Career Exposure: Seeing is Believing

Anna Bao
6 min readOct 12, 2021

At Kleido, we are firm believers that you don’t know what you don’t know and you can not be what you can not see. We are helping bring knowledge to students by exposing them to today’s careers in structured conversations with young professionals, allowing them to ‘see’ career possibilities and paths so that they can take ownership of what they want to be. Like Wang and Goldberg wrote in their chapter of the book, Building the Intentional University, we too believe the first stage of experiential learning is exposure. Career exposure cultivates knowledge and gives ability to visualize various industries and potential career tracks. For every person, their unique exposure brings them different knowledge, opportunities and experiences. It can be inferred that the more knowledge you gather, the more opportunities you are aware of. With more career exposure, you are able to visualize the tasks, see yourself in that profession, and better navigate the journey to a certain destination. Therefore, there is a direct relationship between your exposure and the experiences and paths you may choose to pursue. With these consequences, exposure’s importance cannot be understated, so it begs the following questions:

What does intentional career exposure look like?

How can we design these exposures to maximize value in applications?

Career exposure at high schools:

Let’s zoom in on high school, a transformative period with many important decisions for most and, in consequence, a potentially highly impactful time for career exposure. There are usually a few options a student can seek help on careers and get career exposure in high school. One option is with school counselors. However, these positions are understaffed and overworked (1 counselor is typically responsible for ~400 students) and are in reality more “data processors” (Travenner, Prepared). Another option is extracurricular programs that require heavy financial and labor investments from schools. These programs can include alumni speakers’ series, internship placement with local nonprofits, and career planning software and tools. Yet these projects can be limited, competitive and complicated for students to navigate. Lastly, students can look for career counselors/coaches outside of the school system, though this often means paying upwards of $200 per hour or $6000 for a package.

For the most part, a majority of students still rely on their immediate environment, which includes their family, peers, schools and geography, for exposure at an early age. This can be limiting for the student who grows up in a town where the majority of the people work for a car company for example. In fact, in the case of entrepreneurship, studies have shown that growing up in a cluster of innovation, in addition to the influences of your community, family, friends, and listening to your entrepreneur parents talk about their work at dinner (Dinner Table Capital) increases the likelihood of you becoming an entrepreneur. Specifically, a series of ethnographic studies has drawn on social capital theory to illustrate the means by which a young person can change conceptions of who they are and who they might become following exposure to authentic interactions with the labour market. This research urges the express need for intentional exposure at high school.

Intentional exposure:

Exposure can be split into 2 different types of exposure: direct and indirect. Direct exposure usually consists of a hands-on experience, where students get first hand exposure to what it is like in a certain career, this includes externships, internships, co-ops and apprenticeships which some schools may provide. There are various levels of time commitment for each program, ranging from a few days to months. While great for experiencing career roles, this type of exposure is scarce and can be time and financially intensive. For example, a student might commit themself to a marketing internship, only to realize after a few weeks that they actually don’t like it at all. Indirect exposure is exposure through a secondary party, where you hear from immediate peers or a friend of a friend, see social media, attend a school event, or read about career opportunities in an article or newspaper. This type of exposure is common, easier to obtain, and may provide adequate exposure for some individuals. The time intervals of each of these interactions are in minutes and hours, and can happen on a more frequent basis and have multiple touch points reinforcing certain themes. Indirect exposure can be very useful in enabling a quick initial gauge of interest in future direct exposure for a given topic or career. Ongoing direct and indirect career exposure with consistent focus can accelerate knowledge and visualization in a given career.

Proximity and relatability:

Yet proximity to the individual appears to play a big role in the effectiveness of indirect exposure and induce fewer angles of information refraction, taken in the case of influences of friends, family and community and the dinner table capital mentioned above. Of the examples listed, immediate peers are of the closest physical and mental proximity, whereas reading about a career is of the furthest. Immediate peers provide exposure to more detailed views of the career paths and benefit from an established level of trust in their opinions. There is a difference when you say my friend started a billion dollar business versus Jeff Bezos did, your trust in your friend is significantly more than someone famous because of the shorter and more direct line of access. Social media is a special case of close physical proximity but crowded mental proximity, resulting in frequent exposures that are quickly diluted in meaning, and therefore, as a whole, social media provides relatively ineffective exposure. Your immediate peers are of higher relatability to you as an individual and give you a better representation of yourself “in another’s shoes” and navigating career trajectories. Relatability could be appearance-based or background-based, respectively occurring instantly or by assumption. According to Van Reenen on innovation, “while having inventor exposure is always good, it is particularly strong when you see someone of your same gender.” Gender is one example that can foster an immediate level of relatability through assumption of similar experience, encouraging more effective exposure as a result. A high proximity and high relatability can maximize the value of exposure.

Kleido and Exposure:

Kleido is specifically exposing high school students to young professionals by facilitating conversation and thereby closing the gap between high school experience and career knowledge. Some preliminary findings from our recent summer trial with high school students and our advisors exemplifies the rule of relatability maximizes the effectiveness of indirect exposure. Students report that within the first few minutes of meeting a young professional that they decided to not move forward with a certain career because they are seriously considering it for the first time, to feeling confident and more prepared with social skills by the third meeting and even explored what they originally considered as hobbies as potential careers.

We, here at Kleido, are champions of a curated framework designed to maximize indirect and intentional career exposure; enabling greater impression frequency while complementing other established career planning methods. With the obvious need for career exposure, high school is of importance because students are beginning to think about careers, beginning to engage with those in the workforce, and making important decisions regarding their future. Through digital conversations with young professionals, Kleido is personalizing career exposure, inducing proximity with relatability, balancing knowledge with real experience, and creating exposure with impact.

If access opens the doors to opportunity, then exposure is what leads you to those doors.

If you are a young professional and you are passionate about helping bring impactful exposure to students;

If you are a parent of a high schooler interested in helping setup meaningful exposure for your child;

Join Kleido and our mission to bring more career exposure to high school students today!

You can find out more and see some of our testimonials at Kleido.co.

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Anna Bao

Not the best writer, but have a story to tell. Currently building Kleido.co, a career exploration platform for high school students.