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How to Guide Your Teenager Toward a Career

April 25, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to Guide Your Teenager Toward a Career | Guiding your teenager toward a career requires several steps, but can provide a glimpse into the future so that they can make good, educated choices along the way and land a great first job. | An instructor shows college students a graph on a tablet during class.

We all want our children to be successful in life, and that often includes finding a fulfilling career after school.

As your teenager nears high school graduation and considers colleges to attend, it helps to have an idea of the type of career they want to pursue. This knowledge will help them choose a college with a good program in that field and gain valuable experience in internships, extracurricular activities, and college jobs.

Guiding your teenager toward a career requires several steps, but can provide a glimpse into the future so that they can make good, educated choices along the way and land a great first job.

First, find out if your teenager already has ideas about what they want to do after high school or college.

My teen knows their future career
If they already know what they want to do after school, then follow these steps:

  1. Shadow people in the profession.
    An understanding of the daily reality for the job—not just the more glamorous overview—will help your teen determine if they really want that job or if it sounds better than it is. It also gives your teen the opportunity to ask what experience is necessary and what the career path is like, so they know how much school and/or training is required and can imagine themselves forging a long career in that field.
  2. Research college programs in your teenager’s area of interest.
    When searching programs, consider placement rate after graduation to anticipate how much help the school provides in helping students find a post-college job.

    Think about how realistic it is for your teenager to attend a school with a strong program in their desired field. For example, if you live in a landlocked state like Colorado and your teen wants to study marine biology, they will likely go to school on a coast. Can your family afford out-of-state tuition? Is your teen emotionally prepared to live far away from family?

My teen doesn’t know their future career
If your teenager doesn’t know what they want to do after high school, start having conversations about their interests to narrow down potential career options.

  1. Ask the right questions.
    In this New York Times article, a career services director encourages parents to ask the following questions]: “What skills do you have? What kinds of people do you like to work with? In what kind of environment?”

    These questions help your teen learn what they’re looking for in a career so they can explore specific options.

  2. Identify likes and dislikes.
    Ask your teenager to identify what they like and strongly dislike. That information can steer them toward or away from some careers.

    For instance, if your child is an introvert, rule out sales jobs, as they require a thick skin and an outgoing personality. If your child loves video games and has basic coding skills, explore a career in designing video or computer games.

  3. Determine strengths and weaknesses.
    What does your teen see as their biggest strength? Whether it’s a personality or academic strength, your teen knows themself and their skills best. As this Chicago Tribune article suggests, teens will make better career and school choices the more they know and understand themselves.

Even after guiding your teenager toward a career, it’s okay if they change their mind or veer off path. Those experiences will ultimately lead them to another job or career. As their parent, you don’t need to push them toward a specific industry or field. Encourage them to consider their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and narrow the list from there. It’s all part of the process of finding their own success.

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