In our last blog, we focused on the practice of exposing adolescents to work environments through the Take Our Kids to Work Day (TOKW) movement. We highlighted the necessity of individuals linking occupational information with their perceived self-attributes, a process that promotes the development of a vocational identity. The growth in self-understanding does not cease with the ending of the growth phase of career development. Moreover, we maintain that individuals who do not continue to link self-information and occupational information during the exploration phase will likely lack the meta-dimensions of clarity, certainty, and harmony as they understand the components of their self-concept system. We strongly support the TOKW initiative but suggest that the career practitioners involved need to go farther by preparing and processing the day with participants. The focus of this blog is to suggest ways that practitioners can facilitate the linking of occupational information with self-precepts to enhance vocational identity formation by preparing and process the experience with their participants.
First, often the focus of TOKW is on the provision of factual occupational information only. While this provision is an important component, it is best experienced by encouraging adolescents to link this occupational information with their perceived self-attributes. TOKW is an episode in the life of an adolescent. As such, it has a significant potential to enhance vocational identity either in helping the individual to make choices in favor of or against an occupation, or to lack overall relevance. Episodes help to develop the self-concept and consequently ensuring the TOKW episode is appropriately prepared for and processed contributes to the elaboration of the self-concept and to vocational identity. A critical component of any episode is the context in which it happens. We think that helping adolescents to prepare for TOKW helps them to build a framework around what to anticipate during the episode. Providing adolescents with questions to ask about the work environment (Holland’s work environments are helpful here) and about the psychological (aptitudes, skills, interests, values, personality traits) and social (occupational role, salary, educational requirements, occupational future) aspects of each occupation encountered helps them to develop appropriate concepts. These concepts contribute to their understanding of the world of work, and to making the links between their perceived self-attributes and the occupational information learned during the episode.
Second, we think that after the TOKW is over, participants profit from a career practitioner who helps them process the experience, and to allow the participants to ask questions, receive clarification and to develop realistic information about occupations in their context. We think the processing is best done in groups, either small groups or whole classes. We suggest that a facilitator begin by helping participants to understand the overall valence of the experience; that is, whether the experience was positive or negative and the perceptions that led to this appraisal. From there, the facilitator might ask participants to describe what they did and what they learned. As participants share their experiences, the career practitioner is free to ask for clarification, to provide additional information, and to relate what was shared to concepts about the world of work. During this time, we think it is important for the facilitator to draw linkages between two sub-domains of vocational identity – that of self-information and occupational information. This may be accomplished by asking participants about the subjects they like and have aptitudes for and relating these interests and aptitudes to occupations. Participants will benefit through observational learning by hearing how their peers make these links. Furthermore, we suggest that the facilitator attempt to provide linkages between previous work episodes and previously gained information. These linkages help participants to clarify and/or correct occupational information. Lastly, we suggest the facilitator end by asking participants for their overall highlights of the experience. Often, these highlights are what participants remember the most and are most influential in their concept formation. By providing appropriate pre and post TOKW experience, career practitioners help to make this experience a valuable learning episode that clearly contributes to vocational identify formation for participants.
By John Stewart and Jeff Landine
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA