Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Career Cafe

Will Markham, Kelsey Willems, Mitch Davis, Jacob Kniffen | Published: May 17th, 2024 by K20 Center


Career Cafe enables students to make real-world connections between their interests and professional career goals. Whether in a small or large setting, Career Cafes enable students to network with professionals in industries they might not otherwise have access to. As a facilitator of a Career Cafe, use the following resource as a guide to help find a guest speaker and plan your own event. Follow the sequence of events below but also use the attached resources for ultimate success.

Essential Questions

  • What steps do I need to take to reach my future goals?

  • How can I apply the career information to my post-secondary plans and academic opportunities?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will acquire an understanding of the key skills and education required for specific careers.

  • Participants will gain insights into diverse career paths and industries.


Planning Phase - Facilitators examine the needs of their students to narrow which career speakers to recruit and send confirmed speakers’ prep materials.

1 Week Prior to Event - Facilitators will follow-up with the guest speaker about any additional needs and request completed prep materials to be shared with students.

Day Before Event - Facilitators will have students review the guest speaker’s prep material by completing a KWL organizer.

Day of Event - Facilitators will introduce the guest speaker and instruct students to complete the POMS strategy after the career talk.

After Event - Facilitators will have students use their Road Map to Success handout to complete their final step in the KWL strategy.

Materials List

  • Guest Speaker Template Slides (optional; attached) 

  • Guest Speaker Bio Template handout (optional; attached)

  • Guest Speaker Guide packet (attached)

  • Facilitator Guide packet (attached)

  • KWL handout (attached; one per student)

  • Road Map to Success handout (attached; one per student)

  • Pens/pencils 

  • Clipboards (optional)

Planning Phase

120 Minute(s)

Use this Activity resource to help plan and execute a Career Cafe event at your school. See the attached Facilitator Guide for more details including a checklist and communication templates. 

Within this initial Planning Phase, you are essentially 1) collecting student interest data to determine whom you should invite as a guest speaker; 2) contacting potential guest speakers; and 3) setting up your event. 

Send the attached Guest Speaker Guide along with the attached Guest Speaker Template Slides and Guest Speaker Bio Template materials once they have agreed to talk at your event.

1 Week Prior to Event

60 Minute(s)

Continue to follow the Facilitator Guide. One week prior to your Career Cafe event be sure to complete the following prep work: 

  1. Contact the guest speaker and ask about any accessibility and presenter needs. Also ask if you can record their talk to use for any future ICAP lesson.

  2. Remind your speaker to submit a completed Guest Speaker Bio Template 2-3 days before their presentation.

  3. Option 1: Collect completed Guest Speaker Bio Template handout from speaker and make enough copies for every student participating in the event. 

  4. Option 2: If the speaker doesn’t provide a completed handout, prepare some information for students to review prior to the presentation (see Alternative Handout).

Day Before Event

30 Minute(s)

One day prior to the presentation, pass out the attached KWL handout, a writing implement, and either your guest’s completed Guest Speaker Bio Template or whatever information sheet you created (see options 1 and 2 above). For the next part follow one of the options below. 

Option 1: Pass out the completed Guest Speaker Bio Template handout, one per student. Take about 5 minutes to review the Guest Speaker Bio Template handout with students. Ask students if they have any questions about the content and clear up any misconceptions. 

Option 2: Pass out the information sheet you created from My Next Move about the speaker’s career, one per student. Take about 5 minutes to review the handout with students. Ask students if they have any questions about the content and clear up any misconceptions. 

After students have had enough time to review the speaker’s information, explain that students will then generate questions for the speaker using the KWL strategy. Direct students to take out their KWL handout and complete the K and W steps based on the speaker’s biography. Explain the handout in as much detail as you feel necessary. 

In the K or “What I Know” section, students are encouraged to brainstorm and list what they already know about the speaker's career and educational background. This could include previous knowledge, experiences, or information they have acquired from various sources. This step serves as an initial assessment of students' prior knowledge.

