Check out two research take-home assignments that can provide students real perspective on their future.

As students have become home-bound these days, it’s tough for educators and parents to keep them engaged and help them continue to plan their future.

We, at Xello, are committed to providing educators with lesson plans and activities to ensure future readiness remains a top priority even during these times of disruption.

Here are two take home assignments and a follow-up reflection for middle school to early high school-aged students that will help them take the lead on career exploration & stay engaged with future planning while home-bound. 

Assignment #1: Career Reality Check

Students pick one to three careers that they’d like to pursue. There should be no limit to their choices; professional football player, artificial intelligence engineer, president of Nerf Enterprises… anything goes. The main requirement is that the career exploration has to go deep. 

Students should attempt to understand what it means to actually do the job, including answering:

  • How in demand is this career in the marketplace? I.e. how easy/difficult will it be to get a job in the field?
  • What are the core tasks involved with this career? I.e. what kind of tasks does one do on a daily basis?
  • What are the working conditions? I.e. Indoors/outdoors? How many hours a week does one typically work? Do you work alone or as part of a team? Do you manage other people or take orders from a supervisor? 
  • What “soft skills” are helpful for this role, i.e. communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, etc.?
  • Is travel required? How often? Where?
  • What is the starting salary? What is considered the peak salary for an experienced person in this role?

Once they understand the end result, students should work backwards to determine the post-secondary pathway to get there, including:

  • What post-secondary studies are required to get a job in this field? I.e. does it require a degree, diploma, apprenticeship, etc.?
  • How long does it take to complete the education that qualifies you for this career?
  • Find five schools that offer the type of study required for the career.
  • Estimate the overall cost of the education/training.

Then it’s time to pull back even further to help students determine what they can do in high school to prepare for this career, including:

  • Are there speciality programs in high schools that would increase the chances of getting into a post-secondary school of their choice?
  • What are the required high school subjects to get into an appropriate post-secondary program?
  • What kind of grades are generally needed to gain admittance?
  • Are there extracurricular activities that would help your application get noticed?

This is a lot of information for students to uncover. Encourage students to use multiple resources, such as:

  • High-quality EdTech programs that offer detailed information about careers and the related post-secondary pathways. Some even provide photos, videos, and interviews with male and female professionals to offer even more insight into what it’s like to be on the job.
  • Professional associations are a good place to find people or organizations who can provide more information about a particular career. Students may interview someone (over the phone) who’s been in the business for awhile.
  • College and university websites.

Assignment #2: Passions Project

After they’ve completed assignment #1, students may be more pumped than ever to pursue a particular career—or the wind may have been knocked out of their sails as they realize it might not be a good fit. Either way, the reality check continues. 

Now it’s time for students to take a deep dive within so they can identify their passions, skills, and preferences. Ask students to think about their strengths, challenges, and interests without connecting them to a post-secondary pathway or career they might match.

Things they might explore include:

  • What kinds of things am I good at? I.e. reading/writing, math, science, etc.
  • What kinds of things outside of school am I good at? I.e. Taking care of a younger sibling, playing a sport/musical instrument, organizing get-togethers with friends, etc.
  • How do I love to spend my time? I.e. Solitary activities like reading/watching movies/playing video games/drawing; social activities like being on a team, hanging out with friends, etc.
  • Do I like to be outdoors or indoors more? (Or a blend of both?) 
  • What kind of activities are so absorbing and fulfilling that time passes quickly without my noticing? What is it about these activities that make them feel so enthralling?
  • When I think about my dream job, what is it that makes it feel exciting?

Although this assignment requires more self-exploration than research, there are resources that can help students find what drives them, such as:

  • Excellent EdTech programs that offer personality and learning style quizzes that help students narrow down their strengths and passions.
  • Guidance counselors can also set up online aptitude quizzes that can also do the job, although they tend not to be as current or interactive.

Follow-Up Requirement

Now that students have done the two independent discoveries, it’s time for them to reflect on their findings. Help them draw clear lines between their new self-awareness and the reality of the careers they chose to study.

Questions may include:

  • In assignment #1, did you learn anything about the career path that surprised you? What was it? Does it make you more or less likely to choose that career? Why?
  • In assignment #2, did you learn anything about yourself that surprised you? What was it? Why?
  • Based on assignments #1 and #2, are you suited to the career you thought you wanted to pursue? If so, how? (I.e. which of your strengths, passions make it a good fit?) If not, why not? (I.e. too much solitary work when I’m a social person or vice versa.)
  • Based on what you learned about yourself, what kind of careers do you think you’re suited for? Explain why you think they are a realistic choice. 

The benefits of career exploration that’s rooted in reality allow students to uncover information they can’t foresee. Rather than asking them to plan for a career that may not be a good fit for them, you’re giving them the tools to make important discoveries. 

And the best part is that you’re keeping them productive and on top of their future planning goals as they become accustomed to learning from home. 

Heather Hudson
ABOUT HEATHER

Heather Hudson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and journalist. She specializes in content marketing, corporate storytelling and good old-fashioned journalism. You can read some of her work in The Toronto Star and learn more about her at heatherhudson.ca.