What Is Career Clarity? Blog Feature
Chris Zook

By: Chris Zook on January 24th, 2019

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What Is Career Clarity?

Career Readiness

In the world of career readiness, it’s crucial to teach students the skills to get ahead in the professional world.

But skills aren’t the end-all, be-all of career readiness! Even if your state is pushing new standards on what students need to know, they still need insight into how and why they should be ready for the working world.

That’s where career clarity comes into play.

Career clarity is the process of teaching your students how they can learn about and understand entire career paths in different industries and even specific companies.

As a result, career clarity is different from career exploration. Career exploration offers overviews of multiple careers to get students thinking about what they can do with their lives.

Career clarity, on the other hand, refers to a deeper comprehension of an individual line of work and the responsibilities entailed.

This makes it a perfect subject to follow career exploration. It gives students a close-up look of the careers that they discovered during that time, giving them a stronger understanding of what they need to do to pursue those careers in the future.

To start, let’s define career clarity and establish how we’re looking at it.

Defining Career Clarity


According to the University of California Berkeley, career clarity requires students of any age to understand themselves, their potential careers, and how those two concepts fit together.

The university offers its own students a host of different resources that let them make self-assessments and explore the careers that could be an option for them.

Then, once those students find the careers that resonate with them, they can start digging into the details.

UC Berkeley breaks these details into three main questions:

  1. Clarity: How do I identify and articulate my future direction?
  2. Competitiveness: How can I enhance my marketability?
  3. Connections: How can I connect with alumni and employers?


This all sounds well and good, right?

But you’re probably not a university professor. You’re probably a high school or middle school instructor who’s required by your state to teach career readiness and / or career exploration.

So how can you improve your students’ experiences with career clarity?

We’ll answer that question by looking at each of UC Berkeley’s qualities and breaking them down for middle and high school students.

Let’s start with the obvious one — clarity.

1. Clarity: Identifying and Articulating Direction


The concept of clarity sounds straightforward, but it’s surprisingly complex to teach.

After all, how can you prepare students for careers in a job market that changes almost every day — especially if they want to work in technology?

The truth is that “clarity” doesn’t mean showing your students every single aspect of a career they want to pursue.

Instead, it’s about establishing expectations around those careers so students have a better grasp of them.

This may sound similar to career exploration at first. But the key difference is that you’ll jump into some extreme levels of detail, including:

  • Common job titles
  • Common responsibilities
  • Possibility of advancement
  • Historical demand
  • Current demand
  • Projected demand
  • Occupational hazards

All of this information comes together to give your student(s) an intense level of comprehension when it comes to one or two individual career paths.

Not only do they begin to understand how to start their careers, but they also see where they can progress with that same skill set.

Along those same lines, they may realize that a particular job — like teaching in public schools — requires persistent education, even after a student starts that career.

Ultimately, career clarity requires looking at every detail of a certain career path.

It’s intense, it takes time, and it could ultimately sway students’ decisions about what they want to do with their lives. 

But that’s also why it’s so important!

Once your students clearly understand what’s entailed in a certain career path, it’s time to answer the next big question — how can students start that career path themselves?

2. Competitiveness: Being Awesome and Helping Others Realize It


Career clarity emphasizes competitiveness as a way to make someone better at describing and selling themselves to potential employers, especially for high-competition occupations.

This is important for one big reason — it’s common for two individuals to have the same skills and educational background when applying for the same job.

As a result, it’s crucial that your students know how to make themselves competitive against other applicants.

This is a little bit “rougher” view of career education than most teachers like to take. It makes the career and job-seeking processes feel gritty and combative.

But what good is career education if your students don’t learn how to market themselves during the job-seeking process?

The competitiveness element of career clarity requires teachers to help students find what they’re good at doing, or at least what they’d like to become good at doing.

Once you do that, it’s time to help students find their confidence.

It’s easy for students to feel overwhelmed and underconfident in a world that constantly berates them with messages about how to look better, how to feel better, how to live better, and more.

