Helping teenagers find careers they might love is not really all that difficult, and there are practical ways parents can help.
It is important that teenagers feel that the final choice of career is theirs. Sometimes the career a parent had hoped a teenager will enter, is completely different to the one that teenager chooses. However, above all, parents need to support the choices their teen makes.
Strategies to help your teenager identify that dream career…
- Read careers newsletters from your teenager’s school and casually mention articles you believe he may be interested in.
- Offer to drive your teenager to any university seminar or Open Day events coming up.
- Become familiar with reputable careers websites and be able to chat to your teenager about those you find most informative.
- Encourage your teenager to show an interest in the careers of family members and family friends. What do they enjoy the most about their career? What skills do they use on a daily basis? What are the challenges? Is the career changing? What qualifications are needed?
- Occasionally talk about the highlights of your career and those of your friends.
- Attend Open Days or virtual tours of tertiary institutions so that you can chat about interesting aspects with your teenager.
- Ensure that your teenager is not afraid to tell you that she wants to be an actor or a journalist rather than a doctor or an engineer. Support her dreams.
- If your teenager expresses interest in a certain career, show your support. If you find a particularly interesting YouTube clip on this career, show it to your teenager.
- Be supportive when your teenager changes from one career choice to another. This is completely normal and very common.
- Help your teenager become more aware of his qualities and skills and, where possible, point out how valuable these will be in various careers. Not only will this build up his self-esteem but it will make him more conscious of possible careers that may suit him. “The team members love you. You are incredibly good at motivating people. This is such an important skill in almost every career.” “I can’t believe how well you solved that problem in your study group. You are really good at working in teams and overcoming conflict. You have the perfect skills to work in careers where dealing with people is important.”
- If your teenager is reluctant to talk about careers at all, contact his school Careers Counsellor to ask whether she/he can find time to chat about career choice. Your teen may be worried about results required in certain tertiary courses, worried about disappointing you or simply not sure about how to start the process of narrowing down the choice of career.
- Give the clear message that you know that finding a career can take time and make it clear that there is no urgency. Many students go into tertiary studies with no career outcome in mind. They may be studying Arts, Commerce or Science and be considering a wide range of careers. Once again, this is completely normal.
- Another important message from parents is the “We want you to be happy and we will be happy with any career you choose” message. When teenagers are afraid to admit to parents that they are not interested in a career mum or dad keep recommending/promoting, they sometimes give up and refuse to even think about careers. Better to have a happy interior designer in the family than an unhappy doctor. It does and can happen.