“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
From preschool on, children are asked this question time and time again. However, it isn’t until age 11 or 12 that kids become self-aware enough to begin seriously considering potential career paths.
While it can be tempting for parents to attempt to steer their children towards a specific career, it is important to act as a supportive yet impartial sounding board as children and teens explore potential jobs. The following are a number of ways that parents can help their children explore and choose the right career path.
1. Help your child discover their strengths – and weaknesses
Have your child think about the things they are good at, both in and out of school. Likewise, encourage children, older teens especially, to take aptitude tests such as Meyers-Briggs or Strengths Finder 2.0; these tests can help them identify both their strengths and weaknesses, which can be helpful when discussing potential career paths.
2. Expose them to a wide variety of experiences
Thinking about the nearly-infinite number of job opportunities and careers today can be overwhelming to many children. To help narrow down their choices and help them find what they are truly interested in, expose them to a wide variety of experiences. Whether through travel, volunteering, museums, the arts, and more, exposing them to a wide variety of subjects can help them begin to explore their interests.
3. Equip your child with work and life skills
Choosing a career path is about more than just finding the perfect job. Help your child be ready for college – and beyond – by equipping them with work and life skills. Start at home by giving kids specific roles and responsibilities such as chores, helping younger siblings, or cooking meals a few nights each week. Likewise, encourage them to find a part-time job either after school or over the summer to begin learning how to manage a work schedule – as well as their own earnings.
4. Be patient and encouraging
Finding a career path can be a long, frustrating experience for both parents and children. Try to be patient and encouraging as kids and teens explore their interests and experiment with different careers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most college students will change their major at least three times; parents can support their teens during these times of transition as they attempt to find the perfect career path.