Organize a Job Shadow Visit
The best way to learn about a job is to try it out or watch someone performing it in person. Ask your child to come up with a list of careers they might be interested in having someday. Then, find someone in your community who has that job and ask if your child can come watch them do their job for even 30 minutes and ask them questions.
An excellent way to expose children to different jobs is to introduce them to people who have jobs they’ve never heard about. A fun way to do this is for two parents with different jobs to swap kids for a few hours or even a whole day. Each parent will take the other’s child with them to work and introduce them to what they do. Encourage the kids to ask questions and be frank and open with your answers.
What surprised you most about the job? What part was the most interesting to you? What part seemed unappealing or boring to you? Will you keep this job on your list of possibilities? Why or why not?
Meet the Chef
Go to a sit-down restaurant and spend time scouring the menu for foods your child has never tried before. Then, order and enjoy the meal. After you’ve eaten, ask your waiter if you can give your compliments to the chef. When he or she comes to your table, ask them if they have a few minutes to tell you about how they learned their craft and if they invented any of the items on the menu. (Be sure to check first whether your child is willing to ask questions.) Tip: This probably will work best at a locally owned establishment.
Some kids won’t be comfortable talking with an adult they don’t know, so if they’re too embarrassed, take the lead and let them just listen to your conversation.
Ask the chef if he or she can give you a tour of their kitchen. If that moment is inappropriate, ask if you can call to set up an appointment to visit on another day.
What surprised you the most about how the chef learned his/her job? What seemed the most fun about what they do? What part of being a chef do you think would get boring or hard?
Go on a College Tour
You don’t have to be a high school senior to ask to take a tour of a technical or community college — even many top universities will allow you to come for a visit if you schedule ahead of time. Request a tour of a campus or even a specific department and learn what programs, laboratories and equipment the school has. Also, many colleges have an annual open house event when the public can come in and participate in fun campus-related activities.
Pick a field your child is interested in studying. Research institutions in your area that offer training in that field. Prepare a list of questions you have about related jobs and the training they need. Then, call to see if your family can arrange a tour at those institutions to learn more.
How much does it cost a student to attend this program? Are there scholarships, grants or reimbursement programs that might help them pay to attend this program in the future? What type of salary do their graduates typically make?
Explore Construction Careers
Find a building or road under construction in your community. Staying safely away behind the fence, watch the workers. What kind of building is it? What are they doing to improve the road? What types of equipment do you see? What different types of things do you see people doing? What types of vehicles are in use?
Find a building, road or bridge at the beginning stages of a construction project. Return once a week until the project is done, making notes, drawing pictures or even taking pictures of the progress. Journal about what you and your child see change from week to week. See if you can interview a foreman or supervisor about the project and ask questions your child might have. He or she might invite you to take a tour so you can see the site up close and ask questions of the workers. Be sure to wear any protective equipment they ask you to.
Why do you think this building is needed? How long do you think it will take them to complete the project? What types of jobs do you see on the job site? Which job looks the most interesting to you and why?
Visit an Escape Room
Escape rooms are a great way to practice teamwork, puzzle solving, critical thinking and problem solving. Most kids love the feeling of being inside the game. Tip: Before taking your child to an escape room, or before choosing a room to visit, ask the venue what age of child the room is appropriate for. Some have adult content or are too challenging for younger kids.
After completing an escape room, ask the business owner about how they went about designing and building the experience. How did they come up with the idea? Find the props? Test the concept? Was this their first experience at designing a game or are they an experienced pro? How did they get inspired to start such a business? This will probably work best at a locally owned business rather than a franchise. If the owner is not working at the time you visit, ask if you can call and interview them at a later time.
What did you like best about the room? How did the experience make you feel? If you didn’t escape within the timeframe, would you do it again? What do you wish you’d done differently?
Create a Community Job Hunt
Drive around town and see how many people with specific jobs you can find in your community. Make it a game by dividing up into groups and seeing which group can find the most people to sign off on their sheet in a set length of time. HirePaths has this nifty worksheet you can use, or you can make your own and customize it for your community. Or, see how many people in different jobs you can take selfies with in one day. Be sure you ask before taking a stranger’s photo!
Here are some jobs you could put in your hunt.
- HVAC technician
- Automotive detailer
- Retail salesperson
- Personal banker
- A physician
- Nurse practitioner
- Physical therapist
- Registered nurse
- Radiology technician
- Cement mason
- Network administrator
- Network analyst
- Police officer
- Fire fighter
- EMT or paramedic
- Animal caretaker
- City manager
- School principal
- School superintendent
- Administrative assistant
- Construction laborer
See if the people you meet will spend a few minutes telling you about their job and how they got started.
