It is never too early to start talking to your child about career choices. As a parent, there are several things you can do to support her through the process. Even the most driven people need some external motivation. You can also be a trusted mentor to guide her with your wisdom and advice. Just remember that finding the right career path takes time and structure.
This article can help give you some guidance of how to identify your child’s skills, career options, and steps to create a career plan.
Help Your Child Identify Their Skills
1. Have a discussion with your child about their interests
Before she starts to choose a career path and to plan her next move, your child will need to find out more about her own interests, likes and dislikes. She could start by answering the questions below and making her own list as she goes. Ask your child what her favorite subject is in school are. Discuss your child’s hobbies and extracurricular activities. Make note of what she is good at as well as what she enjoys. Listen and be supportive of things that your child shows interest in during this discussion.
You might start the discussion by saying something like “So what is your favorite class this year?”. For example, they might enjoy math and basketball, but only be good at math.
2. Use career assessment tools to help pinpoint your child’s strengths
Your child is still growing and developing into an adult and may be surprised to find out that she has specific strengths that could be beneficial in a profession. Tools such as personality assessments, and standardized tests such as the SAT are designed to pinpoint a child’s strengths. Understanding her own strengths will help her start looking at professions that will allow her to leverage her unique talents.
For example, some children really have a knack for technology. If this is the case, a career in an IT field might be a great fit.
3. Expose your child to a variety of activities to see what piques their interest
Give your child opportunities to try new things. Expose them to nature, the arts, science, museums, animals, travel, people… There are so many ways to enjoy activities together. Pay attention to what piques her interest. If there is a subject she is curious about or she shows excitement toward, encourage her to learn more about that topic. Encourage your child to volunteer or try a part-time job in her desired fields. Oftentimes, the decision to choose a certain line of work comes gradually, as people continue to explore their interests more deeply.
4. Schedule a meeting with your child’s school guidance counselor
Guidance Counselors often have career assessment tools that can help to narrow down career fields. They will also have a record of your child’s grades and school achievements which might aid your discussion with your child. You can ask your child’s guidance counselor: “Do you know of any particular tools that we could use to explore career opportunities for my child?”
5. Discuss what tasks are deal breakers
Everyone has a task or set of tasks that they want to avoid at all costs. You should be upfront with your child to recognize what these things are for them. Knowing what she does not like doing will help her steer clear of professions that heavily expect her to do things she dislikes. Bring up tasks that you know your child struggles with and discuss how she might apply them in a career. For example, you might say something like “I know you complain about your math homework every night. Are you sure you want to be an accountant?”
Discuss Career Options
1. Research different career options with your child
Use the skills and interests that you identified with your child to guide your research. Include things like salary range, benefits package, and typical work schedule for each profession you research. You can find information about different career fields online, at career fairs, and by consulting professionals and companies in that field.
2. Discuss locations with your child
Ask your child where she would like to live as an adult. Your career often dictates where you will be living. If location is important to your child, she needs to understand what her career options are in that particular location. The amount of travel you do for family, business, or vacation will also be heavily influenced by the career choices.
3. Look beyond traditional careers
Common careers such as teachers, doctors, and lawyers are discussed frequently. Many children will have no interest in these fields, and should be exposed to newer or more unique fields. Science and technology are changing every day, as are the arts. Be open to looking at nontraditional careers as well as the tried and true careers.
4. Find real-life references
Reading about colleges, career schools, and job options online is useful. It always helps to have a real world example to learn from. Try to get your teen to talk with the adults in her life — friends, relatives, neighbors — about their careers. Hearing people’s real-life experiences in different careers might give your teen a better sense of the options. You can find professionals in almost any field in the phonebook or online. Contact them and see if they would be willing to meet with your child. A first hand account is often more telling than the research statistics you find online. Have your child request a meeting with them and set out a list of questions to ask them. Some examples might be:
- What does your day-to-day work schedule look like?
- What sort of education or training did you need to be qualified for this position?
- What does your work mean to you?
Also get your child to explore Roadtrip nation, a valuable resource suggested by Miss Maria Bibler from ISHCMC AA VN in our article “What can high school students do to prepare for college abroad?“. There are thousands of videos featuring people in all kinds of careers, with all kinds of interests, from all walks of life for your child to watch, think and consider.
Create a career plan
1. Build an action plan towards their dreams
Plans can change for many reasons. Create alternative plans in case your child’s chosen profession doesn’t work out for some reason. Alternate plans in the same field, or a closely related field, are less costly and more time efficient. This way, your child is well prepared if their chosen profession doesn’t work out as planned.
Your child might be interested in becoming a physician. It is a good idea to also come up with alternate plans in the same field. They could also become a high school biology teacher or a nurse.
2. Research the education or training required.
Understand the prerequisites needed to be accepted into that educational or training program. It is also important to know the costs of the education or training, and develop a plan to pay for or finance it. It might be a good idea to ask people who are currently training in that field and talk to them about what their day-to-day life is like.
3. Encourage your child to gain experience in their field.
Networking and experience are just as important as education and training. There are several ways to gain experience and contacts in a particular field including volunteering, shadowing, and internships. You should encourage your child to seek out work experience placements, take up volunteering roles, attend taster days, or simply speak with people already working in a sector that they’re interested in. Explain to your child that the more opportunities they take, paid or unpaid, the more seriously they will be taken in the future by employers
And, it’s never too early to start thinking about the future – encouraging your child to start a portfolio of experiences for use on a future CV, or as part of a personal statement, can be beneficial from as early as grade 9. Remind them to record all their work experience placements and gain references from them, as well as include part-time jobs held and roles involving responsibility either at school or outside organizations.
To sum up, as a parent, you should be her supportive career mentor. Remember that you were once a teenager, and how hard it was to you when choosing your career path. Proper guidance means a lot to your child in this stage. You can try to apply tips in this article, and share with us if you have any questions about this matter.