Career Research Activity To Try

In my work as an Employment Counsellor, I’m called upon to help others explore career options from time-to-time, and most often this activity is preceded by an examination of the person’s skills, interests, assets, age, values, beliefs, strengths and liabilities etc. Some of the people I work with are after a career, some are after a job, and well, quite frankly some don’t even know the difference between the two so they don’t know what they want.

However that aside for the moment, there is a very simple but useful exercise that I do when facilitating a workshop on career exploration that gets a lot of laughs, and is fun to do. If you think that this is an activity that your class or group might find useful, you have my blessings to likewise try it out and maybe even morph it into an activity with your own twist.

For starters you’ll need two envelopes, (11 x 14) for each person in the group. In each envelope I insert a picture off the internet of an occupation with the career or job title prominently typed below the picture. Now in my case I have taken the time to make 40 pictures printed off a colour printer, and then I have laminated the pictures so I can use them again and again with numerous groups. Some of the pictures depict jobs people see everyday like a Cashier, Caretaker, Parking Lot Attendant. Other pictures include a Soldier, Dog Walker, Writer, Arborist, Pharmaceutical Technician, Crossing Guard etc. In other words, some pictures are representative of occupations that my clients may see on a daily basis, some are entry-level, some are high-risk, some peculiar, some just plain not even obvious from the name or the picture as to what they do.

Two days before I plan to use the envelopes, I have the class walk in to the room only to find all 40 envelopes on the walls around the room. Some are just off the floor, some near the ceiling, some clustered in groups, some all by themselves, some near where people sit, others far away. All I tell the group is not to look in any of the envelopes. I let the curiosity build until the day I want to use them. So when the time comes, I ask them one at a time to pick an envelope off the wall. Then the person opens their envelope, pulls out the picture and shows their new job to the group. Get a ‘Rock Star’ and you might be cool, pick a ‘Street Cleaner’ and maybe not so much, but pick the Pest Exterminator depicted by a guy in an attic with large dead rats and you’ll get a reaction!

When everyone has picked their new career or job, I distribute one page with some questions on it for each person to complete. Some of the questions are:

What skills would this job require? What would be your annual salary? What would you both like and not enjoy about this job? What education would this job require? What would be the benefits of this job? What’s the worst thing that could go wrong in this job? What personality traits or attributes might you share with someone in this job? Why is this job important?

Each person then completes the sheet and we discuss some of the answers. Maybe someone picked a career they have no idea about whatsoever. Then a discussion ensues about how you would go about finding the information you need. There are lots of jobs and careers that initially people know nothing about, and they have to complete some research to find out – just like in real life. So why put the envelopes all over the room? First ask the class why they chose the envelope they did. Some will choose one really close to their chair so they don’t draw attention to themselves, others will choose that one they really had to reach high for (and don’t we have to stretch ourselves to obtain some careers?). Others choose ones at the far end of the room, (some occupations do seem rather far away) and some want that one you put all by itself (because maybe it is special?). Why and how they made their decision of can be related back to how people really go about picking jobs in their world.

After discussion has run its course, I take back all the pictures and envelopes and tell some of the group that they have been laid off. Others I tell got a promotion, others wanted a career change, and some are going through a mid-life crisis. Bottom line is everybody ‘loses’ their job and has to pick a second one and repeat the exercise with a new sheet to complete on the second career. It’s random, and shouldn’t be done more than twice or it gets boring and the point is made. The point being that there are many careers and jobs out there that may be appealing and possible if you look beyond your initial reaction and where you see that job on a value scale. In other words, is the Dog Washer any less fulfilling or valued than the Radio Announcer? Is the Fire Fighter more prestigious than the Butcher? If so, why?

Get thinking; get talking; get going.

5 thoughts on “Career Research Activity To Try

  1. This is a great activity! I really like how it would create discussion about the ways in which initial reactions can fall short. I am going to bookmark this one to try with my developmental psychology students in the future. Thanks for sharing!


  2. What a fantastic activity to try on many levels. Thank you for sharing it with us. Without making up the career cards as you did, can you buy the cards? Or, what is the best way to obtain a set?


    1. Hello Leah, To be honest, I don’t know how you’d obtain a set. What I did myself is this. I went to Bing, clicked on Images and typed in a profession. That brought up pictures from which I chose one, copied it to MS Word, sized it, then printed it in colour. At that point, I laminated the picture and repeated that process 39 more times over several days! You could also just print b & w photos and not laminate them and give them to the students replacing them each time.


  3. I have worked in management for the pass twenty three years for three companies. Now I am in the process of changing my career, and find your instructions most helpful. Eternally grateful.



    1. Thank you Glen for your kind words. It’s helping others that I enjoy most, and when they take a moment to say thanks it does wonders to inspire me to help all the more. Much appreciated and best of luck with your career change.


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