What job was the easiest to find? Which was the hardest? Which looked like the most fun?
Take a Tour
Your city probably has several large employers that employ people from many different types of occupations — hospitals, schools, colleges, factories, military bases, correctional facilities, department or grocery stores, water treatment plant, or construction companies. Often these are facilities the general public doesn’t get access to, and sometimes they can have a veil of mystery to them. See if you can arrange for your family, group or even your child’s class to take a tour. Ask the guide to talk about the different types of jobs the company offers and what kind of training those positions require to get started.
Look up the business prior to the tour to learn more about what they do, who they serve, who their competitors are, what types of products they make or services they offer, and whether they’re located only in your community or in other cities across the state, nation or world. Put together a list of questions to ask while you’re on your tour.
When did the company get started? Is it owned by a person, family, small group of people or shareholders? What goods do they sell or services do they offer?
Be a Tourist in Your Hometown
When a visitor comes to your town, where do people suggest they visit? Go to such local attractions and see what kinds of tourism and hospitality-related jobs you find. Don’t forget hotels, restaurants, event centers, museums, historical sites, parks, zoos, concert halls, agritourism venues, shopping districts and sports arenas.
Spend time researching attractions online and pick up brochures at your local Convention and Visitors Bureau or visitor’s center. For each, think about what kind of jobs you predict they’ll offer, then see if you find people in those roles when you visit. Also think about the behind-the-scenes jobs such as marketing, bookkeeping, custodial, food service and maintenance.
Which was your favorite attraction? What could they do to make the attraction even better? If you were a tourist, would you want to stop at that venue? Which attraction would be a fun place to work and why? What are some jobs you saw related to tourism?
Volunteering is a great way to get practical work experience — especially for pre-teens who aren’t quite old enough to get a real job. As a volunteer, you have to show up on time, be professional, work with the public, dress work-appropriately, answer questions and follow directions from a supervisor.
Talk with nonprofits in your community about opportunities for your tween or teen to serve. Libraries, after-school programs, senior centers, food pantries, churches, museums and hospitals often have formal volunteer programs that have positions young people can fill. Many community events — races, festivals, performances — have volunteer roles as well. Your child’s school may also have programs and honors that reward community volunteering.
After your child volunteers for a while, start talking about whether the type of work is something they’d be interested in doing for a job someday. There are lots of opportunities to serve the community through public service and nonprofit professions. Suggest your child talk with their supervisor about job opportunities they might even be eligible for later in high school.
What skills have you learned when working at your volunteer job? What’s the hardest part of what you do as a volunteer? What do you like the most?
Visit an Airport
Go to an airport and find a comfortable bench to watch buses, planes, trucks and other vehicles coming and going. Note the different jobs you see around these vehicles — people buying and selling tickets, checking in luggage, moving luggage, helping transport people to and from locations, working in security, loading passengers, working in food service and carrying out custodial duties. Then there’s the flight crew and those who actually fly the plane, serve the passengers and make sure the plane takes off and lands safely.
Make this a game by seeing how many different jobs you can each identify. This activity could also work for other types of transportation hubs such as subway or train stations, bus stations or shipping ports. It could even be worked into your next vacation!
Airports are great places to people-watch. While sitting with your child, quietly challenge them to imagine what types of work different travelers might do for a living. Look for clues in the items people are carrying or work they’re doing while they’re waiting to board. The woman talking on her phone and carrying a long plastic tube? She could be an architect zipping to London to solve a problem with a building she designed. What other types of careers can you imagine for the travelers you see?
Do you think you’d like working in an airport? What jobs in an airport might be fun? Which jobs seemed hard? Which jobs seemed stressful?
See Agriculture in Action
Many city kids have no idea where their food comes from. Just going for a drive in the summer months and trying to identify crops growing in farmer’s fields and animals on ranches is an easy way to start having this conversation. Kansas has many small agritourism businesses you can also visit the to get a firsthand look at farm operations.
Visiting farmers markets is a way to see fresh produce, meat and other products and meet the people who do the work to raise your food. Before you go to a market, brainstorm a few questions your child could ask the business owners there. You could even ask if they offer tours so you can see a small farm in action.
Having such agricultural experiences with your child is a great way to talk about different careers related to food production. Here’s a blog that outlines many different jobs in agriculture and food production. Here’s a blog that outlines many different jobs in agriculture and food production
What surprised you about learning where our food comes from? Do you know what foods we make from the crops we saw growing in the fields? What seems hard about growing food?
Shop for a Thing
The next time your family needs to make a major purchase — such as a car or appliance — involve your kid in the process:
- Brainstorm a list of features you want the new item to have.
- Talk about an acceptable budget.
- Develop a list of questions you want answered. Don’t forget to ask about maintenance, repairs and supplies.
