School counselors know that one of the most intimidating questions students are asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There are inevitably students who are pretty sure that they will grow up to be an anesthesiologist or work in the family business. But for most students, this question often leads to concerned looks and a lot of “Umm, well...”

It’s easy to see why this question can be perplexing. How do students begin thinking about a career they might enjoy 10 or 20 years from now when even their favorite color changes from day to day?

Hobsons developed a simple framework, downloadable here, to help students begin their self-reflection and to help schools jumpstart the conversation. In this framework, four foundational categories have been identified that combine to lead students to select careers. The categories, along with some probing questions for students, include:

  • Your Interests: What do you enjoy doing?
  • Your Strengths: What are your natural talents and inclinations?
  • The Needs in Your Community or World: Since every career aims to meet a need, what are some needs that you could envision meeting?
  • Your Opportunities: What doors are open for you?

Reflecting on each of these areas can help provide students a foundation for different career paths. You may be wondering about that last one – Your Opportunities. Each of us has unique circumstances that could lead to a career as long as we capitalize on them. It could be a parent or a mentor who works in a profession where a student could apprentice. Or perhaps your high school offers an industry certification such as a Licensed Practice Nurse (LPN) certification that isn’t available elsewhere. On a larger scale, there are market opportunities to consider – students will be more likely to find a job where there are more openings.

Here’s an example. We asked Major Luke Urish of the U.S. Air Force to share how his interests, strengths, the needs in the world, and opportunities led him to be a pilot. Major Urish grew up in rural town in Wyoming, where reliable transportation was extremely critical. He developed a love for traveling and meeting new people. While he considered architecture early on, the opportunity to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy led him to seriously consider flying as a career.

Here’s how Major Urish responded to the questions in our framework.

From humble beginnings, Major Urish was eventually stationed at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC. His assignments included flying the Vice President, Secretary of State, First Lady, and other top U.S. officials. One of his missions included transporting the U.S. Secretary to the United Nations to West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. He also flew a mission to North Korea to secure the freedom of two Americans being held by the North Korean government. Throughout his career, Major Urish had the opportunity to enjoy flying while serving and meeting some important needs of our country!


The A Foundation for Your Future framework is a starting place that can be used in individul meetings with students or as a classroom activity. If your school uses Naviance, your students can use the assessments and tools in Family Connection to see potential career paths that align to their responses. Examples of Naviance activities include:

  • Your Interests: The Career Interest Profiler uses Holland’s interest codes to match students with careers based on their interests today.
  • Your Strengths: Gallup StrengthsExplorer® helps students understand their emerging talents and connect them with their future.
  • The Needs in Your Community or World: Service learning is a great way for students to gain appreciation for the needs of the world. x2VOL allows students to discover service opportunities and track their hours. (x2VOL integrates with Naviance as a Naviance extension.)
  • Your Opportunities: Students can see how others have capitalized on unique opportunities in the Roadtrip Nation Video Archive.

Print out a few copies and try it with your students. Have an inspiring moment? Share it with us on Twitter or Facebook.


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