for those students to reflect on if they feel unable to fill out the chart. The expectation is therefore not to answer the questions but to use them as prompts if needed to fill out the BEAVI© chart.

What may seem as a value to you as a caring adult can be a belief to a student. They need to be defined by the student, as in some people may view kindness as a belief whereas others may view it as a value (see sample chart). What matters is that students use their own understanding of these terms to fill out the chart. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that there is no right or wrong answer, as this will allow students to define their responses and build on their reflections as they unravel possible career options. The focus is therefore is on the students’ answers and not on where each word is placed.

Career Self-Assessment Chart – Discover your BEAVI©

Worksheet instructions: Self-assessment plays an important role in helping you discover what is most important to you. Your task is to focus on what you can do and choose the category that you think is a best fit. As you explore your self-assessment chart, think about your everyday behaviour. The questions below are provided to help you create your chart. There is no right or wrong answer. You do not need to answer the questions, they are provided to help you fill the chart.

  • What are the first words that come to mind when describing yourself?
  • What do you consider to be your two or three most outstanding accomplishments from the past three or four years? Why did you select these as most important?
  • Reflect on any experiences that you think are reflective of your personality, character, intellectual capacity or passions. Be prepared to talk about your choice.
  • In what area(s) have you shown the most development and growth during the past three or four years?
  • What do you consider to be your most outstanding personality trait?
  • What do you like to do during your free time?

Here is a sample chart filled out by 16-year-old Jane (pseudonym):

Name: Jane1 (Strong)2 (In-between)3 (Weak)
Belief  God
Experience Babysitting
ExperienceCamp Counsellor
InterestHelping others

Will you commit to career education?

Just like mathematics and science, career literacy can be incorporated in the K-12 curriculum. It can be a core subject but it can also be a part of every core subject. For example, a discussion could be initiated in a science class on the various occupations that involve science. This can enhance students’ career knowledge and ignite a commitment to career management. Some schools use “passion projects” to encourage students to choose a topic of interest and dig deeper into it.

The pandemic has made it very difficult for students to be involved in hands-on occupational and vocational experiences in group settings. School is the only place that students are allowed to congregate. I am seeking your support in having the term career literacy trend across social media in an effort to increase career conversations and to include career literacy as a core theme in the K-12 education system. Do you believe that we, as caring adults, can help students be active agents in their career planning?

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