How to Help Your Child Pick a Career
Last Updated on August 4, 2023
Today’s world is full of options. We can choose where to eat, where to shop, where to be entertained, and where to learn. Young children and teens will soon become college students and professionals in a world much more advanced and different from today. So how can you help your child choose a career they have a strong interest in and a career that aligns with their strengths?
Below are a few suggestions to help you and your child identify possible careers.
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Research and Explore Careers Within Their Field of Interest
The number one tip is not to push but encourage. Don’t tell your child what career to choose. Encourage them instead to follow what they’re interested in and choose a career path that fulfills them.
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life is a known maxim, and it’s true. When investigating career fields and options, having an interest in the field of work will be vital. Begin this career exploration with what your child feels they excel at or feel compelled to do – whether it’s medicine, mechanics, or music, ask your child what they love to do and start there.
- What is their favorite subject or class?
- Do they have any hobbies – sports, art, music, dance, drama, etc.?
- What extracurricular activities do they enjoy?
You might get a few silly suggestions but listen to the important details. Ask them related questions. The simple follow-up questions can help you figure out what work or activities they enjoy, and these answers may guide you both to possible careers.
For example, graphic logo design, animation, computer science, and engineering could be career ideas from a ‘silly’ suggestion like I want to get paid for playing games.
Otherwise, if you don’t start discussing their interests, your child may not understand that their career options and ‘interesting jobs’ can overlap. Therefore they may not choose the right career path for themselves.
Traditional careers such as doctors, teachers, lawyers, and police officers are frequently discussed. Still, there are major advancements in technology and science that careers that don’t exist today could become traditional jobs tomorrow. When exploring career choices, don’t limit your child to traditions or standards of today since their future may look very different.
While not everyone can play video games as a career, interests and passion should form the foundation of any career plan.
Discuss Your Child’s School Work With Them
This may sound trivial at first but consider it. Children need praise and affirmation in their work. Without it, they will feel unaccomplished and unmotivated to excel.
After school, during dinner time or leisure hours, ask them how their school work is going. They shouldn’t feel interrogated or under pressure when you ask. Show them you have a genuine interest in their progress. But teens can be sensitive to criticism, so here are a few ways to phrase the question without sounding confrontational or offbeat.
- You mentioned you had a project due this semester. How’s it going? Do you need any help?
- You haven’t mentioned (a specific class) in a while. What’s your favorite class at the moment?
- When I was your age, we didn’t have this many assignments, though we did it without the internet. How are you feeling about school lately?
The key is not to mention any grades or measures of success when discussing school. Children are made very aware that each task and assignment is graded and valued but what they’re learning and absorbing is far more important.
When discussing school with your child, leave it up to them to guide the conversation – if they don’t respond much, that also says something about their situation.
Once you can openly discuss school work, discussing college and future plans will feel more natural and honest to them. But if you don’t set a standard for open and non-judgmental school conversations, then college and career discussions won’t be honest and constructive either.
Personality Tests Can Help Find the Best Career-Fit
Occupational Psychologists will agree that all the information your child needs to choose a career path is within themselves and their personality.
Encourage your child to take a few online or in-person personality tests to learn what core traits and qualities they have that can align with a specific career path. What your child is good at may differ from what they currently enjoy, and these tests can identify where interests, skills, and enjoyment meet for your child.
Many companies mandate that their college graduates take personality tests in their job application processes, and this is because even corporations understand the relationship between psychology, work environments, and work activities.
If your child possesses the traits to excel in a specific work environment, they will have the edge over all other job applicants and colleagues.
A school guidance counselor should also have assessment tools, so reach out to them and make a meeting. They will also have a record of your child’s grades and school achievements which might help them find a suitable career. You can also prepare him for various exams like STAAR, CogAT to know his field interest if you find that he is having good academics.
Follow a Mentor to Choose a Career
Job shadowing or interning with a known family member or person they admire can be a great way for a child to figure out what career path they might enjoy.
If an uncle or aunt works in their own office or business, having your child choose to follow them for a couple of days can be a great learning experience. This way, they can see how someone they admire commits themselves to everyday tasks to build a successful career and professional life.
Not to mention, your child will be able to learn about a particular field without feeling lectured or bored. Following a mentor is a hands-on experience that is invaluable to deciding on or ruling out a career choice.
Having someone to look up to in the right career path is also priceless. So many young adults struggle to find professionals they can admire, trust and confide in, but if your child already has a mentor in their profession, it can give you and your child some peace of mind.
Allow Them to Work in a Part-Time Job
Part-time jobs teach teens valuable skills and lessons that can be applied to jobs and careers in the future and later on in life. Not to mention, each person’s first job has taught them life experiences that will be carried with them for the rest of their lives.
The part-time jobs teenagers can work in aren’t glamorous (likely McDonald’s workers or Gap sales assistants), but these jobs can give them a level of independence and satisfaction. Until a person has scrubbed down a grill or spent hours in a stock room, the lectures about ‘responsibility’ and ‘humble work’ will never sink in.
Part-time jobs also teach children the importance and value of earning a salary. Having their own money can make your teen feel independent and accomplished, not to mention it might finally help them realize the value of their money – before they immediately spend it on Starbucks and concert tickets.
A part-time job can be an opportunity for your child to gain experience and independence while they brainstorm ideas and career plans. On the upside, it might help them appreciate all the workers and jobs they may have once overlooked or taken for granted.
Once they’ve mopped the Taco Bell bathroom floor a couple of times, they should have a couple of creative ideas that can earn them more than an average income.
Encourage Your Teen to Learn Through Volunteer Work
If your child has a great work ethic (or even if they don’t), volunteer work can be a fulfilling experience. College application boards are always looking for a student’s extracurricular activities on their transcript, and this is because it shows what a child chooses to do on their own without being prescribed or tasked with it.
Volunteer work doesn’t just mean soup kitchens and children’s hospitals – even though every community needs more interested and eager volunteers. Many summer and spring internships exist, but many companies wouldn’t dream of passing up free volunteer labor.
Your teen could build a CV and offer their time free of charge and get invaluable work experience. This kind of career exploration in the same field of their interests could motivate them to study and work hard towards their future.
Attend College and Career Fairs
Online research can only get you and your teen so far. At some point, you should both explore college open days and career fairs. Let the professionals and colleges come to you with all the information and career opportunities.
Here, you could learn about specific career options, college majors, and advice that will guide your child to professional success. College and career fairs also provide ample information on college tuition and financial aid options that are extremely helpful in planning for the future.
High schools should arrange for these kinds of functions, but if not, you can reach out to local colleges or career centers for more information.
It’s only natural for parents to worry about their children’s success and future, but this time of exploration should be exciting and not worrisome. Begin with comfortable conversations around school work and then build discovering what profession could suit your child.
Let them know the difference between career and job. Be open to non-traditional careers or options and remain focused on your child’s skills, interests, and dreams.
No matter what job your child chooses, they should trust that their parent will guide and encourage them along their chosen career path.