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How to run a successful career development workshop

Incorporate these ideas into your own career awareness sessions with students.

How to run a successful career development workshop

Career development is an extensive topic that must be broken down into modules to be successfully delivered to a group of high school students.

A career development workshop can’t be delivered sporadically or very quickly, such as in homerooms or study halls. It should be delivered consistently over time either in a classroom period or after school. 

If you are not one of the lucky schools that has a career development course for students, then this article is for you.

I have found that people assign value to money. If you plan to develop a career workshop for students and offer it after school, on the weekends or in the summer, charge for it! The workshop does not have to be expensive, but if students and parents have to pay up front, then they will show up.

The purpose of the workshop is not to help students choose a lifelong career path at age 16, but to have them understand career development as a whole. These topics should be covered in a successful workshop.

1. Review career development theory

In this class, review the career development theorists, such as Strong, Super, Holland, etc. Before you explain about career development, have the students identify characteristics about work.

I usually have the students understand the importance of career development in their lives. The book Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups identifies this particular activity.

Students are instructed to write down a list of all the activities that they did during the last 24 hours. Then they rate each activity, from “strongly dislike” to “strongly like.” This will help students identify what they are most passionate about.

2. Evaluate self-assessment tools

Time in this class should be spent reviewing skills, values and interests with the group. For example, when reviewing and explaining values, students should choose 10 values from a list. (The Experiential Activities book will help you formulate this list.)

Each student should identify and write their top five values, each on a separate piece of paper.

Next, they should work with a partner to dispose of each value until they reach their number-one value. When disposing of each value, they should explain why that value was important to them and why they are eliminating it from the top position.

After having students do a self-assessment, they should complete an inventory at the end of the session. The results of the inventory should not be explained until later. For high school students, I recommend the Harrington O’Shea or the Strong Interest Inventory, College Edition.

3. Explore

This class will give students the tools they need to conduct research about different careers. They will learn about the effectiveness of networking and interviewing people within their chosen career path.

Throughout the entire course, the students should have to complete homework outside the classroom. This homework should include interviewing family members about their careers, conducting informational interviews with neighbors, friends, and with people who have a career that interests that particular student.

This class should identify ways for students to conduct informational interviews, explain the importance of joining associations and clubs, and should also bring attention to the valuable information on the school’s career Web site.

4. Prepare for decision making or job search

The students should also begin to create a table that identifies all the skills, interests and values that correspond to their particular field of interest. They should also identify barriers that might prevent them from pursing that career. They will compare their self-assessment with the inventory they completed in the beginning of the session. Hopefully the inventory, such as the Harrington O’Shea, will help to validate the students’ assessment of their skills, values and interests.

Finally, the students should complete a mock résumé. On this résumé, they should include their future career path and the job duties associated with that career path. They should also list all the education and activities they will need to obtain the job that they selected. 

The résumé exercise would not only help students understand how to write a résumé, but it would also serve as an action plan for the future. 

Obviously, this is just a high-level glimpse of the components/modules of a productive workshop. Hopefully you will be able to apply these components and create your own successful workshop.

Amy Barth, MSHR, is founder of Transitional Futures, which consults with high schools on redesigning their career development programs and works one-on-one with high school students on choosing their post-secondary paths. She can be reached at [email protected] or through


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