How to Help your Child Pick a Career Path
It’s not uncommon to hear even your youngest of kids telling everyone what they want to be when they grow up. Some of them want to be doctors, veterinarians, chefs, and the occasional princess. But somewhere along the way, many kids grow into their teens and are barely willing to get out of bed than to think about their future career path.
By the time kids get to high school, thinking of a career path becomes incredibly more necessary as your future plans post college will dictate what type of degree they’ll ultimately need. But picking a career path is not as easy as one might think. Sure, a student making straight A’s and loves school can get into a fantastic college and become a doctor or lawyer, but what about the average student? What if your son or daughter is the student who gets decent grades, participates in clubs every now and then, but isn’t a stand-out student. What kinds of options do they have and are schools doing enough to help them?
Let’s face it: not every kid is cut out for college and with the rising cost of a college education, the idea of being stuck with upwards of $100k of college debt is the perfect reason for someone to decide against it, especially if they come from a struggling family.
Discovering your child’s potential career path doesn’t have to be difficult, but always keep in mind that this is their life and not yours. At some point, everyone has to grow up and take on life on their own. Helping is great as long as you’re not making decisions for them.
Your Child is Their Own Individual
I can’t stress this enough: This is your child’s career path and not your own. In some cases, your child may be the complete opposite of you and may love things you absolutely hate. They may take enjoyment in complicated or difficult tasks that would frustrate you like mechanical problems, technology, or writing. Your job as a parent is to encourage them to find the things they love doing and then discover professions or career paths where they can do the things they’re already good at for a living.
Just because you enjoy your job and the money you’re earning does not mean it’s suitable for your child. Maybe they don’t want to go into the family business and want to do something completely different. The point is to explain the possibilities and encourage them. But don’t explain in a way that sounds like you’re trying to get them to do what you want them to do. That’s just underhanded manipulation.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Everyone is good and bad at something. There are some people whom you would trust to make amazing desserts but would be horrible at doing your taxes. By the time your kids are halfway through high school, their strengths and weaknesses are pretty clear just by how well they do in their classes.
Some kids are great at math and love computers, which is perfect for those with an interest in going into computer science or maybe want to develop software or apps. Maybe you have a son or daughter who loves cooking and often does a lot of it around the house. A culinary program might be a good bet for them if they enjoy it so much.
When helping your child pick a career path, help them figure out what it is they’re good at, what they’re bad at, what kinds of hobbies they enjoy, and what hobbies they would hate to have turned into a job. Remember, a hobby is only fun because it doesn’t feel like work. As soon as that hobby starts to feel like a task, it becomes annoying in a hurry.
Life Experience is Everything
The best way to figure out a future career path is to just expose your kids to different kinds of things as much as possible. Take them to different places and events where they can see professionals doing interesting things. History has proven there is no shortage of people who became influential and important members of society simply because they saw someone doing something they’d never seen before and wanted to do it themselves.
A career fair is a great way to expose them to many types of fields at once. Speak with the guidance counselors at your child’s school to see if they’ll be holding one or check your local library to see if your town or city is holding their own.
Be the Example They Need
Every parent knows children imitate everything they see from an early age. The first things they ever imitate are their parents. The same is still true when they grow up and see the things you enjoy. If you have healthy and productive hobbies you enjoy, encourage them to try them along with you. By imitating you, you can discover their strengths and weaknesses at any age. Plus, they’re getting exposed to new things they might enjoy doing in the future.
Enjoy working on old cars with your son or daughter? Maybe they’ll enjoy being mechanics or mechanical engineers. The point is to give them opportunities to find the things they love doing. Not only do this help them in discovering strengths and weaknesses, but it creates a great opportunity to bond with your child and spend time with them. It creates moments of communication and helps you better understand what’s going on in their lives.
Mentors Provide the Extra Support
A great mentor can be an incredibly powerful person in the life of any child. For many children, the absence of a positive role model in their life can be detrimental. Without someone in their life to offer them support and guidance, many young people act out and lose their way. Unfortunately, the absence of a role model leads many young people down dangerous roads in search of those who give them the support they lack and need.
Finding a mentor for your child can provide them the outlet they need when they aren’t sure about how to handle certain things going on in their lives they’re not sure they can talk about with their family, friends, or teachers. Not only can they provide the emotional support every child needs, they can also help them figure out the life path they eventually need to find.
Mentors can help kids with just about everything and offer their own experiences from their own life to give young people a different perspective on things they might not otherwise have gotten on their own. This type of second hand experience and support can be critical when trying to decide on a career or life path.
Consider talking to an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. They’re a well known organization that has been helping children discover their full potential through mentoring.
Let Them Find their Passions
“Do the thing you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s an adage most of us discover too late in our lives and end up feeling stuck in our world. It’s for this very reason kids and teens need to discover their passions early in life. They need to discover the things they love doing when they aren’t doing the things they have to do.
They aren’t going to discover the things they truly love right away and that’s okay. It’s your job as a parent to be patient and supportive. No passion should be treated as dumb or pointless. At one time, people thought playing video games all day was a waste of time. Now, kids in their teens are making millions of dollars playing competitive esports.
Overtime, your kids will find the things they love to do and it’s then, when you decide to start looking at future career paths, when you can take all of those loves and see if there are any your children might want to study more about and eventually turn into a career.
Are you currently talking with your children about what they’d like to do as a career? How have you helped your children find their life path to help them succeed at finding a job or career they’ll love doing. Let us know in the comments and be part of the conversation!