The career is an individual’s metaphorical “journey“ through learning, work and other aspects of life. There are a number of ways to define Career and the term is used in a variety of ways. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “Career” refers to a personal course or progress through life or a distinct portion of life. Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions one will make in life. It’s about so much more than deciding what one will do to make a living. To start with, think about the amount of time we spend at work. The importance of selecting a career with which we are satisfied cannot be overemphasised.
Career choice or career exploration is an important step in helping a student fulfill long term employment goals. These exploration can help a student connect to a path that is appealing, fulfilling and leads to desired career. Career choice or exploration is one way to find out about multiple career options. During different phases of exploration, students take part in a variety of activities that can assist in figuring out their unique interests, skills and talents. Students who have this knowledge are better prepared to identify the next step in post secondary schooling or other means leading to a future career. Career exploration is an important tool in helping to find a desired career. The step can help in making positive well informed educational and career decisions. Students benefit from taking advantage of this by their exposure to a variety of career options. These options can include those areas a student is interested in exploring and needs more information about. Over a period of time, students work with several different individuals who will help them explore various careers and develop a career path. Parents can be key members of the team.
Other team members may include teachers, school guidance counselors, siblings, peers and employers. A student with a disability may want to discuss and begin to get some of their career exploration goals with their Individualised Education Program (IEP) team. Career exploration can occur in home, at school and in the community. At home, students can talk with parents, older siblings and relatives about career options and choices. For example, a student can prepare a list of questions for parents, gathering information on how they chose their career and what skills and interests they found important in making their career choice. They might ask, if you could choose today what career would you choose and why? In community, a student might talk to a small business owner and find how they chose to go into business. Students can take the opportunity to discuss a variety of career options in the business, non-profit and government sectors.
There are numerous ways that students learn about career and workplace opportunities. There are many resources available to help students to explore and locate information about careers. Going online to research is only the beginning but can prove a comfortable way to begin on a student’s path in career exploration. Listening to career-related guest speakers who share information about a company and its career opportunities, providing information about the skills needed for business success will also be helpful to a student. In addition to these, attending career fairs, career days and career camps, attending workplace tours and visits, participating in summer employment career opportunities and also participating in job shadowing will help a student to explore the right choice of career. Students with disabilities face many obstacles as they transition from school to work. The process of deciding future career options can be challenging and involves careful considerations. Although there are many careers to choose from, individuals with disabilities have traditionally been limited in their career capabilities or are unaware of the range of workplace accommodations that can broaden their career options. One study concluded that a major attribute of highly successful adults with learning disabilities is a “strong sense of control over career-related events and conscious decision to take charge of their life”. In order for students with disabilities to have a strong sense of control over career-related events, they need current and comprehensive career information and skills. They need to know how to identify careers that play on their strengths, the specific ways their disability impacts their work and the support necessary for success in the workplace. Self-determination skills are important skills for students to develop as they prepare to shoulder more responsibility for managing necessary supports and making adult life decisions. Self-determination skills include self-advocacy, design-making and self-awareness.
Students with disabilities should develop a clear understanding of helpful accommodations and specific ways in which their disability affects their desired work goal (both positively and negatively). The Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA) of 1997, required that Individual Education Programs (IEP) include consideration of students transition service needs beginning at age 14(or earlier if determined appropriate). Assessment conducted for transition purposes can generate valuable information for career preparation (Students strength, interests, challenges and support needs). Transition goals in the IEP can include workplace experience that allow students to learn about employment settings and vocational opportunities. IEPs should also include specific plans for developing or strengthening self-determination skills. Students need to participate in the planning process as much as possible. Community professionals, such as vocational rehabilitation courses or postsecondary education representatives and others should be actively involved in transition Planning. Interagency collaboration can make students transition experiences more successful and less frustrating. Parents need to have daily contact with their child and are expert in the area of what makes their child unique. Their guidance and encouragement can make a significant difference in their child’s career success. Parents of students with disabilities should: pay close attention to their child’s skills and interests; provide opportunities for their child to make choice and practice self-determination skills ;provide opportunities for their child to experience work settings; provide disability-specific and career-specific information; make use of community connections and resources; encourage their child to dream and to plan; participate in services, trainings and workshops on career guidance that improve their ability to support their child in this process; accept assistance rendered by peers, friends, community, agencies and professional in career guidance.