In the W or “What I Want to know” section, students identify and record questions they have about the speaker and their career after reviewing the speaker’s biography. Have students write down any questions they plan to ask in this section. This step stimulates curiosity and helps students articulate what specific information or details they are interested in exploring further. It sets the stage for the inquiry process and helps to guide their questions.

Give students about 5-10 minutes to complete these two sections of their charts.

Day of Event

45 Minute(s)

Continue to follow the Facilitator Guide. Direct students to take out their KWL handouts from before and use the space on the back to write any notes from the presentation including at least one example of a POMS or Point of Most Significance (i.e. something from the presentation that was interesting to them). 

Transition to introducing the guest speaker. Allow the remainder of the time during this section to be devoted to the presentation. 

Transition to a Question-and-Answer session, allowing students the opportunity to ask the speaker any questions.

After Event

35 Minute(s)

If time allows, complete these last two activities on the same day as the presentation, but if not, complete them on the next day. 

Pass out the attached Road Map to Success handout to each student. Direct them to the website or the K20 career clusters resource ( and have them follow the directions on their handout to find what they need. Explain that they should complete the handout based on their individual searches. If students need help, encourage them to research career’s similar to the presenter’s or within the same career cluster.

Allow 20-30 minutes for this activity. 

Afterwards, direct students to reflect on their learning by completing the L column on their KWL handout.

In the L or “What I Learned” section, have students document and summarize the information they have gathered. Students will assess whether their questions were answered and whether their previous assumptions and understandings of the speaker’s career changed. It enables students to reflect on their learning journey and articulate the new knowledge they have acquired.

Allow students about 5 minutes to complete this activity. Collect all handouts, if applicable, and dismiss students.

Research Rationale

Secondary school is essential in developing a student's life, interests, future career, and educational trajectory. Students often use their personalities and interest to help form career decision-making skills throughout their lives, but it becomes more prominent in secondary education as they approach adulthood. Personality traits "influence career adaptation by facilitating, or deterring, behavioral performances" (Lent & Brent, 2013, p. 563). Holland's theory of vocational choice notes that "the individual career satisfaction is based on the fit or congruence between the career personality and the environment of the work" (Zainudin et al., 2020, p. 884).

By connecting personality traits and interests, students begin to build self-efficacy in career decision-making as they are more confident in engaging in career exploration (Lent et al., 2016). This connection increases an individual's environmental fit and "level of congruence" within an organization (Zainudin et al., 2020, p. 884). One study taken from 4,834 secondary-aged students aimed to gauge the helpfulness of career talks in their schools (Kashefpakdel & Percy, 2017). The study showed that 2660 (55%) of students rated participation in career talks quite helpful, while 1196 (24.7%) rated the talk very helpful (Kashefpakdel & Percy, 2017).

This study shows that nearly three out of four students that participated in a career talk gained beneficial career knowledge from their guest speaker. Similarly, Covacevich et al. (2021) support this idea by stating that students who are engaged in guidance activities they felt were useful to them seemed likely to consciously gain value. Therefore, career interventions such as guest speakers play a significant role in shaping the career decision-making process of individuals. Career experts and professionals bring real-world experiences, insights, and knowledge insights to students during the critical career decision-making period. 


  • Covacevich, C., et al. (2021). Indicators of teenage career readiness: An analysis of longitudinal data from eight countries. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 258, OECD Publishing, Paris.

  • Kashefpakdel, E. T., & Percy, C. (2017). Career education that works: An economic analysis using the British Cohort Study. Journal of Education & Work, 30(3), 217–234.

  • Lent, R. & Brown, S. (2013). Social cognitive model of career self-management: Toward a unifying view of adaptive career behavior across the life span. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(4), 557-568.

  • Lent et al., (2016). Applying the social cognitive model of career self-management to career exploration and decision-making. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 93(1), 47-57. 

  • Zainudin et al., (2020). The relationship of holland theory in career decision making: A systematic review of literature. Journal of Critical Reviews, 7(9), 884-892.