- Go to a store (or several) that sells the item. Work with a salesperson and ask him or her your questions. (If your kid is confident enough, have them ask the questions.)
- If possible, try out the models you are considering through a demonstration or test drive.
- Make a pro and con list with your child about your finalists. Find out if there are other accessories, insurance policies or add-ons that will impact your final budget.
While you are working with the salesperson, ask him or her about their job. How did they get into sales? What training have they gone through to learn about the products they sale? What do they like and don’t like about working in sales?
What did you like about helping do the research for this purchase? What did you think of the salesperson? Did they seem knowledgeable about the products they were selling? How could he or she have done their job better? What were they good at? Were you glad about what we bought?
Do a Ride-Along
Lots of professionals spend time in their vehicles moving between people they serve including firefighters, paramedics, repair workers or even delivery drivers. Some people in these careers might be willing to let your child (and you, too, for safety reasons) ride along for a few hours to see what their job is like.
Have your child research the profession before their ride-along and come prepared with questions to ask: How did you get your training for your job? What do you like best about your work? What do people misunderstand about what you do? What types of technologies help you in your work?
What surprised you about the ride-along? Was it what you expected? Did the job seem more interesting to you now that you watched a person in action?
Ask to Talk to a Manager
Next time you’re in a store or restaurant with your child, ask if you can speak to the manager. Ask him/her some questions about what it’s like to be a manager: What’s the hardest part of working with employees? What do you look for when hiring employees? Do you like training new employees? How do you handle conflicts between employees and customers? What advice do you have for a young person trying to get their first job?
If the manager seems to have time to chat, ask them how they got started in their job. What kind of training had they had before they started working there? What job were they first hired for? What type of training did they get when they were promoted into management? What do they want to do next?
Have you ever been a leader of a team? What’s hard about being a leader? What do you think you’d like about being a manager someday?
Check out the Tech!
Nearly every business today uses computer technology. As you go about daily life, point out all of the different types of computer-based technologies you see, for example, in your car, at the salon, in the doctor’s office, at the grocery store or in the auto repair shop. See how many different types of computer-powered devices you can spot over the course of a day. Talk to the people you interact with at various businesses about who installs, troubleshoots and fixes their technology when things go wrong.
Ask some of the businesses you work with who helps take care of their computers. Do they employ an IT professional? Or do they outsource tech support? Do they do their own maintenance and upgrades? If your child seems interested in an IT career, you might ask for referrals to good IT companies in your area and see if you can find one who’d be willing to let your child job shadow sometime.
Do you like working with computers? What do you like about it? Do you like solving problems? Do you think you’d like an IT job someday — why or why not?
Learn About GPS
A lot of devices in the world use Global Positioning Systems to help people find their way on land, on the sea, and even in the air. (Watch the Cool Careers video about an Electrical Process Engineer to learn more!) Using a map application on a smartphone, teach your child how to enter a location and follow along as you walk or drive there. Note how the device will predict how long it will take you to travel using various means.
Using a GPS device, go to a park, college campus or another walkable area, then find a destination to walk to and let your child see if they can guide you there using the device. Keep track as to whether the device is correct on how long it will take you to arrive!
What kinds of jobs do you think benefit from GPS technologies? Isn’t it amazing that this device is communicating with a satellite above the Earth and keeping track of our progress?
Learn Who Works at City Hall
There are many types of local government jobs, which have a great impact on lives every day. Call your mayor or city manager’s office and ask if you can take a tour of City Hall. While you’re there, ask the different people you meet what they do, how they got started in their jobs and what type of training they needed.
Learn more about how your city operates! Spend some time on your city’s website and see if you can find out what kind of local government structure you have. Is your city managed by elected officials or professional staff? What services does your city provide to homes and businesses, and what is offered by private businesses? Where does your city get its water from? Where is its electricity generated? Where does your local trash go after it’s picked up at the curb? Does your city run a recycling program? Who fixes your roads? If you can’t find these answers online, see if someone in City Hall can help!
Did you know a city employs so many people in different professions? What city jobs seem interesting to you? What surprised you that you learned as you studied jobs at City Hall?
Interview a Shop Owner
Many people dream of starting their own small retail business, like a bookstore or a clothing boutique. But owning a small retail business is a lot of work! Find someone who started their own store and ask if you can come to their business to interview them about how they got started, and what they like and don’t like about being self-employed in a small retail business.
Ask the shop owner if your child can spend a day job shadowing or helping in the store. You’ll be surprised how many different tasks a store owner does in a single day!
If you were given the opportunity to open your own store, what kind of business would it be? Where do you think you’d find the products that you sell? Who would you want to sell your products to? What tools would you use to advertise what you sell?