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From the beginning of mankind, children have been characterized by their explorative nature. While many have disregarded this inquisitiveness as mere play, in more recent years, there has been a growing promotion for adults to recognize these interests and help foster them in order for children to begin investigating their potential career goals at an earlier age. Per Hartung, et al. (2008), childhood opportunities and experiences can typically arouse curiosities, fantasies, interests, and capacities as children at play construct future possible selves that they can realize in work and in other social roles (p. 63). In order to work effectively and productively with the elementary-aged population, career counselors must recognize career development as a process that occurs throughout the various life stages of each individual and cater to their curiosity.
According to Hartung, et al. (2008), childhood is a time that signifies the threshold of career development (p. 63). Correspondingly, Super identified specific vocational developmental tasks to be accomplished at each life stage in which the first stage was defined as the phase beginning at birth and ending at around age fourteen (as cited by Hoffman and McDaniels, 1991, p. 163). Per Schultheiss, et al. (2005), Super developed the following nine concepts that he believed contributes to childhood career awareness and decision-making:
Curiosity is a need that leads to inquisitive behavior.
Exploration includes participating in activities that allow children to learn about themselves and their environment in an attempt to meet needs of curiosity.
Information calls for an awareness of the value of vocational importance or use of occupational information and knowing how one obtains this type of knowledge.
Key figures are role models or people who are helpful and have been a significant person in the lives of individuals.
Interests are a consciousness of what one likes, as well as dislikes.
Locus of control refers to the extent to which one feels in control over his or her current situation and the direction in which his or her life is going.
Time perspective is the ability to plan for future events through an awareness of the past, present, and future.
Self-concept is the way in which one views himself or herself in a specific role, situation, or position where a certain set of functions are performed or in some network of relationships
Planfulness refers to one's understanding of planning and its importance. (p. 247)
The extent to which a child is able to experience these concepts and process the activities they participate in so that he or she can make educational and vocational choices depends largely on career maturity or attitudinal and cognitive readiness, resulting from a dynamic person-environment interaction (Hartung, et al., 2008, p. 67).
Counselors dealing with elementary-aged children must consider the various kinds of environments, as well as its various elements, that are encountered by their young clients on a daily basis. Holland (1997) stresses the importance of the events that occur during one's childhood and contends that the combined sequences of person-environment interactions can be visualized through a person's career or growth throughout life (p. 55).
Among some of the most influential settings and factors are a child's home, school, and the adults that occupy those spaces. While many theorists argue that parents and adults close to the child are role models for career selections, some research suggests otherwise. In a poll completed by 907 fourth- to sixth-graders, only 48% were capable of explaining what their fathers did at work and 57% knew what their mothers did at work (Angel, et al., 1996, p. 2). It is imperative that proper consideration is given to the wide rang of environmental influences. Auger et al. (2005) contend that children are increasingly influenced by broader societal images like sports stars and performers (page).
Denying the power of superstars in a society whose younger generations idolize the famous few will not benefit them in the future. A few theorists assert that a "fantasy period" is experienced by individuals during childhood, at which point their vocational preferences are determined solely on the activities that he or she is interested and wish to participate in with very little attention paid to their abilities or selectivity of the career (Auger et al., 2005, p. 3). It is imperative that helping adults are aware of this type of identification with people like athletes and pop stars, understanding that in most situations this kind of fantasizing is temporary. At some time between the age of five and eleven, children begin to transition to viewing career selection more realistically and begin to be shaped by other influences relating to gender, social status, and the career's difficulty as perceived by the developing child (Ibid).
A healthy vocational identity will not develop on its own, instead it is important for it to be fostered and developed with the support of the adults in a child's life. "Children must learn to imagine, explore, and problem solve in order to construct a viable work future consistent with cultural imperatives reflected in family and community contexts" (Hartung, et al., 2008, p. 63).
Although a child may not take after their parents by following the career paths that they took, they are still key to the career development of the individual. Family members and other key figures help shape the way children understand the function of work in a person's life by provide the definition of hard work and stressing the importance of earning an income (Schultheiss, 2005, p. 257).
Providing children with the means to seek out the necessary information to develop their vocational identity is the responsibility of the adults around them. Furthermore, it is imperative for career counselors dealing with children to assist each child in accumulating a number of diverse experiences that foster attitudes, beliefs, and skills needed for exploring the self and making career-related decisions that will inevitably shape the life ahead of them (Hartung, et al., 2008, p. 63).
In Butler County, Ohio, leaders continue to allow children to explore their interests, but have taken it a step further and created a program that encourages current students living to work hard for and attain high levels, make choices that are conducive to a positive academic career and prepare to be a competitor in today's competitive global economy. Snyder and Jackson (2006) hold that:
"By helping a student understand his/her interests, skills and aptitudes, and combining that with information about career clusters and careers, as well as current labor market information, the students can make informed decisions and bring relevance to educational plans, leading them to successful careers and lives" (p. 23).
By helping a student understand his/her interests, skills and
aptitudes, and combining that with information about career
clusters and careers, as well as current labor market informa-
tion, the students can make informed decisions and bring
relevance to educational plans, leading them to successful
careers and lives (p. 23).
FYI: Quotes over two or three lines long like the above are single spaced and indented from BOTH margins. And, you don't use quote marks. The fact it is single spaced and indented from both margins already shows it is a quote.
Ultimately, career education does not encompass a finite list of outcomes that career counselors can wrap into a set of step-by-step instructions for children. Rather, everything that students do in the various environments that they are a part of contribute to a child's knowledge and skills for understanding themselves and the interconnectivity of the world around them (Gallavan, 2003, p. 19). Hence, it is imperative for career counselors to cater to the interests of each individual, finding meaningful and authentic explorative activities/strategies to support and model effective decision-making in an ever-changing world.
Career counseling for elementary-aged children can be a challenge due to the ambiguous nature of the influences and decision-making abilities of the younger population. Considering that it is a time for much needed exploration, a dream career one day may not be the same the next day. While nurturing healthy young children who are able to adapt to the world around them is key, career counselors must also remain flexible due to the fact that working with elementary-aged clients is marked by continuous change. With an increase in research, counselors can familiarize themselves with the phases and influences that their young clients face and become better equipped to assist them in career development tasks and planning appropriate for their age.