How to share your career story
February 18, 2021
Making a career presentation is more than a description of what you do, it is about sharing your journey to what you do and the decisions you made along the way.
Planning and sharing your career story
Sharing your story shows that careers are a journey not a destination
We want young people to realize that for most people, making career decisions is an ongoing process. By sharing your journey, we hope to bring awareness to students to look at their career development as a series of experiences. So instead of figuring out what to do for the rest of their life, they can focus on what is next. Each experience is helpful to figuring out who they are, what they want out of work and where they can find it.
Tips for sharing story
Plan before you get any requests to speak. Then you just need to make a few adjustments depending on timing, age of students and format of the event.
Check with your employer/professional association as they may have sample presentations or advice to help you talk about your job and profession to young people. For example, they may provide key statistics and current entry requirements or routes.
Be relevant to students. For example, why do you care about what you do.
Less is often more. With younger audiences it’s particularly important to identify a couple of key messages and convey these as powerfully as you can.
Ensure that your language is understandable. Use plain language as much as possible especially to explain any jargon or technical terms. Other strategies are to use visual clues, props and chunk your explanations into smaller steps.
Always consult the educator about how much the students may already know.
Be interactive. Involving students keeps them engaged. Ideas are shared below!
Be aware that students are just as interested in you as a person as they are in your job. Share stories. Let your personality show.
Consider the age group you are addressing. Younger students tend to be more interested in what it is you do, the equipment you use and the practical side of your role. Older students may be looking for information about how to work in your industry, the labour market and further information about salaries.
Planning your story
To help you prepare to share your story, here are some prompts of what you might include in your story. Use it before you are contacted to make any presentations. When you know about the group of students and the format, you can refine your content and can confidently head out.
Share your career interests when you were younger
Tell them about your career dreams as an adult
How has this changed over time?
Your Education Path
Where did you go to high school? What subjects did you like?
Discuss the importance of sports/volunteering/group activities to the workplace
Talk about your post-secondary education and/or training
Your Career Journey
How did you end up where you are and who influenced you the most?
How did you get your first/current position?
What are your options for the future?
About Your Organization
What does your organization do/produce/provide as a service?
Location, size, number of employees, etc.
Tell them about a typical customer/client
Your Specific Role
Talk about your work duties. What do you love? What are some drawbacks?
Discuss any obstacles that you had to overcome and how
What are some barriers students might face? How can they deal with them?
Trends Affecting Your Career
New technology such as advancements in automation
Changes in the economy or lifestyles
Effects of the pandemic
Examples of interactive activities
Keeping students active is a great strategy for keeping them engaged.
Here are a few possible activity ideas that you could include to help share your career story. Feel free to use your own ideas that help students understand your work or career journey.
Some suggestions are:
What do they think of when they hear the word: ___ (your job title).
Ask what they know about your field of work or your industry?
Do they know anyone in your line of work?
At the end, they may be more comfortable asking you questions.
Prepare a case relevant to your career
Include 2-4 questions that the students must answer based on the case.
Break students into small groups or pairs and allow them time to read over the case (if not done by the educator in advance of your visit).
Have students quickly write their answers on chart paper with colored markers then present them to the class.
Be sure to link their answers to the topic you are covering.
Design a Logo
Give each student a blank index card.
Explain to the group that corporations are recognized by a specific logo. Give examples such as Nike, McDonalds, Google, etc.
Tell students your job title and company name (you may need to explain what it is you do or what your company does).
Give the students 5 minutes to draw a logo they think would represent your company and then have them explain their logo creation to the class.
Ask students to generate a list of words they believe are related to your career.
Write all the words on the board or on chart paper.
Cluster them if possible and draw conclusions regarding personality, education, training, etc.
Make some statements that may or may not be true about your career.
Have the students either shout out (or hold up cards) that say true or false.
This helps enforce true facts and discard any misconceptions about your job.
Sharing your story
Your speaking engagement may vary in format depending on the age of students and teacher preferences. Refine your story to suite the format and audience.
Here are common formats and their expectations.
Individual Presentation - In-class or Virtual
One volunteer is booked for an event pertaining to specific courses or career areas
Once the educator contacts you, specific details and expectations will be discussed
In-class: typically 45 – 60 minutes including Q & A
Virtual: typically 20 - 30 minutes including Q & A
Several volunteers are booked to highlight multiple career areas
Volunteer will deliver 20 - 25 minute presentations to multiple groups (usually 4)
Volunteer stays in the same room and students rotate to them
Usually totals a two hour time commitment
Guess My Career
Several volunteers are booked representing multiple career areas
Students are divided into small groups and attempt to guess your career using close ended (“yes or no”) questions
Speakers rotate to each group
Once all students have questioned all volunteers, each volunteer reveals their occupation and shares a 5-7 minute story of their career journey
Approximately 1 hour time commitment
3 - 4 volunteers are booked
5 - 7 minute presentation from each speaker followed by Q & A
Approximately 1 hour commitment
Delivering your story
Here's what to expect on the day you make your presentation.
Be patient and understanding. Schools are very busy places. Both staff and educators have many people competing for their attention.
Stick to timings. Be aware the room could be needed right before and after your event.
Be an interesting speaker. Move around and make eye contact with your audience and vary the tone, speed, pitch and volume of your voice as appropriate. Using proximity and eye contact are also useful strategies to manage behaviour.
You will be competing for students’ attention. Classmates, devices and other distractions abound and may or may not be actively addressed by the teacher. Consider creative ways to address distractions while connecting to your message. For example, ask students to turn their phones to silent, sit it on their desk and not touch it, explaining that this is expected in a work meeting.
Be candid, open, honest and frank. Give your opinion too!
Avoid putting students on the spot. Teenagers are self-conscious and many fear failures in front of their peers. Ask open questions and get volunteers instead.
Prepare to learn too! Engaging young people as a speaker is great professional development. Jot down some notes to help yourself improve. What worked? What could be improved? What would you avoid next time? After the event you will be invited to fill out a feedback form. This is a great way to share your reflections and feedback so that we can continue making these opportunities as beneficial as possible for you, other volunteers, educators and young people!