I have always felt that, as a counselor, being honest is important. It doesn't mean that I discourage kids from pursuing their dreams to be a football play or a singer; instead, I spend time during my lessons arming them with the facts. I enjoy using the career inventories to start encouraging kids to think about all the options they have, but with my fourth graders, I spend time talking about what it takes to get to the point of working. I highlight jobs falling in to categories of no college, two year colleges, four year colleges, and college + graduate school. We discuss average incomes for these areas (generally, how much a person in that field is paid per hour), and I compare those incomes to what I make in the average week, month, and year. This way, getting paid by the hour is being put in to a context.
My favorite part of this lesson is at the very end when I show the kids my favorite work-related website: The Occupational Outlook Handbook (part of the Bureau of Labor Statistics website)! This website is a fact-seekers dream come true. I ask a student to share what s/he wants to do when grown, and as a class, we search that profession on OOH. Up pops a wealth of information, and every updated edition of the handbook is better than the last. The website now provides a basic overview covering areas such as median pay, level of education needed, training, and the job outlook. Should one want to explore more in depth, they can scroll down to find very detailed descriptions of the job, the environment in which they would be working, the education/training needed to do that job, income, the job outlook, related professions, and people to contact should someone want to get more information. I'm excited just thinking about the kids exploring this website!
Overall, my message to students is to pursue whatever you want, but know what you're getting in to! It all comes back to the fact that making a well thought out plan is powerful, and preparing a Plan B or C makes someone that much more ready for their future.