Five Ways to Help Your Child Find a Career Path
…without seeming overbearing
It’s possible that our children will face more career challenges and changes than we, as parents, have ever experienced. It is never too early to start thinking about the future and encouraging your kids to explore different career paths. Below are a few tips on how to get started—and then stay engaged throughout the process.
Introduce the concept of jobs and careers to your children early on, and then help them grow into a career identity over time. Take kids to work and explain how you spend your time and why. Encourage their school to host career information events where many different professions are represented. Career books for youngsters, such as Career Day by Anne Rockwell, and Jobs People Do by Christopher Maynard, are also a great way to introduce the subject.
As children grow older, casually engage them in career discussions from time to time. Ask open ended questions, such as: “Tell me about the courses you enjoy most. What do you think people who enjoy those courses can do professionally?” Talk with your child about a recent experience, such as going to the doctor, or getting a haircut. Explore with them what it might be like working in those jobs.
Career planning websites are great for high school-age children. Go through them so you know what they offer. Let kids do their own research and talk with them about their findings. Offer guidance without dictating or attempting to steer your offspring into a career that is your vision, not theirs. [Editor’s note: for high school-age kids, Studs Terkel’s classic book Working, and the 2001 compilation Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, edited by John and Marisa Bowe and Sabin Streeter, are excellent resources at this stage of the game as well.]
Educationplanner.org provides useful tools and information to get kids thinking about life after high school. Career planning checklists help clarify their interests. Based on your child’s answers, career clusters—groups of careers that share common themes or require similar skills—are identified, and careers within them. Career videos let your child “see” what the future holds, and provide a peek into what he or she may be doing on the job. Lists of hot jobs for the future, and much more, are included on the site.
Look into volunteering opportunities, internships, and other programs. Does your son or daughter think it would be cool to work with animals? Volunteer in a local vet’s office or a humane society. Is your child interested in being a dental hygienist? Ask your dentist if he or she can help out in the office for a few days. Also explore programs and internships available to high schoolers. Students interested in becoming an attorney, for example, can participate in mock trial competitions (TexasHighSchoolMockTrial.com). Plus, internship programs open to high school age students offer real-world experience. Check out online resources such as InternMatch.com and InternshipPrograms.com. Both have databases that are searchable by interest and location.
Be patient. Helping your children think through and navigate the career path process doesn’t necessarily end when they enter college. About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their college major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And for new or soon-to-be college grads, websites such as CollegeAftermath.com can help further prepare them for the working world.
By Annette Brooks