To your teen, adulthood and a career may seem like a lifetime away, but as a parent, you realize it is just around the corner. You cannot make this major life decision for your child, but you can provide guidance and assistance to make it easier.
The teen years are not easy. Between learning social skills, making friends, balancing school activities and other interests, teens often feel overwhelmed. More importantly, career planning is often neglected.
School counselors are primarily responsible for this, and they work on four-year graduation plans and confer with students regarding their life career goals, but counselors are busy and sometimes kids fall through the cracks at school.
Facts Regarding Career Choices
There are some things parents can do to help kids plan for their lifetime career, but first, a few facts about careers in general.
Fact #1: The average person changes careers three to five times in their lifetime.
Fact #2: Kids often follow the same or similar career paths that their parents or grandparents did.
Fact #3: About 70 percent of people report to hating their current jobs.
Fact #4: People often feel their boss is “after them" or that they can never get ahead.
Fact #5: Most people did not have a clear career plan when in school to reach their goals.
If we examine these facts, we see that most people are unhappy in their current profession, in spite of the fact that many just followed what their parents did, which may indicate that they should have done something else. People who feel trapped in a job are less productive, less healthy and less capable of taking on the challenges of everyday life that bosses need their employees to do. This leaves both dissatisfied workers and bosses who do not have a clear goal or strategy on how to solve the problem.
How You Can Help
The best solution is to help teens to decide on a career that they would enjoy early on, establish clear career goals, then follow up on these goals over time. Following are some tips on how parents and school personnel can provide encouragement and direction.
Make sure your child’s school has a Career Orientation curriculum in the 8th or 9th grade. Most schools now do this. If your school doesn’t, ask why not.
Talk to your child’s school counselor regarding how they help kids plan for their life careers. There are online interest inventories and tests that kids can take to reveal what their true interests are and where they are likely to be most successful. The Explore Test (by the ACT testing company) and the Kuder’s are two tests which align state standards with skills kids learn in school, and give a profile of the best career options for kids.
Discuss careers with your child as she become involved in different activities at school and brainstorm with her about the types of things she enjoys. Look for career opportunities in your area or community that allow kids to get their feet wet in certain careers. This can help eliminate or spur an interest in different fields as she is exploring career options.
Remember that it’s okay to change. Change brings about learning and no one has to stay in the same career forever. However, kids should be taught that anything worth doing takes commitment. They should stay with a decision long enough to give it a chance to pay off.
Prioritize. There are different factors involved in choosing a career: time, money, opportunities, vacation days and location, to name a few. Find out what is most important to your child, as this is important in determining the type of career in which he will flourish. Some jobs pay very well but have very little free time. If free time is important to him, he may not be happy. While you want him to make a good living and succeed, it is equally important to know what is most important to them so that he will be happy with the career over the long haul.
Helping youngsters and teens choose a career is not an easy process. Young people must make this decision for themselves based on a number of factors they value. The best thing you can do as a parent is to communicate with your school counselor and get all of the information you can on certain careers, where to attend college to get the best education, how much it will cost and other information. Then talk to your teen about her interests and priorities in choosing a career. Communicate that change is okay for good reason but that she doesn’t want to waste time going from one job to another.
Help your teen develop strong skills and gain work experience in areas they are passionate about. This is one of the best ways you can help them plan for a career early in life.