Career development theorists have long recognized the importance of early childhood experiences in human career development. Super (1980) was one of the first to articulate a career development theory that emphasized the impact of childhood activities, role models, and achievements on the young person's vocational self-concept. His Life-Span, Life-Space Approach to Career Development describes ages birth to 14 years as a period of vocational growth in which successful home, school, and social experiences would lead to a positive vocational self-concept. A positive vocational selfconcept allows a child to later meet his or her career potential.
Gottfredson (1981) echoes Super's emphasis on the importance of early experiences on later career development. Her theory of circumscription and compromise states that children, at a very early age, learn to rule out occupations that appear to them to be "off-limits" due to considerations of race, gender, or prestige/economic level. She emphasized for elementary school students the importance of role models who demonstrate the wide range of careers available, regardless of race, gender or economic background.
Betz and Hackett (1981) also emphasized the importance of role models in career development. They introduced the concept of career self-efficacy, in which a person develops confidence in his or her ability to choose a career and be successful in that career. Role models are important factors in the development of career self-efficacy, particularly those role models who are similar to the person involved.
Based on theory and research, the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (1989) has developed a comprehensive set of career development competencies that outline the competencies appropriate for career development at all ages. Examples of elementary career development competencies are (a) understanding how to make decisions, (b) awareness of the relationship between work and learning, and (c) awareness of different occupations and the changing male/female roles.
In our work with elementary school students and counselors, we came to recognize how very important it is to develop and implement career development activities appropriate to this very crucial stage. We also noticed that many elementary students lacked appropriate role models who could introduce them to the concept of a steady job, strong work ethic, and equal opportunity for all. In order to provide career information and role models for all children in the school, we developed a multicultural career fair at Ravenel Elementary School in Seneca, SC.
Planning the Fair
Our first step was to survey other elementary school counselors, the South Carolina Department of Education, and do an ERIC search to determine if career fairs were held at other elementary schools. Our surveys and the ERIC search revealed that no one, to our knowledge, had attempted this. We also enlisted the help of career counselors and counselor educators at a local university to assist with the fair. The university staff was instrumental in helping to plan the fair and locating professional and technical people to participate. The university staff involved were two career counselors and a faculty member.
Next, the elementary school counselor, principal, and university staff members met to plan the format and choose a date. It was determined that fair activities would take place within the individual classrooms, with presenters rotating from one class to another, rather than attempting a large display of many careers in a common area such as a gymnasium. It was felt that this format would be more orderly and appropriate to elementary school children. It would also allow speakers to have better attention of the children so that career details as well as information about cooperation, good work habits, and the like, could be presented.
Because the school was divided into six grades, K-5, with four classes at each grade level, we decided to recruit 24 speakers. …