Saturday, March 5, 2011

Serving Up Career Standards With Career Café

Are you looking for a super fun and engaging way to increase career awareness and exposure at your school? Career Café may be exactly what you are searching for!

This year, one of my goals was to create greater awareness and exposure to careers at my school. When planning at the beginning of the school year, the other school counselor I work with and I sought out ideas for ways we could infuse career into our curriculum. We met with a school counselor at a neighboring district who gave us the idea to start a weekly career program at our school, called Career Café.  We started Career Café at the beginning of the school year and it has been instrumental in building excitement around careers at our school!

Bulletin board/display advertising Career Café to students.
What is Career Café?
Career Café is an opportunity for students to meet individuals from their community and learn about their career journeys. At our school, we invite students in fifth through eighth grade to participate in Career Café.

We wanted our Career Café to be very purposeful so administered career interest surveys to all students in third through eighth grade. We administered Bridges Paws in Jobland to all students in fourth through fifth grade and administered Bridges Choices to all students in sixth through eighth grade. We had students record their current hobbies and interests, three careers that were recommended for them by the career interest inventory, and any additional careers they wanted to learn more about.

We also have students complete a brief pre/post test during each Career Café session to show students are meeting Pennsylvania Career Standards and American School Counselor Association Standards by attending! I made a google document of the pre/post test we administer to students so you can utilize it for your own Career Café.

How are students selected to attend Career Café?
Students are invited to Career Café based on their career interests. Each week before Career Café I look through all the students' career interest inventory information to determine who will be invited. If there are not enough students to fill the slots I ask students during breakfast or lunch if they would be interested in learning about the Career Café speaker for that week. We host two sessions in a row during lunch and invite approximately 20 students to each session.

I designed a postcard on VistaPrint to use as invitations. I got 100 FREE postcards and I only had to pay for shipping. I fill in the back of the postcard with the student's name, the date, and the time using an orange sharpie.

If you want to order pre-designed Career Café passes, visit the School Counselor Blog Store.

Where do you host Career Café?
We have been hosting Career Café in the other school counselor's room. We have both been fortunate this year to have classrooms as "offices" which has allowed us to be very creative with our spaces. For Career Café we arrange the tables in her office and cover them with plastic tablecloths. We try to make it look and feel like a real cafe!

Bulletin board advertising Career Café to students.
How do you recruit Career Café speakers?
We use the students' career interest inventory information to recruit career speakers. Once we initially determined some careers students were interested in learning about, we began contacting individuals we knew and reaching out to community members.

Our first Career Café speaker was an art teacher from our school. It was great to start out with someone we knew well because it gave us an opportunity to see how Career Café would work and get feedback. Our first Career Café was a huge success! The art teacher had a blast and the kids loved it!

Since the beginning of the year we have hosted an art teacher, a bank branch manager, a lawyer and a chef! We have future career speakers scheduled including a cosmetologist, a humane society worker, and a news anchor.  We are continually recruiting individuals to come and speak to students about careers. I recommend asking individuals in your school, local businesses, colleges, and anyone you know to help you be a career speaker!

Get Started!
The really cool thing about starting a Career Café is that you can really customize it to your school. Career Café could be hosted in an elementary school, middle school, or high school! If you do not have the ability to host it every week, host it once a month. If you want to do it for only one grade do it with one grade.  You can really make it your own and unique to your schools' needs!

Career Café has been such an amazing experience. Students are so excited to be invited to Career Café. I think it says a lot that students (even 8th graders!) are willing to come and learn during lunch! Career Café has opened students' eyes to a variety of career opportunities and has helped them understand the connection between school and the world of work.  I am amazed at how much I am learning from Career Café too!

You can also read about Career Café in an article I wrote for The Pennsylvania Counselor, the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association magazine.

Do you host a Career Café at your school? Do you have any questions about starting a Career Café that I didn't answer? Comment below, email metweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!
Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.

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