Career goal setting with youth

Learn about a fun and useful activity that helps youth to create a goal-focused visual aid that will guide them on their path to a successful future.

Goal-setting is an important life skill at many points in a person’s life. Goals can be set for different purposes but youth in particular should focus on career and education goals. Helping young people set career goals is an activity that can easily be done in an after-school, classroom or club setting.

In a 2005 study done by the ACT testing organization, 22 percent of surveyed middle and early high school students “had yet to think about and explore the types of education, training, and work they might pursue after high school.” This illustrates the fact that helping young people consider their future plans and how they will get there is a necessary step in helping youth successfully navigate their future. 

An activity to explore this topic can be found in the 4-H curriculum, Build Your Future: Choices… Connections…Careers (written by Michigan 4-H staff). Activity 8, Putting the Pieces Together: Goals for the Future, helps young people track and consider the career and continuing education work they have completed (either through the curriculum or on their own/at school) and create a plan to reach future goals. In this activity, participants create a personal shield that highlights their future career goals and outlines the short-term, medium-term, and long-term steps to get there.

In the process of creating the shield, youth list steps to help them reach their goal, such as the individuals they could interview about career paths, extracurricular activities to participate in to support their goal, internships or job shadowing they might do, back-up ideas if they change their mind about the chosen field of study, and arrangements for financing their career path goal.  Questions and helpful examples are provided in the curriculum to assist youth in this process. By making the shield, youth will create a visual reminder that will help them stick to the plan and achieve their goal.

For more information on goal-setting and SMART goals, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.  The site also contains more information on career preparation.

Armed with this useful information, consider adding career exploration and planning to your next youth-centered activity! It can help build life skills and support youth on a path to a successful future!

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