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A New Nebraska Model for Career Development

By Donna Hoffman | March 2019

We are introducing a new state model of Nebraska Career Development, which supports our belief: Career development is essential for all students to achieve college and career readiness. The new model is designed with research and best practices found statewide, nationally and internationally. Access the new toolkit for the Nebraska Career Development Model.

The toolkit includes information and coordinated downloadable materials within the following sections:
  1. Why Career Development?
  2. Program Planning
  3. The Model (Self-Awareness, Career Exploration, Career Planning & Management
  4. Transitions for ALL Students
  5. Family Engagement
  6. Lesson Plans
  7. Resources
Why a new career development model? The world of work has changed. A high school diploma alone no longer guarantees a decent living wage. One reality of today that remains the same is that everyone needs employability skills, which are Nebraska Career Readiness Standards in our state, for the workplace and for success in higher education. A typical career path today does not necessarily follow the traditional course of high school, college, and long-term employment. Today, people can follow multiple pathways to education and careers. Career development equips individuals to take ownership in navigating their own career path.
Nebraska Career Readiness Standards apply to education, too. Educators at all levels are planning opportunities for students to develop these skills to increase learning achievement. The Nebraska Department of Education is aligning career readiness standards with all core academics such as math, language arts, social studies and science.
  • Applied appropriate academic and technical skills
  • Communicates effectively and appropriately
  • Contributes to employer and community success
  • Makes sense of problems and perseveres in solving them
  • Uses critical thinking
  • Demonstrates innovation and creativity
  • Models ethical leadership and effective management
  • Works productively in teams and demonstrates cultural competency
  • Utilizes technology
  • Manages personal career development
  • Attends to personal and financial well-being
Our goal is to inspire students to use their talents and abilities to position themselves for lifelong success. We intend to empower students to find the best fit between in-demand work opportunities and the variety of skills they personally have to offer, in order to make good quality choices for themselves. Choosing a career should never be left to chance or luck. Career development is an informed decision-making process. This decision-making process is helpful throughout life for optimum career management.
Career development begins at an early age, whether or not adults are present to provide up-to-date guidance or advisement. Valid information and instruction on relevant skills from an early age may help mitigate students’ bad habits or decisions about future plans based on myths or outdated information. Learning important concepts, skills and processes about college and career decision-making factors is vital for students. Understanding career decision-making will prepare students for lifelong career management. See the Pre-K–12 chart in the Career Development toolkit under Program Planning.
The new Nebraska Career Development program model accomplishes this through three main components: Self-Awareness, Career Exploration and Career Planning and Management. Teaching each component every year is intentional in developmentally appropriate ways.


Self-awareness skills refer to individuals gaining the ability to identify their interests, skills and work values. Self-awareness includes understanding one’s own mastery level of career readiness (employability) skills. This enhanced self-awareness paves the way to effectively explore careers and identify personal career goals with the best fit.

Career Exploration
Career exploration skills include learning how to identify and analyze various career options in terms of what education, training, experience and competencies are required for success. Exploration includes learning directly in workplaces to discover what it may be like to work in different occupations. It also involves learning how to evaluate how well a career matches or fits one’s own interests, skills, strengths and work values.

Career Planning and Management
Nearly all careers require training and education beyond high school. Knowledge of a wide variety of postsecondary options is important for students and parents. All postsecondary options have entrance requirements, application processes and financial aid or other cost considerations. Career planning and management is about identifying goals with the best fit, then creating an action plan (a Personal Learning Plan) to accomplish those goals.
School counselors using this model will be able to address multiple program goals when mindful of how the Nebraska Career Readiness Standards and ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors align so well. For the crosswalk to exemplify this alignment, see the Nebraska Career Development Toolkit website under Program Planning.
The Nebraska Career Readiness Standards, Learning Progressions and Indicators provide the developmental framework to career readiness. We anticipate these indicators will influence age appropriateness to career experiences. Indicators are descriptors of employability skills at different grade levels. See the Nebraska Career Development Toolkit under Self –Awareness/NE Career Readiness Standards
We encourage all school counselors and educators to learn more about the Nebraska Career Development model. Our goal is for every student to receive the benefits of an effective career development program to achieve college and career readiness. Recommendations to start pre-K–12 programs with new model:
  • Provide for quality planning. Starting with a great plan for pre-K-–2 district program is essential to create a unified scope and sequence of learning objectives, align materials and coordinate shared events.
  • Emphasize pre-K–12 experiential and skill-building opportunities that directly apply to education and workplace success.
  • Increase collaboration with families, post-secondary, the community, employers and business/industry to provide workplace learning experiences and advisement to students to achieve their goals.
  • Incorporate the Nebraska Career Development model and toolkit resources to help build a common language so we might collaborate statewide more effectively for career development. Working together will help us save time. We can share experiences, effective strategies for results and all improve our programs at a faster rate.
Contact Donna Hoffman, school counseling specialist at the Nebraska Department of Education, at