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To help youth workers understand the difficult task of choosing a career so that they may help young people through the process of selecting a career path

To help youth workers understand the difficult task of choosing a career so that they may help young people through the process of selecting a career path.


The "Career Beginnings" program was designed for helping disadvantaged youth choose and prepare for a career. Developed by directors of The Human Resource Center at Brandeis University, the program enlists the cooperative support of members of the education and business communities. Other career guidance programs follow this same type of structure but are smaller in both duration and scope. This type of career guidance is generally designed for middle- to upper-class children, and usually takes the form of a "Career Day." At this type of event, various professionals discuss career opportunities, employable skills, preparation for college, and job placement.


  • To help students gain a more accurate understanding of their abilities and interests in relation to various careers.
  • To provide them with information as to how they might best pursue their interests.
  • To facilitate their meeting and interacting with members of the community working in particular fields, establishing a mentor relationship.
  • To familiarize students with the types of future assistance available for them.

This program may be accomplished in approximately three seventy-five minute sessions. When working with disadvantaged youth the duration, intensity, and scope of the program needs modification.


The first segment of the program involves administering the Harrington-O’Shea Career Decision-Making System (CDM). Upon completion of the survey, group leaders help participants interpret the results indicating their interests and their abilities. In order to better facilitate discussion, the one large group divides into smaller groups of five. Group leaders help the students process their interests and abilities in order to give them a better understanding of themselves. This includes helping students interpret their extracurricular activities or talents that are unaccounted for on the survey. The participants are encouraged to share their positive perceptions of themselves and others in their groups. Following the discussion, the group leaders gather a portfolio on each student that includes their CDM results and any other information regarding their individual abilities and interests.

The second segment involves brief (one-minute) presentations by adults in various careers. Ideally, there are seventeen different occupations representing the corresponding seventeen "career clusters" listed in the CDM. During their presentation, the professionals simply state their occupational title and main responsibilities. After the presentations, the students who scored highest in particular career clusters are matched with the corresponding adult of that cluster. These small groups exchange views for thirty minutes. Next, the workshop leader calls for the students to meet with the corresponding adult of their second-highest "career cluster."

Finally, students are given the name or names of the adults with which they previously met. In addition, group leaders assist the participants in putting together a detailed resume in which their particular interests, abilities, and pertinent experiences are reflected. Finally, the workshop leader will help the students with any immediate questions or plans regarding their particular career pursuits.


There should be one copy of the CDM provided for each student. In addition, there should be one CDM made into a transparency, to be used on an overhead projector. Also needed is a room large enough to accommodate the students, group leaders, and adults representing their careers. Ideally, there should be one group leader per five kids, and a single workshop leader to facilitate the overall program. As previously stated, the ideal each adult represents each one of the seventeen "career clusters" represented in the CDM.


One participant states:

I remember having benefitted [sic] greatly as a student on the receiving end of a program like this. It did not, unfortunately, measure our interests and abilities through anything like the CDM system and therefore left me wondering about where to go from there. Nevertheless, programs which follow this pattern (the coming together of adults from the business world, youth interested in careers and counselors who attempt to aid the youth in the career decision-making process) generally have great success.

This is also the case with programs designed specifically for disadvantaged youth. Of course, for disadvantaged youth, a more comprehensive model should be implemented (such as the "Career Beginnings" program developed by Brandeis University). Career Beginnings has been successful. In its first three years, 98% of its students received their high school diploma, and approximately 65% of them continued to college. Furthermore, those who did not go to college found meaningful employment in which they were both satisfied and acquired opportunities to advance.


  1. A young person who is helped with career decision making is usually appreciative of guidance, gaining self-esteem and self-knowledge.
  2. Career programs—especially ones designed for disadvantaged youth—have significant success in reducing high school dropout rates, increasing the number of students entering college, and matching young people with sound jobs in which they are more fulfilled.
  3. Career guidance programs help young people get good career starts in life.
  4. Career guidance programs are the industrialized world’s version of teenagers learning a trade from a parent or village elder.
Jim Katinas cCYS