On the flip side, it’s rare for students to have the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate how they feel about themselves without the outside influence of cultural opinions.

This is the opportunity you give them by discussing the competitiveness side of career clarity.

Who are your students? Who do they want to be? And how does that align with their career ambitions?

This may sound existential — maybe too existential — but it’s the kind of self-exploration that helps students consciously find themselves and their places in the world.

Once students find the areas where they feel confident, the next challenge is teaching them how to leverage that confidence in their resumes, cover letters, and job interviews.

The key is to walk the line between cocky and meek. Interviewers rarely appreciate applicants who fall into one extreme or the other.

Typically, students can strike this balance by discussing:

  1. What they know already
  2. What they don’t know about a job
  3. Reinforcing that they’re willing to learn what they don’t know

These three qualities can make all the difference between a company hiring one of your students or a job-seeking competitor.

While your students will certainly have to be competitive, they can do so with a subtle grace that tends to be missing from many entry-level applicants for jobs throughout the United States.

But wait just one second — have you ever heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?”

That saying comes from the practice of professional networking where individuals meet other people to reference later in life.

And as it turns out, this saying is truer today than it’s ever been!

Let’s talk about why.

3. Connections: Leveraging and Expanding Who You Know


The connections element of career clarity addresses a major chunk of career education that’s been missing for years — networking.

Networking and forming connections wind up being two of the most important career-building practices in the modern world.


Because face-to-face interactions give someone the ability to initiate a relationship with someone else.

When you apply to a job with a cover letter and resume, you’re attempting to make a first impression through text only.

That’s a tough task, especially when you don’t have the benefit of vocal tone, hand gestures, and other non-verbal workplace communication cues.

But when you network, you have all of those subtle types of communication working to your advantage in your conversation.

You get the opportunity to endear yourself to someone. You can demonstrate how professional and knowledgeable you are instead of just talking about it on paper.

As a result, a business owner or head of human resources can get a much clearer idea of who you are, what you do, and what you want out of a career.

In other words, you get a jump-start on a job interview.

Because the human brain is wired to make snap judgments (for better or for worse), someone will know whether they like someone else quickly after meeting them for the first time.

The same is true in professional situations. Someone will know whether someone else is a good fit for their positions and company in a matter of minutes — if not seconds! 

Teaching your students about professional communication, business etiquette, proper dress, and even a good handshake can give them an enormous leg up in networking.

As a result, it will also help them gain a leg up over the other competitors in the job market.

Plus, it can also help them learn more about a career path and how it works at a specific company!

With that in mind, the connections element of career clarity acts as an amplifier for the other two elements.

It provides even greater clarity, and it can be the difference between one of your students starting their careers or losing an opportunity to a job-seeking competitor.

All it takes is a few seconds, the right handshake, and a nice smile — and it can literally change your students’ entire lives.

How Can You Start Teaching Career Clarity?


Career clarity offers another opportunity for you to help students find their future occupational passions.

The trick lies in figuring out how to teach it specifically for your classroom.

But you don’t have to try it by spending hours on lesson plans and grading.

Instead, you can try a digital curriculum.

A digital curriculum is an online teaching tool that lets you create classes, track student progress, and even provide crucial reports for your administrator(s).

It’s designed to make your life easier while helping your students learn.

Best of all, there’s a digital curriculum that you can use for career clarity!

It’s called Business&ITCenter21, and it comes with a full-fledged curriculum library that you can use to teach dozens of curriculum hours about career readiness, exploration, and clarity.

It automatically tracks your students’ progress, what they’ve completed, and even when they access the curriculum.

With it, you get real-time data on your students’ comprehension of a wide range of topics.

Best of all, it’s so easy-to-use that you’ll save tons of time and it’s constantly up-to-date (unlike textbooks).  

Sound too good to be true?

Check out https://www.aeseducation.com/programs/businesscenter21-course-list-catalog!

View Course List Catalog >


About Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.