November is National Career Development Month! This is the third of four articles in our Career Development Month blog series.

Building future readiness skills at a young age plays an important role in helping students develop a successful future. Future readiness skills help students learn how to think critically, problem solve, communicate effectively, collaborate, analyze information, and more. When students master these skills at a young age, they are more prepared for their future work environment. Research tells us that students need to prepare for jobs that don’t even exist, which makes developing these skills that much more important.

Additionally, when students are introduced to career options at a young age, they begin to envision themselves in jobs they may not have previously known existed. This puts students on a trajectory to graduation, college, and a successful future through goal setting and creating a clear pathway.

So how do you help your students develop their future readiness skills? Below are several suggestions on how to take action in your classroom with specific activities and resources that you can use. November is Career Development month and the perfect time to begin helping your students build the foundation for their future aspirations.

How to Take Action: Introduce Activities

Before students can hone into specific skills that they need to develop, they need to be introduced to potential future careers. This can start as early as the elementary years. Guest speakers, videos, books, and field trips are all excellent ways to expose students to varied career options. It’s important to note that the focus should be broad since it’s hard to predict what jobs will exist in the next five to ten years. To help create that awareness, the team at Xello participated in a Xello Career Day Tour, telling the story of how they found their successful future in Tech. Watch it and share it with your students to ignite that curiosity.

As students begin to identify potential career paths, they can focus on developing the specific skills that they will need. For instance, focus on the skills that are critical for scientists or the skills of someone in the arts.

Individual learning plans (ILP) will most effectively help students develop these specific skills, while helping them feel more connected to the material. When learning plans are created to the unique needs and interests of individual students, the students are more invested in the material. Once students are older, they can look for experiences that will continue to build these skills and help them begin to develop their professional resume.

Putting ILP Into Practice

The Regional Office of Education (ROE) 47 in northwest Illinois created an innovative program where students could learn how to become an educator, while earning a career pathway endorsement on their high school diploma. The ROE received a grant that provided 18 high schools with Xello, which was used to help students with their career exploration and monitor their progress. “Students who earn the Education Pathway Endorsement complete high school committed to pursuing education as a career and begin college with advanced experience on their resume,” says Heather Waninger, who helps the high schools implement the program.

Student Activity Ideas

There are a number of activities that can be used to help students develop workplace skills and attitudes, but ones that encourage exploration are especially valuable.

Lesson One: Transferable Skills. This lesson helps students identify soft skills that employers look for and then guides them through assessing their own employability. The lesson can be used in any high school classroom, though it is recommended for 10th grade students.

Begin with a discussion using the following questions to get students thinking about soft skills:

  1. What are soft skills? What skills will benefit my job performance? What skills do you use at school that you’ll also use in the workplace? How are workplace skills like transferable skills?
  2. Have students pick three careers profiles that interest them.
  3. Students will identify the soft skills that are needed in each career.
  4. Students will look for any overlapping skills and record three transferable soft skills.
  5. End the lesson with a discussion. Ask students to share their transferable skills and think about (and share) experiences where they have performed these skills. How do they rate their performance? How might they improve or continue to develop these skills?

Lesson Two: Career Backup Plans. In this lesson, inquiry questions are used to help students explore their own views about the workplace and career backup plans. Millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to switch jobs and even careers more frequently than older generations so it’s important that students consider backup options as they think about their future career aspirations. This lesson is geared for 12th grade students.

  1. Begin this lesson with inquiry questions to explore with students: Do you think there’s only one suitable career for a person? Are there alternate routes to a career? What kinds of obstacles may prevent you from achieving your first-choice career? Can you feel fulfilled in more than one career?
  2. Students will begin by reviewing their saved career choices in their Xello profile and selecting their top career choice.
  3. Students will then list three likes for their top career choice.
  4. Have the students look at a list of similar careers, closely evaluating two that they would consider as a potential backup option. Consider the following questions: Are my skills and interests a good match? How could this career lead me to my dream job? Is this career outlook in higher demand?
  5. Students should end the lesson by writing a reflection on the backup option using the following questions as a guide: What makes this career similar to your top choice? What would be most fulfilling about working in this career? What would you look forward to most if you worked in this career?

Xello Support Resources

Xello provides many resources to support this stage in the career readiness journey, whether it’s planning for a future career, building specific skills, or developing a resume.

The Skills Lab Assessment is an assessment tool that students use to assess 35 skills and critically evaluate how often the skill might be used in their future career. The assessment focuses on skills they would most like to use instead of assessing how good they are at a skill. Help students understand their career matches, or reset them, with this video.

The Goals & Plans tab in Xello is part high school course planner, part organization tool for college applications, and an all-encompassing section for career planning. Students can begin their plan by choosing a career, a university, or a major. When students begin applying to college, they can keep track of their applications, the materials, and deadlines in this section. Check out our educator learning module that provides the information needed to work through this section of Xello.

The Resume Builder feature in Xello helps students build a resume using information that they provided in the About Me section. This learning module shows how to guide students on their path of self-discovery so that they can showcase their talents and achievements in a meaningful way, in the most useful professional document of their budding career–a resume.

Building future readiness skills helps students create educational plans that lead to graduation and successful futures. Educators don’t have to do this work alone. Xello provides many tools and activities that can be used to help students build the necessary skills that will make them successful in their future careers.

Missed our first two articles in our Career Development Month series? Check them out:

Stay tuned as we round out our Career Development Month series with the secret ingredient to keeping Careers education alive beyond the classroom–by engaging families in your college and career readiness efforts.